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Beatty told the audience that they had received the wrong envelope, saying that he saw Emma Stone’s name on the card along with La La Land, meaning he had been given the card announcing her win for best actress. When he originally opened the envelope he hesitated, seeming to realize something was amiss, before showing the card to Dunaway, who read the “winner” before Beatty could stop her.
“I opened the envelope and it said ‘Emma Stone, La La Land.’ That’s why I took such a long look at Faye, and at you. I wasn’t trying to be funny,” Beatty assured everyone, after admitting to the mistake.
“I’m not going to speak about it,” Dunaway told The Hollywood Reporter of the event at the Governors Ball following the ceremony.
The cast and crew of La La Land had already taken the stage to give their acceptance speeches when they learned of the mix-up. As the film’s producers were making their speeches, producer Jordan Horowitz informed viewers that the category’s winner was actually Moonlight, and showed the card announcing the winner to the camera. He later explained that a stagehand flagged to him that Beatty and Dunaway were given the wrong envelope.
La La Land’s Fred Berger and Marc Platt had also noticed the error onstage, saying into the mic, “We lost, by the way.”
“Warren, what did you do?!” joked Kimmel, coming onstage to help work things out, before joking that he also blamed Steve Harvey, who famously mixed up the winner of Miss Universe.
The duo was there to present the best picture award in celebration of the 50th anniversary of their classic film, Bonnie and Clyde.
“The last 20 minutes of my life have been insane. It’s been otherworldy,” said Moonlight director Barry Jenkins of the film’s win, thanking the La La Land producers. “It was so generous and gracious of them. My love to La La Land.”
“I think all the movies that were nominated were worthy. I noticed the commotion that happened and I knew something strange had occurred,” he continued. “It made a special feeling even more special — but not in the way I expected.”
Asked if the Academy had explained to Jenkins what happened, he said, “No explanation. Things just happen. I will say I saw two cards. I wanted to see the card and Warren refused to show the card to anybody before he showed it to me. He said, ‘Barry Jenkins has to see the card. He needs to know.’ The folks from La La Land were so gracious. I can’t imagine being in their position.”
“I could see people running around in the background so I knew something was a little bit off,” he later told THR, “but I didn’t know what. I could see Jordan’s face, and that’s when I realized something was happening. I felt a million different things but I did realize that whatever he was going to say was going to be the truth because he looked over and I just wanted to hug him. I could see in his face that it wasn’t a joke.”
Backstage, Mahershala Ali also commented on the mix-up. “La La Land has done so well and has resonated with so many people,” he said. “When their name was read, I wasn’t surprised, and I was really happy for them. When I did see security or people coming onstage and their moment was being disrupted in some way I got really worried and then when they said ‘Moonlight, you guys have won.’ It just threw me, more than a bit. I didn’t want to go up there and take anything from somebody. It’s very hard to feel joy in a moment like that … but I feel very fortunate for all of us to have walked away with the best picture award. It’s pretty remarkable.”
“Of course it was an amazing thing to hear La La Land — I think we all would have loved to win best picture, but we are so excited for Moonlight, I think it’s one of the best films of all time,” said Emma Stone backstage. “I also was holding my best actress in a leading role card that entire time.”
It was pointed out later that Beatty was holding the best actress envelope throughout their presentation.
After the flub, librarians for the Academy told The Hollywood Reporter, “We can’t think of another moment when the wrong winner was announced during the show.” In 1964, Sammy Davis Jr. got to announce the winner in a music category (scoring of music, adaptation or treatment), but got the envelope with the name of a winner in a different category (score, substantially original).
This was Dunaway’s first time presenting the best picture award on Oscars night, but Beatty has done it twice before — once in 1975 and again in 1990.
The 89th annual Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, were held at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center and aired on ABC.
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