La La Land’s Damien Chazelle and Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins didn’t sleep in following a long night of Oscars afterparties. The directors met up to discuss the epic best picture mix-up that left both their casts and crews in shock on Sunday, February 26.
Chazelle, 32, was joined on stage by his team — including stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone — after presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway accidentally named their film as the Best Picture winner. After much confusion, and an Academy Awards producer rushing out, it was revealed that Moonlight actually took the top honor.
“Everything looked so energized,” Chazelle, who won best director, recalled to Variety during the joint interview. “I at first thought there was some kind of prank going on.”
In the stomach-dropping moment, the Whiplash director turned pale as he stood in the background. Jenkins, 37, meanwhile, was stunned as he sat in the audience and heard La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz confirm that Moonlight had, in fact, won.
“I had something that I had prepared to say, and that thing went completely out the window. I’ve been saying that [cowriter] Tarell [Alvin McCraney] and I are that kid in the film, and that kid does not grow up to make a piece of art that gets eight Academy Award nominations. It’s a dream I never allowed myself to have,” he told Variety. “When we were sitting there, and that dream of winning didn’t come true, I took it off the table. But then I had to very quickly get back into that place. And my first thought was to get to the stage to give Jordan a hug as quickly as possible.”
As it turns out, Beatty, 79, and Dunaway, 76, were given the wrong envelope by accident. Instead of the best picture envelope, they had a duplicate of Stone’s La La Land win for best actress. Horowitz, 36, grabbed the correct Moonlight envelope to show to the audience.
Horowitz opened up about the horrifying ordeal in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “It was like the Hindenburg report. I literally heard, ‘Oh my God! He got the wrong envelope!’ And then it was slow motion. You perceive things slowly as the adrenaline rises and the cortisol floods your system,” Horowitz said to the publication. “Everyone was a little shaken. Everybody looked white-faced and the blood was just drained from [them].”
Jenkins admits that the situation was “messy,” but described it as “kind of gorgeous” in the end. “You have these two groups of people who came together for a second. There’s a picture with me hugging [La La Land producer] Jordan [Horowitz] and Adele [Romanski, producer of [Moonlight] has her arm on his shoulder. That’s what the moment was,” he told Variety.
Chazelle agreed. “That’s something Barry and I have talked about,” he said. “It’s weird to be friendly with someone but to feel like there’s a mano-a-mano thing, which I guess is the nature of the Oscars. So it was nice to explode that myth a little bit on a big stage.”
Despite the blunder, which will go down in Oscars history, the two men are fans of each other’s work. “I hadn’t been to L.A. in, like, two months at that point. I had been traveling overseas. It made me feel nostalgic for L.A., which I have never felt,” Jenkins said of seeing La La Land.
Chazelle gushed of Moonlight: “You could feel it. It was so beautiful.”