What a jaw-dropper! Chaos ensued during the final minutes of the 2017 Oscars on Sunday, February 26, after Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway erroneously presented the Academy Award for Best Picture to La La Land instead of the correct winner, Moonlight. Revisit the snafu in the video above!
The mishap was by far the most confusing moment of the night and left countless viewers wondering what exactly happened on stage at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre. Here’s everything we know so far, plus what led to the colossal mix-up.
La La Land Wins Best Picture…
Moments before Bonnie and Clyde costars Beatty, 79, and Dunaway, 76, walked out on stage, he was given an envelope — the wrong envelope, it turns out, containing the name of Actress in a Leading Role winner Emma Stone of La La Land. Beatty noticeably paused when he opened the envelope to announce which film won Best Picture, ultimately passing it over to Dunaway, who announced, “La La Land!” The musical’s cast, director, producers and crew then took the stage to accept the night’s top prize and begin their thank you speeches.
…But Wait, There’s More!
In one of the most surprising reversals in the history of live television, headset-clad members of the Oscars crew scurried on stage to alert the La La Land team that something was wrong. The film’s producer Jordan Horowitz quickly grabbed the microphone and announced, “There’s been a mistake. Moonlight, you won best picture. This is not a joke.” Beatty explained to the star-studded audience and viewers at home, “I opened the envelope and it said, ‘Emma Stone, La La Land.’ That’s why I took such a long look at Faye … I wasn’t trying to be funny.”
Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel, also on stage, joked about the disastrous incident. “This is very unfortunate what happened. Personally, I blame Steve Harvey for this,” he quipped, referencing when the Family Feud host flubbed the Miss Universe 2015 winner.
The Moonlight cast and crew, visibly shocked, then walked on stage to accept the honor in stride, though the all-black cast’s shining moment was, unfortunately, lost amid the confusion of the snafu that nearly broke the internet. “Very clearly, even in my dreams, this could not be true,” the drama’s director, Barry Jenkins, told the crowd. “But to hell with dreams. I’m done with it ’cause this is true. Oh my goodness!”
Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the auditing firm that handles Oscars voting and award envelopes, issued an apology after the mix-up. “We sincerely apologize to Moonlight, La La Land, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for best picture,” the company said in a statement on Monday, February 27. “The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred. We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.”
So, What Happened?
Though some details still remain unclear, it appears that the wrong envelope was entirely to blame. According to Pricewaterhouse Coopers, there are two sets of winning envelopes for each category, which explains why Beatty and Stone each had a copy of her best actress card. PwC accountants Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz, the only people in the world who know the Oscar winners prior to the show, told MarketWatch that they stood backstage and handed the envelopes to Beatty and Dunaway right before they walked out.
“From a security perspective, we double everything. That’s why there’s two of us,” Cullinan told the news outlet. “We have two briefcases, that are identical, and we have two entire sets of winning envelopes. Martha carries one of those briefcases and I carry the other. We go to the show separately with police escorts.”