Monday, 30th October 2017

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For a brief few minutes, La La Land lovers relished the victory, while those rooting for Moonlight to win best picture turned the TV off or tweeted their anguish. Then, in an awkward series of events sure to be permanently etched into Hollywood lore, it turned out to be fake news.

  • Published 28.02.17

For a brief few minutes, La La Land lovers relished the victory, while those rooting for Moonlight to win best picture turned the TV off or tweeted their anguish. Then, in an awkward series of events sure to be permanently etched into Hollywood lore, it turned out to be fake news.

Anguish and celebration turned to confusion.

Presenting the best-picture award at the end of a long Oscars evening, Warren Beatty opened the envelope and after some hesitation, his fellow presenter Faye Dunaway announced that La La Land was the winner. Moments later, even as La La Land speeches began, a producer of that film made it clear that, in fact, Moonlight was the winner.

The words “WHAT IS HAPPENING?” trended on Twitter.

It was stunning for such a mix-up to happen on one of the most high-profile stages possible. Rumours long held that Marisa Tomei was given her best supporting actress award in 1993 by mistake, but those rumours have been thoroughly debunked.

Steve Harvey famously flubbed the winner of the 2015 Miss Universe pageant, but that gained prominence through media coverage in the days afterwards. This time, the world was watching as it unfolded.

Here is a transcript of the scene, from beginning to end. Grab your popcorn.

Warren Beatty: And the Academy Award (hesitates) for best picture… (hesitates again)

Faye Dunaway: You’re impossible. C’mon.
Beatty hands her the envelope.

Dunaway: La La Land.

The crowd erupts in applause, and the La La Land cast approaches the stage.

Jordan Horowitz, a La La Land producer: Thank you, thank you all. Thank you to the academy. Thank you to Lionsgate. Thank you to our incredible cast and crew. We’re all up here right now. Thank you to Jamie Feldman and Gary Gilbert. Thank you to my parents for supporting my choice to pursue a career in the arts, even though it was a little bit crazy. Arthur Horowitz, you are my fantasy baby. And to my kind, generous, talented, beautiful, blue-eyed wife and creative partner, Julia Hart, you have inspired me to become the man I am right now and more importantly, the man I’m still becoming. There’s a lot of love in this room, and let’s use it to create and champion bold and diverse work — work that inspires us towards joy, towards hope and towards empathy.

Marc Platt, a La La Land producer: Here’s to the fools who made me dream: my uncle Gary Platt; my mentor, Sam Cohn; my parents; my children; my wife Julie, on whose shoulders I’ve stood for 40 years because she insisted I reach for the stars. And to the Hollywood community that I’m so proud to be a part of. And to the Hollywood and the hearts and minds of people everywhere, repression is the enemy of civilisation. So keep dreaming, because the dreams we dream today will provide the love, the compassion and the humanity that will narrate the stories of our lives tomorrow. Fred?

At this point, people onstage have clearly begun to pass around the disorienting news.

Fred Berger, a La La Land producer: To the love of my life, Ali Loewy, I love you. I love you so much, to my family, Mama, Papa, Jeff (unintelligible). Matt Plouffe, you kicked this off — and Damien Chazelle, we’re standing on your shoulders. We lost, by the way, but, you know.

Horowitz: What? You guys, I’m sorry, no. There’s a mistake. Moonlight, you guys won best picture.
Members of the Moonlight team rise from their seats and begin to approach the stage.

Jimmy Kimmel, host: Guys, this is very unfortunate, what happened. Personally, I blame Steve Harvey for this. I would like to see you get an Oscar, anyway. Why can’t we just give out a whole bunch of them?

Horowitz: I’m going to be really proud to hand this to my friends from Moonlight.

Kimmel: That’s nice of you. That’s —
The Moonlight cast members ascend to the stage and exchange embraces and, possibly, condolences with the cast members of La La Land.

Beatty: Hello. Hello. I want —

Kimmel: Warren, what did you do?

Beatty: I want to tell you what happened. 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.

Kimmel: Well, you were funny.

Beatty: Thank you very much, thank you very much. This is Moonlight — the best picture.
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight director: Very clearly, even in my dreams, this could not be true. But to hell with dreams — I’m done with it, because this is true. Oh, my goodness. I have to say — and it is true, it’s not fake — we’ve been on the road with these guys for so long, and that was so gracious, so generous of them. My love to La La Land, my love to everybody. Man.

Adele Romanski, a Moonlight producer: Thank you to the aca —? I don’t know what to say. That was really — I’m still not sure this is real, but thank you to the academy. And it is so humbling to be standing up here with, hopefully, still the La La crew? No, OK, they’re gone, but it’s very humbling to be up here. And I hope even more than that, that it’s inspiring to people — little black boys and brown girls and other folks watching at home who feel marginalised and who take some inspiration from seeing this beautiful group of artists, helmed by this amazing talent, my friend Barry Jenkins, standing up here on this stage accepting this top honour. Thank you.

Jenkins: You know, there was a time when I thought this movie was impossible, because I couldn’t bring it to fruition. I couldn’t bring myself to tell another story. And so everybody behind me on this stage said, No, that is not acceptable. So I just want to thank everybody up here behind me. Everybody out there in that room. Because we didn’t do this. You guys chose us. Thank you for the choice. 
I appreciate it. Much love.

Kimmel: Well, I don’t know what happened. I blame myself for this. 

Let’s remember, it’s just an awards show. I mean, we hate to see people disappointed, but the good news is we got to see some extra speeches. We had some great movies. I knew I would screw this show up, I really did. Thank you for watching. I’m back to work tomorrow night on my regular show. 

I promise I’ll never come back. Good night.


PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm that handles the Oscars balloting, took responsibility for the mix-up.

“We sincerely apologise to Moonlight, La La Land, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway and Oscar viewers for the error,” the firm said in a statement.  “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.”

In a blog post published on Medium this month, Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz of PricewaterhouseCoopers explained the process of handling the envelopes for the Oscars.  Cullinan wrote that he and Ruiz each had a full set of envelopes and stood on opposite sides of the stage, where they handed envelopes to the presenters.

“It doesn’t sound very complicated,” Cullinan said, “but you have to make sure you’re giving the presenter the right envelope.”