The minute-by-minute breakdown of the shocking 'Moonlight'-'La La Land' best picture mix-up

Washington Post

In what is most certainly the most shocking moment in Oscars history, Faye Dunaway announced the wrong winner for best picture at the end of the night, awarding the trophy to "La La Land" when it actually was supposed to go to "Moonlight."

Turns out that Dunaway and her co-presenter, Warren Beatty, were given the wrong category envelope. But it all started when Beatty opened the envelope to read the winner for best picture. He looked confused, took a long pause, and then looked over at Dunaway, who clearly thought he was doing some sort of bit. "You're impossible!" she said, as the crowd laughed nervously. "Come on!" Beatty handed the envelope to Dunaway, who announced "La La Land!"

As cameras cut to the cast and crew of "La La Land" hugging (the musical had already won six awards during the ceremony), Beatty could be heard saying something like, "It says Emma Stone," while Dunaway said, "What?"

It would make (a little bit) of sense shortly.

The "La La Land" team arrived on stage, and producers Jordan Horowitz and Marc Platt delivered their speeches. All of a sudden, there was a flurry of activity behind them. A man with a headset started talking to several people, as did Martha Ruiz, only one of two accountants in charge of tabulating Oscar ballots - and therefore only one of two people who knew all the winners before the show.

As people were conferring, film producer Fred Berger stepped up the microphone. He thanked his family and director Damien Chazelle, and then he turned around to look at the sudden commotion behind him. "We lost, by the way - but, you know," he said, shrugging.

Behind him, Stone could be seen mouthing, "Oh, my God."

Huh? That's when Horowitz stepped forward again. "Guys, guys, I'm sorry. No. There's a mistake," he said. "'Moonlight,' you guys won best picture. This is not a joke."

"This is not a joke," another voice piped up. "I'm afraid they read the wrong thing."

Confused gasps and stunned silence from the crowd quickly turned into a standing ovation.

"This is not a joke," Horowitz repeated. "'Moonlight has won best picture." He held up the card that proved it: "'Moonlight' . . . Best Picture."

As the audience in the theater and millions of viewers at home tried to process what happened, the camera went to the cast of "Moonlight" in the crowd, clearly in shock and hugging each other.

Host Jimmy Kimmel arrived on stage to help sort things out, and crack jokes. "I think you guys should keep it anyway. Guys, this is very unfortunate what happened. Personally, I blame Steve Harvey for this," he said, name-checking the last person who made an epic mix-up on live TV.

Kimmel turned to Horowitz. "I would like to see you get an Oscar, anyway," he said. "Why can't we just give out a whole bunch of them?"

Horowitz demurred: "I'm going to be really proud to hand this to my friends from 'Moonlight,'" he said.

"That's nice of you," Kimmel said.

Beatty then stepped forward to the microphone to try to clear up the confusion: "Hello," he started.

"Warren, what did you do?!" Kimmel yelled.

Beatty went on to explain: "I want to tell you what happened. I opened the envelope and it said, Emma Stone, 'La La Land.'" (Stone had just won best actress moments before.)

"That's why I took such a long look at Faye, and at you. I wasn't trying to be funny," Beatty said to the audience.

"Well, you were funny," Kimmel said.

"This is 'Moonlight,' the best picture," Beatty said, turning the correct card around.

So, the cast of "Moonlight" took the stage, as the camera panned to more shocked celebrity faces in the audience. "Very clearly, even in my dreams this could not be true," director Barry Jenkins said. "But to hell with dreams! I'm done with it, because this is true. Oh, my goodness."

He turned his attention to the "La La Land" team: "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, and so generous of them. My love to 'La La Land,' my love to everybody."

Producer Adele Romanski took the stage: "Um, thank you? To the Academy? I don't know what to say. I'm still not sure this is real," she said. "It is so humbling to be standing up here with hopefully still the 'La La' crew? No, OK, they're gone." She went on to say she hopes the movie is inspiring to "people, little black boys and brown girls and other folks watching at home who feel marginalized."

Kimmel returned to the microphone to close out the show. "Well, I don't know what happened; I blame myself for this," he said. "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 . . . I knew I would screw this show up, I really did."

The only thing left to figure out: Seriously, how in the world did that happen?!

An additional wrinkle was added to the saga backstage, where Stone explained that she was on stage after "La La Land" was announced as winner with her best actress Oscar and card in hand.

"Of course it was an amazing thing to hear 'La La Land,'" Stone said."We would have loved to have won best picture. But we are so excited for 'Moonlight.' I think it's one of the best films of all time. I was also holding my 'best actress in a leading role' card that entire time. So whatever story, I don't mean to start stuff, but whatever story that was, I had that card."

E! reported that Warren Beatty was handed the wrong envelope and showed a close-up shot of the envelope labeled as such.

Other close-ups showed Beatty with a card reading "Actress in a Leading Role."

According to USA Today, which had a reporter in the wings, one of the PriceWaterhouseCoopers accountants in charge of the voting ballots jumped up, said that Beatty took the wrong envelope, and rushed onstage.

"Oh, my God. 'Moonlight' won. 'Moonlight' won," a stagehand said.

Horowitz provided a play-by-play after the ceremony on E!, explaining that he had taken the envelope after the winner was announced and held the card as he gave his acceptance speech.

"There was a guy, a stagehand guy, who started kind of buzzing around, looking for the envelope," Horowitz said.

Eventually, the envelope was found. He "opened it, and it said 'Emma Stone, La La Land' on it," Horowitz said. "At that moment, it was clear there was a problem. They eventually found the best picture envelope."

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Backstage, Jenkins said: "I noticed the commotion and I thought something strange had occurred, and I'm sure everybody saw my face, but I was speechless when the result was offered," Jenkins said. "So it made a very special feeling even more special, but not in the way I expected."

Hours after the fiasco, the studio behind the film noted that it was still stunned.

For its part, PricewaterhouseCoopers said early Monday that it is investigating the incident.

"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 accounting 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, and deeply regret that this occurred. We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation."

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