If you watched the broadcast for the 89th Academy Awards, you were treated to a pleasant, if not long, ceremony that actually did a solid job of spreading the love between the films. Despite the momentum La La Land had this past year, it did not sweep the awards in an embarrassing fashion. However, no matter who you’d hoped would take the trophy at last night’s show, you could not have predicted what happened next.
The whole scene played out in a rather awkward fashion. Bonnie and Clyde co-stars Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty stood up on stage, ready to announce the honor of honors this year. Despite what you may have heard, Beatty was not at fault here, and it became increasingly evident as you watched the events unfold again and again. Beatty opened up the envelope, and looked at the card, slightly puzzled. He even looked inside the envelope again to make sure there wasn’t another card inside. Dunaway mistook his pause for him trying to be funny, and in his attempt to make sense of what he was reading on the card, he showed it to her, wanting a third party perspective on hat was happening. Clearly, Beatty knew something was up. Dunaway didn’t waste a moment, and read the name La La Land off the card, undoubtedly hoping to put an end to the suspense she thought Beatty was drawing out.
The entire La La Land gang bounded on stage, and the producers were in the process of saying their speeches when the backstage panic made its way to the front. Jordan Horowitz, one of the producers of La La Land, went on to state that there had been a mistake, and that, in fact, Moonlight had won Best Picture.
So what happened? Folks online were quick to call Warren Beatty the next Steve Harvey (who memorably had announced the wrong winner for Miss Universe 2015), but is that a fair comparison? If you’ll recall, he never actually read off the card, and Dunaway thought the man was kidding around, so read off the name she saw on it. However, thanks to the experts on Twitter, it’s now clear that the pair were given the envelope for Best Actress in a Leading Role, as you can see in the picture below:
Horowitz, who handled the whole situation like a pro, later explained:
“Guys in headsets starting buzzing around. They took the envelope I had. It said ‘Emma Stone, La La Land‘ on it. It was clear there was something wrong. They started looking for the best picture envelope. Nobody knew where it was. Then it appeared. They opened it next to me and it said ‘Moonlight.’ And so I grabbed it.”
Horowitz then held the card up so that all could see that it was no joke, and that Moonlight had indeed won Best Picture.
PricewaterhouseCoopers has gone on to apologize for this incident in a statement:
“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 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.”
So how did this happen? Speaking with Market Watch, Brian Cullnan, one of the this year’s Oscar number crunchers, explained that both he and his partner Martha L. Ruiz have a set of winning envelopes.
“[We] select the cards for the winners and put those into the respective envelopes [on] Friday and Saturday, and then bring the briefcase carrying those envelopes to the red carpet and to the show on Sunday, where both of us stand back stage, one on each side of the stage and we hand the envelopes to the presenters right before they walk out.”
So Cullinan had 24 envelopes, and so did Ruiz — in fact, the same 24 envelopes. Emma Stone had her Best Actress envelope on her. So it sounds like the other duplicate envelope was offered up at the end instead of the Best Picture one.
If nothing else, this certainly made for an interesting end to an overlong Oscars ceremony -- one that even M. Night Shyamalan would love to take credit for.