Oscars 2017: What It Was Like Onstage During the Best Picture Mistake

Jordan Horowitz knew something was wrong the moment he saw people in headsets scurrying across the Oscars stage.
Only a minute earlier Faye Dunaway had said the words that Mr. Horowitz had longed to hear — “La La Land” — as she announced the winner for the 2017 Academy Award for best picture. Mr. Horowitz, a producer on the film, and colleagues and cast members raced to the stage. Mr. Horowitz spoke first — “Thank you to the academy,” he began — but his excitement quickly dissipated, as he recalled the shocking end to the night in an interview with The New York Times after the awards.
“I’m holding the envelope and the award, and I had just given my speech, and there are people on the stage with headsets, and I thought, ‘That doesn’t seem right,’” Mr. Horowitz said at the Governors Ball.
“They asked to see my envelope, which I haven’t opened. Clearly something was wrong. They open my envelope, and it says ‘Emma Stone, La La Land.’ So clearly something is not right. The guys in headsets were going around with urgency looking for the other envelope — it just kind of appeared,” he said. “One of the guys opens it, and it says ‘Moonlight,’ and I took it onstage and went to the microphone and said what I said.”

What Mr. Horowitz said — “There’s a mistake. ‘Moonlight,’ you guys won best picture” — was one of the most surprising reversals in Oscar history, with apparent human error combining with live television to powerful, jaw-dropping effect. It was also a painful reminder, on the most celebratory night of the year for the film industry, that no system of voting is perfect, and it warped and dampened the euphoria of film executives and artists who had spent years working on the two movies.
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And for the academy, which had been criticized last year for #OscarsSoWhite, there might have been something of a missed moment: Instead of a proper celebration of “Moonlight,” with its all-black cast and touching personal narrative, there was a televised scene of confusion, disbelief and astonishment.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm that oversaw the academy voting and handled the award envelopes, issued a statement on Monday morning that apologized to the two movies; the award category presenters, Ms. Dunaway and Warren Beatty; and to 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,” the statement continued. “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,” a reference to the network and the host of the Oscars ceremony.

Many details remained unclear on Monday morning, including how the envelopes were handled backstage before Mr. Beatty and Ms. Dunaway came out and why the error was not corrected more swiftly. Three “La La Land” producers had given acceptance speeches before the mistake was announced.
For the filmmakers and actors in “Moonlight,” those final seven minutes of the Oscars ceremony — from Ms. Dunaway’s announcement of “La La Land” to the discovery that “Moonlight” had won to the speeches by its producers, Mr. Beatty and Mr. Kimmel — were no less stunning.
“The last 20 minutes of my life have been insane,” Barry Jenkins, the director of “Moonlight,” told reporters backstage after the awards. “I don’t think my life could be changed any more dramatically than the last 20 or 30 minutes.”

André Holland, an actor in “Moonlight” who was attending the Oscars, said in an interview that he was sitting in the back of the hall with others from the film when he heard Mr. Horowitz, the “La La Land” producer, say from the stage, “There’s a mistake — ‘Moonlight,’ you guys won best picture.”
“We all looked at each other and were like, ‘Is this a joke?’” said Mr. Holland, who plays the character Kevin in the final third of the film. “We waited and kept watching — we didn’t want to celebrate until we knew if it was a joke and whether this was really happening. It was surreal.”
Less than two minutes later, Mr. Holland was on stage with his “Moonlight” family.
“I still couldn’t believe we were up there,” said Mr. Holland, speaking by telephone to The Times a half-hour after the ceremony. “It was a ton of people on stage, and I don’t think anyone could believe it.”
Afterward, Mahershala Ali, who won best supporting actor for “Moonlight,” said backstage that he had been thrown by the turn of events.
“I just didn’t want to go up there and take anything from somebody, you know?” he said.
Mr. Jenkins told Entertainment Tonight that he “could see it in Jordan’s face, that he was speaking the truth,” referring to Mr. Horowitz.


  1. Holland's dream was awesome

  2. Lala land belongs to Jordan

  3. Less than two minutes later, Mr. Holland was on stage with his “Moonlight” family.

  4. Moonlight should be first

  5. How can the presenter be given a wrong envelope???

    1. Sometimes it can be possible