A sizable flub during the 26 February 2017 Academy Awards was reported as “the most dramatic” moment in the history of the Oscars, after an apparent envelope mixup led to the wrong film being announced as “Best Picture”:
The error left both attendees and viewers confused, and presenter Warren Beatty later said that the mistake was not an attempt at humor:
That final honor of the night appeared to go to the most nominated film of the night, “La La Land,” with the producers going through their acceptance speeches before it became clear that Beatty and Dunaway had actually made a mistake and “Moonlight” was the best picture winner.
“I opened the envelope and it said Emma Stone for ‘La La Land,’” Beatty explained. “I wasn’t trying to be funny.”
The team for “Moonlight” then took the stage in bewilderment. Barry Jenkins and producer Adele Romanski accepted the award while trying to make sense of what was happening to them.
“I knew I would screw this show up,” [Jimmy] Kimmel said as he closed the show. “At least we got to see some extra speeches.”
Vanity Fair reported that the confusion lingered after a stage manager rectified the situation:
In the immediate moments after the error as he existed the stage, Beatty wasn’t pleased.
”Much respect, sir, much respect,” Moonlight director Barry Jenkins said to Beatty.
Stage manager Gary Natoli then approached Beatty. “Security would like the envelopes, Mr. Beatty,” Natoli said.
“I’m holding onto them,“ Beatty said. ”I’ll give them to Barry Jenkins at an appropriate moment.”
Meanwhile, Oscars producer Jennifer Todd conferred with a crew member: “But how did they both read the wrong thing?”
During the telecast, Beatty had returned to the stage to explain that he had mistakenly read from the second of two envelopes announcing Emma Stone’s best actress win, before handing the erroneous envelope over to Dunaway. Pricewaterhouse Coopers prints two announcements per category for security reasons. Stone said she still had hers in hand as the scene unfolded.
“I think everyone’s in a state of confusion still,” she told press backstage, according to People. “Excitement but confusion. I think everyone is just so excited for Moonlight. It’s such an incredible film.”
Academy Awards program host Jimmy Kimmel stated he remained unsure of how the mixup occurred, bafflement echoed by organizers:
Speaking to reporters backstage, Jenkins said that he and his Moonlight teammates were given “no explanation”—but that he did see the infamous wrong card. “Things just happen,” Jenkins said. “I will say, I saw two cards. And so, things just happen. I wanted to see the card, to see the card. Warren refused to show the card to anybody before he showed it to me. And so he did. He came upstairs and he walked over to me, and he showed the card. And everybody was asking, ‘Can I see the card’? And he’s like, ‘no, Barry Jenkins has to see the card, I need him to know.’ And he showed it to me. I felt better about what happened.”
Later in the evening, Academy Awards producer Mike DeLuca echoed his bafflement. “I’m gonna leave it to the Academy to comment,” he told Vanity Fair while waiting for an elevator. “I still don’t know what happened.”
After the ceremonies concluded, Oscars vote tallying firm Price Waterhouse Cooper released a statement apologizing to those affected:
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.
We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.
And the Oscar goes to… pic.twitter.com/i846CnSDAi
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) February 27, 2017
However, the Academy did not immediately respond to questions about the Oscars mixup.