We all know the Academy accountants, so precise, so reliable: PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Well, not this year. Somehow, their carefully guarded dual sets of envelopes backfired as Warren Beatty on one side of the stage and Leonardo DiCaprio on the other both wound up with Emma Stone “La La Land” cards in their red envelopes.
What unfolded after a smooth, engaged and entertaining Oscar show hosted by Jimmy Kimmel was the biggest gaffe in Oscar history. Warren Beatty frowned over the card he pulled out of the envelope, and passed it to his old “Bonnie and Clyde” star Faye Dunaway, who read the name she saw: “La La Land.”
It took over two minutes for the PricewaterhouseCoopers people to figure out that the wrong winner had been announced (the card had read Emma Stone, “La La Land”) and find the right Best Picture envelope with “Moonlight” on it.
“La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz had the grace to step to the microphone and admit there had been a sincere mistake. And there was some arguing as Warren Beatty held onto the “Moonlight” Best Picture card, insisting on giving it only to director Barry Jenkins, he told me. Backstage Jenkins made a point of thanking the “La La Land” team for being “gracious.”
For her part, backstage Emma Stone praised “Moonlight.” And at the Governors’ Ball, Academy CEO Dawn Hudson was fuming. Because this tale of two envelopes could only fall on one culprit: PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The Academy asked them to release 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.
We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.
Will the Academy fire them? It could happen.
At the Governors’ Ball, “Moonlight” producers Adele Romanski and Jeremy Kleiner and director Barry Jenkins all converged on Horowitz to hug and thank him for being so cool about what was a fraught and disappointing conclusion for “La La Land.” “I’m so proud of him,” said his wife Julia Hart.
“It was chaos,” Horowitz said, as men with headsets maneuvered behind him looking for the right Best Picture card.
“La La Land” was set up for disappointment as many Oscar pundits were poised for it to break Oscar records. Twelve wins wasn’t in the cards, so whatever “La La Land” did win was bound to be disappointing. And so what should have been a celebration for “La La Land” wound up a big fat mess — and the only topic of discussion. I was not the only one getting tweets like “OMG!”
At the end of the night, as “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle (who did not feel comfortable meeting the press backstage) left the somehow not celebratory Soho House Lionsgate party, he said: “I want to sleep. It was crazy.”