It’s been two days since the Academy Awards shocked the world with an ending no one could’ve predicted. In what has become perhaps the most infamous moment in Oscars history, “La La Land” was incorrectly declared the winner of Best Picture, and the shock and confusion that followed as “Moonlight” triumphantly won has been dissected like crazy over the last couple days. We’ve gotten apologies from Academy accountants, explanations from the likes of Warren Beatty and Jimmy Kimmel, but how exactly do directors Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins feel? After all, it was their Oscar-winning films that got lost in the mess.
In an exclusive new interview with Variety, Chazelle and Jenkins sat down the morning after the big show and reflected on that shocking moment. The two have proven a lot this awards season how humble they are, and both were looking at the Best Picture mixup more for the beauty it resulted in than for the messy politics behind why it occurred.
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“It’s messy, but it’s kind of gorgeous,” Jenkins told Chazelle and Variety Awards Editor Kristopher Tapley. “You have these two groups of people who came together for a second. There’s a picture with me hugging Jordan [Horowitz, a producer of ‘La La Land’], and Adele [Romanski, producer of ‘Moonlight’] has her arm on his shoulder. That’s what the moment was.”
While the narrative around awards season had pitted “Moonlight” against “La La Land” for months, there was nothing but love between the two filmmaking teams, which most viewers didn’t really get to see until that shocking moment on stage. Both films began their path toward Oscars glory just two days a part. “La La Land” premiered at the Venice Film Festival on August 31, while “Moonlight” debuted in Telluride on September 2.
Both Jenkins and Chazelle met for the first time in Telluride, where “La La Land” was also screening. They became fast friends and huge fans of one another’s movies. “You could feel it,” Chazelle said of watching “Moonlight” for the first time. “It was so beautiful.”
“I hadn’t been to L.A. in, like, two months at that point. I had been traveling overseas,” Jenkins added about “La La Land.” “It made me feel nostalgic for L.A., which I have never felt.”
The pair would continue to cross paths over the next several months, from festivals like TIFF to awards shows like the Golden Globes. Never once did the awards race become a competition between the filmmakers, and even Chazelle agrees the Best Picture gaffe was a nice reminder that their awards season narrative was always about respect, not who wins and who loses.
“It’s weird to be friendly with someone but to feel like there’s a mano-a-mano thing, which I guess is the nature of the Oscars,” he said. “So it was nice to explode that myth a little bit on a big stage.”
For more from Chazelle and Jenkins, read Variety’s morning after interview in full.