Oscars: How the best picture fiasco unfolded
After hours of mild jokes, predictable wins and uneventful speeches, the best picture envelope arrived to rock the party.
5am – Bonnie and Clyde arrive
It was early in the day but late in the ceremony, when actors Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty – aka Bonnie and Clyde – arrive on stage, envelope in hand, to present best picture.
“It’s a privilege for us to present the final award of the evening,” Dunaway says.
“I think it’s fair to say that our goal in politics is the same as our goal in arts: a ticket to the truth,” Beatty continues.
Little did he know, there wouldn’t be much truth in his ticket.
5.05am – Drum roll… for a long time
After the nominees are duly presented, Beatty does the honours and opens the envelope.
But, for a second, there seems to be some sort of confusion, as the actor looks at the winning card with a perplexed face and has a second peek inside the envelope.
But the drums are rolling, and people are waiting.
“And the Academy award…” he starts, pausing to look again at the card.
The audience starts laughing.
“You’re impossible,” Dunaway says, looking at the envelope in a glance.
“La La Land,” she announces.
5.06am – Faux winners
The La La Land crew arrives on stage, cheered by the audience.
“Thank you all,” says Jordan Horowitz, the film’s producer.
People are hugging behind while Horowitz delivers his acceptance speech, statue in hand, talking of “joy and diversity in the world”.
But as producer Marc Platt starts delivering his speech, someone from the Academy appears behind him to check the envelope.
Producer Fred Berger’s speech follows, and we can see Beatty speaking in the background to PwC consultant Brian Cullinan, in charge of the delivery of the envelopes.
“We lost, by the way but, you know,” Berger says halfway through his speech.
“There’s a mistake,” says Horowitz.
“Moonlight, you guys won best picture. This is not a joke.”
“I’m afraid we’ve read the wrong thing,” says an apologetic Beatty.
5.09am – Real winners
While the audience looks perplexedly at the stage, Denzel Washington shouts “Barry!” out loud – signalling host Jimmy Kimmel to bring Moonlight director Barry Jenkins to the stage.
“Denzel wanted me to get him to the microphone to make a speech, which makes sense,” Kimmel explained later.
People are cheering, Moonlight cast and crew are hugging each other, and Kimmel takes the stage to explain what happened.
“Guys, this is a very unfortunate thing that happened. Personally, I blame Steve Harvey for this,” he says, referencing Harvey’s gaffe during the Miss Universe competition.
“I will be really proud to hand this to my friends from Moonlight,” Horowitz says.
Before the Moonlight crew comes on stage, Warren Beatty explains he was “given the wrong envelope”.
“I opened the envelope and it said: Emma Stone, La La Land. That’s why I took such a long look at Faye, and at you – I wasn’t trying to be funny.”
As Moonlight’s cast and crew salutes La La Land’s cast and crew, Jenkins accepts the award and says: “Very clearly, even in my dreams I thought this could not be true. But to hell with dreams, I’m done with it. This is true.”
5.30am – The Plot Thickens
As the world recovers from the shock, best actress winner Emma Stone gives an interview outside the Dolby Theatre, explaining to journalists that, although she “f****** loves Moonlight”, she is “not sure what happened”.
“I wanted to tell you guys first,” she tells the journalists.
“I had the best actress envelope with me the whole time.”
The confusion is later explained by the fact that there were two envelopes.
1.30pm – The Apology
Long after the Oscars wrap up, consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers issues a statement apologising and taking “full responsibility” for the mistake.
“We sincerely apologise 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 statement reads.
“The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope.”
They later issue a second statement, attributing the human error to Mr Cullinan and Martha Ruiz, the two consultants in charge of the envelopes.