2017 Oscars: How Did the ‘La La Land,’ ‘Moonlight’ Best Picture Mix-Up Happen Anyway?
PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm that tabulates the Oscar votes, issued an apology for the moment when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway wrongfully announced that La La Land won Best Picture at Sunday’s Academy Awards.
According to several sources, Beatty was handed an envelope that held the winner for “Actress in a Leading Role,” which was Emma Stone for La La Land. This mirrors what Beatty had to say in his brief apology when Moonlight was revealed as the true winner.
“I opened the envelope and it said Emma Stone, La La Land,” Beatty said during the broadcast. “I wasn’t trying to be funny.”
PwC partners Martha L. Ruiz and Brian Cullinan, the only two people who know the Oscars winners before the show, explained in a pre-Oscars interview with MarketWatch that they select the cards for the winners once the votes are completely tallied.
“When we close the envelopes, that’s the only place that the winner is written down,” Cullinan said.
Cullinan added that they “double up everything” for security purposes.
“That’s why there’s two of us. We have two briefcases, that are identical, and we have two entire sets of winning envelopes. Martha carries one of those briefcases, I carry the other. We go to the show separately with police escorts. I used to think it was for our security, it’s really for the briefcase [laughs]. We take different routes to get there just because of the kinds of things that can happen in L.A. traffic. We want to make sure that no matter what happens, one of us gets there.”
Each one of them stands on a wing of the stage and hands the envelopes to the presenters right before they walk out. Los Angeles Times reporter Amy Kaufman said that her colleague Jeffrey Fleishman overheard the following exchange backstage just before Beatty was about to read from the wrong envelope:
All that said, it could be hypothesized that the sealed backup Best Actress envelope was handed to Beatty and Dunaway instead of the one for Best Picture.
PwC issued the following statement on the mix-up Monday morning:
“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, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.”
Kimmel spoke with the Los Angeles Times on his way out of the Dolby Theater after the show on Sunday.
“I saw something online… it was a screen grab that showed the best actress envelope. It’s funny, I was about to go on stage and do a bit with Matt Damon and a doughnut, but I said, ‘I think I have to go on stage,’ because otherwise our stage manager Gary [Natoli] was going to have to finesse it,” Kimmel said.
“There was a lot of nuttiness. It was kind of like a dispute over a boxing match. You didn’t know who won. You didn’t know who the winner was. But I have to say the producers of La La Land were very gracious,” he added. “Listen, it’s a TV show.”
Beatty also told the LA Times, “I looked down at the card and thought, this is very strange, because it says ‘Best Actress.’ Maybe there was a misprint. I don’t know what happened. And that’s all I have I have to say on the subject.”
Stone, who still took home the award for Best Actress, told reporters backstage that she was holding her Best Actress envelope the whole time the La La Land-Moonlight snafu was happening.
“Of course it was an amazing thing to hear La La Land,” Stone said. “We would have loved to have won Best Picture. But we are so excited for Moonlight. I think it’s one of the best films of all time. I was also holding my ‘best actress in a leading role’ card that entire time. So whatever story, I don’t mean to start stuff, but whatever story that was, I had that card.”