Oscar got it wrong, wrong, soooo wrong. The presenters announced the wrong Best Picture; Moonlight was the winner, not La La Land.
It was the biggest, most embarrassing, most awkward mistake in the history of the Academy Awards, played out before an audience of millions watching on TV and a theater full of stars standing, stunned, mouths agape, as a chaotic scene unfolded on stage at the Dolby Theater after midnight ET.
How could it happen?
USA TODAY had reporters stationed in all parts of the theater. Here’s what we know:
Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were presenting but looked lost. When he opened the envelope, he paused for a long few seconds. He looked at Dunaway, puzzled. She took the envelope, read it, paused, and said, “La La Land.”
Up came the cast and crew of the much-heralded film. They started making their acceptance speeches.
As the La La Land filmmakers take the stage to accept best picture, the accountant from PriceWaterhouseCoopers jumped up and said, “He (Beatty) took the wrong envelope!” and goes running onstage. Craziness breaks out. No one knows how Beatty got the best actress envelope instead of the best picture envelope.
“Oh, my God. Moonlight won, Moonlight won,” a stagehand says, her hands on her head.
Around 3 a.m. ET, PriceWaterhouseCoopers would issue a statement explaining, “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.”
After receiving a rousing hurrah from the crowd, Jordan Horowitz, the producer of La La Land, took the mic, waving one finger in the air and saying, “Sorry, guys, hold on. There’s a mistake. Moonlight, you guys won best picture. This is not a joke.”
He held up the card and the camera came in close: It said Moonlight and its producers’ name.
After confirming Moonlight was the rightful best-picture winner, the Oscars crowd erupted into cheers. Beatty took the mic again to explain the flub.
“I wanted to tell you what happened. 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.”
Host Jimmy Kimmel was beside himself but tried to joke. “Warren, what did you do?!” He said what happened was “very unfortunate. Personally, I blame Steve Harvey for this.” (Harvey’s notorious for naming the wrong Miss Universe winner in 2015.