“Moonlight” won the Oscar for best picture Sunday night, after a shocking mix-up led to “La La Land” being initially announced as the winner of the award.
“Bonnie and Clyde” co-stars Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were presenting the final award of the night, but rather than being given an envelope with the name of the winner of the award they were presenting, they were given one which contained the winner of the best actress category – which had just been won by Emma Stone for her role in La La Land.
The cast of the musical were in the middle of giving their acceptance speeches when they were made aware of the mistake and it was left to producer Jordan Horowitz to announce that Moonlight had actually won the prestigious prize.
So who was at fault?
It quickly emerged that the people responsible were the accountants.
In a statement released Monday, the firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) – who are charged with making sure the Oscars votes are tallied correctly – apologized for the mistake: “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.”
How did everyone react?
Everyone in attendance looked pretty surprised, but the cast of La La Land has been widely praised for the gracious way it handled the crushing disappointment of thinking they had won before having to hand the statues over to the producers of Moonlight.
“I was ecstatic, it was amazing. I thought we won an Oscar,” Horowitz told The Hollywood Reporter. “Some guys in headsets started buzzing around. It became clear that was something wrong. They took the envelope I had. It said Emma Stone, La La Land on it.”
Horowitz added: “It was clear that there was something wrong. We started looking for the best picture envelope. Nobody knew where it was. Then it appeared, they opened it next to me and it said Moonlight.”
Barry Jenkins, the director of the winning film, told reporters after he came off stage: “The last 20 minutes of my life have been insane,” adding: “I don’t think my life could be changed any more dramatically than [in] the last 20 or 30 minutes.”
What about the reaction online?
As you might expect, there were a lot of people looking to weigh in on the controversy. Moonlight’s victory will be seen as a big win for diversity after two years when no black actors were even nominated for an award. Jenkins summed it up by saying: “It’s unfortunate the way things happened … but hot damn, we won best picture.”
La La Land director: talking about diversity with an all-white cast behind him, has to cede the award to Moonlight, absolutely poetic.
A number of artists tweeted that they would now be looking into previous losses:
Obviously, there were many joking references to Donald Trump, his election victory, and other controversies surrounding the U.S. president:
Director of “The Sixth Sense” M. Night Shyamalan even claimed he was behind the whole thing:
How should the system work?
Once the votes have been counted, the accountants from PwC create two complete sets of winners’ envelopes. During the ceremony, they alternate handing out the envelopes depending on which side of the stage the presenters are entering from.
PwC has been officiating at the Oscars for 83 years, and in recent years U.S. board chairman Brian Cullinan and tax partner Martha Ruiz have personally overseen the tallying of votes. They are the only two people in the world to know the results before the ceremony.