Unless you’ve had a mega lie-in by now you’ve most likely seen the biggest cock-up to ever happen in Oscar’s history.
To recap, presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway took to the stage to announce La La Land as the overall winner, when – in reality – Moonlight had scooped the top prize. As the entire cast of La La Land rushed up on stage to accept their award the mistake is realised. Cue a lot of confused and shocked faces.
‘I opened the envelope and it said: Emma Stone, La La Land,’ Beatty explained. ‘That’s why I took such a long pause and looked at Faye, and at you. I wasn’t trying to be funny.’
Los Angeles Times writer Jeffrey Fleishman claimed that midway through the La La Land acceptance speech a stage hand standing in the wings of the stage said: ‘Oh f**k. Oh my God. He got the wrong envelope.’
In an official statement PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has overseen the Academy’s ballot-counting process for the past 83 years, clarified their role in the error saying: ‘We sincerely apologize 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 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, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.’
However, the strange mix-up just gets even stranger as at post-awards press conference Emma Stone said: ‘I f***ing loved Moonlight. God, I love Moonlight so much! I’m so excited for Moonlight! And, of course, it was an amazing thing to hear La La Land. I think we all would have loved to win Best Picture. But we are so excited for Moonlight. I think it is one of the best films of all time. So I was pretty beside myself. 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 the card. So, I’m not sure what happened. And I really wanted to talk to you guys first.’
Hmmm… so what really happened.
Well it seems all comes down to the briefcases that the awards envelopes are carried in. A past interview in Medium with the two Oscars balloting co-leaders, Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz explains how the system works…
‘The producers decide what the order of the awards will be,’ says Brian Cullinan. We each have a full set. I have all 24 envelopes in my briefcase; Martha [Ruiz] has all 24 in hers. We stand on opposite sides of the stage, right off-screen, for the entire evening, and we each hand the respective envelope to the presenter. It doesn’t sound very complicated, but you have to make sure you’re giving the presenter the right envelope.’
Then just three days Cullinan told the Huffington Post what would happen if there was a mix-up on the night…
‘We would make sure that the correct person was known very quickly,’ he said. ‘Whether that entails stopping the show, us walking onstage, us signaling to the stage manager — that’s really a game-time decision, if something like that were to happen. Again, it’s so unlikely.’
Errr bet he’s regetting saying that now…