The Academy Awards ended in mass confusion Sunday after it appeared that La La Land had won Best Picture, with the producers giving their speeches until Moonlight grabbed the gold.
A mix-up with the winner’s envelope made it seem as though the musical about trying to make it in Hollywood had won the biggest prize at the Oscars, but instead Moonlight, a tender coming-of-age drama about a gay black man, actually won the Best Picture Academy Award.
Here’s how everything played out. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were the presenters of the Best Picture award. As Beatty opened the envelope, he later said, he saw that the card read “Emma Stone, La La Land.” Stone had won the previous award for Best Actress. Though Beatty seemed confused, he passed the card to Dunaway, who announced La La Land as the Best Picture winner.
The cast and crew of La La Land took to the stage to accept the prize. But as they thanked colleagues and families, Academy Awards producers went onstage to talk to the La La Land team, and it became clear there had been a huge mistake.
La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz told the audience about the error.
“There’s a mistake. Moonlight, you guys won Best Picture. This is not a joke. Come up here. Moonlight has won Best Picture.”
Horowitz then held up the correct card for all to see, confirming that Moonlight had won Best Picture. The Moonlight cast and crew took to the stage to collect the trophy amid widespread confusion, in what was perhaps the craziest, most unprecedented moment in Academy Awards history.
Beatty then explained what had happened, but did not say why he declined to consult with Oscar producers when he saw Stone’s name on the card and recognized something was amiss. He is heard saying that the card has Stone’s name on it in this clip.
The reasons for the mistake were at first unclear, with it at first seeming Beatty and Dunaway had read the wrong name. However, Beatty soon cleared up that suggestion by stating he had the wrong card, with visual evidence backing up his claim.
There were also some suggestions that Leonardo DiCaprio was somehow at fault. DiCaprio presented Stone with her award and had held on to the envelope announcing her as the winner. Academy Awards winners typically take home the envelope as a keepsake.
But it soon emerged that DiCaprio was in the clear as he gave Stone the envelope after they left the stage at the Dolby Theater. Stone clearly has the envelope under her arm in the clip below, and she confirmed to the press she had it the entire time.
So it appeared that the Price Waterhouse Coopers accountants responsible for counting Oscar votes and handing envelopes to Academy Awards presenters were to blame. As BBC News reports, there are two sets of envelopes for each award, with an accountant each holding one set of envelopes on the two sides of the stage. So that explains why Stone had her envelope while Beatty was a card with her name on it at the same time, most likely with an envelope taken from the opposite side of the stage that DiCaprio had taken his.
It seems that those backstage figured out the mistake quickly. A Price Waterhouse Coopers accountant leaped up and claimed Beatty had the wrong envelope after Dunaway announced La La Land as the winner, while a stagehand kept saying “Moonlight won,” according to USA Today. While it’s not crystal clear how Beatty took the wrong envelope, it’s evident how the mistake played out with two different Best Actress envelopes stating the same winner.
As one might expect, Twitter blew up with jokes and thoughts about the huge Academy Awards mistake.
While it’s undoubtedly not the way the Moonlight team would have wanted its moment of glory and one can sympathize with the team behind La La Land, there’s no questioning that this was the most thrilling end to the Academy Awards in recent memory.
[Featured Image by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP Images]