What Happened Behind the Scenes of “Moonlight” and “La La Land” Best Picture Mix-up

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by Emma Hartvickson – Staff Reporter

What most thought was just a joke really turned into one of the biggest mistakes in Oscar History. Before the crazed event that ended the night with a bang, many actors and filmmakers went home with big wins. Some of the following awards include, Directing: Damien Chazelle, La La Land, Lead Actress: Emma Stone, La La Land, Lead Actor: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea, Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea, Best Original Song: “City of Stars” – La La Land
And last but not least, Best Picture: La La Land, or so we thought. Warren Beatty, who, along with Faye Dunaway, presented the final award of the night. Mr. Beatty opened the envelope and, after some hesitation and confusion handed it to Ms. Dunaway. She said “La La Land!” The La La land team rushed to the stage as the crowd applause erupted from the theater. They began their long thankful speeches when suddenly a stagehand passes in the background. He pushes through the team to Beatty and whispers to him and gestures to the envelope Beatty read. The faces of the La La Land cast suddenly look sickened. Commotion on the stage now had everyone muttering. In an interview from the New York Times, La La land producer Jordan Horowitz recalls the experience, “I’m holding the envelope and the award, and I had just given my speech, and there are people on the stage with headsets and I thought, ‘That doesn’t seem right,’” Horowitz said. Horowitz then heard and understood what was going on… “I’m sorry no…there’s a mistake…moonlight, you guys won best picture! This is not a joke I’m afraid they read the wrong thing…” Horowitz holds up the envelope to the camera and sets things straight, Moonlight wins best picture.
The cause of the misread was not Beatty and Dunaway, but instead behind the scenes, a man named Brian Cullinan. “It’s one of Hollywood’s most secretive and unusual jobs; Brian Cullinan, a partner at the accounting firm PwC, and a colleague are tasked with making sure the statuettes at the annual Academy Awards are correctly distributed. He stands in the wings of the Dolby Theater here in a tuxedo and pulls sealed envelopes out of a briefcase, giving the correct one to presenters as they walk onto the stage.”
Exactly what happened in the moments leading up to the mistaken announcement was still being sorted out on Monday, but Cullinan admitted and explained how the events played out. He was distracted by his Twitter feed when he handed Mr. Beatty an envelope containing the name of the best actress winner, an award that had already been given to Ms. Stone of “La La Land” moments ago. The next seven humiliating minutes would find Ms. Dunaway blurting out the wrong best picture winner. At the climactic moment backstage, a crewmember shouted “Oh my God” as the excited producers of “La La Land” thanked their families. “He got the wrong envelope!” “He” was Warren Beatty, who, along with Faye Dunaway, had no idea they were given the wrong card, Beatty explained after the event that the reason he hesitated before announcing the winner was because he recognized that the card didn’t seem right, it had Emma stone’s name written across the top. It took minutes to fix the error because they had to contact so many people and producers to confirm the mistake. They rushed on stage, and confirmed the mistake live during the show, the audience gasping, surprised, as the “La La Land” producers gracefully made way for the “Moonlight” team. According to the New York Times, “In an epic bungle before 33 million viewers—one that could get his company fired as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ accountant after 83 years and which robbed “Moonlight,” an all-black, gay-themed film, of its proper moment of celebration.” Mr. Cullinan caused the show-business musical “La La Land” to be mistakenly named best picture at the 89th Academy Awards.

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