How Would You Respond to the Oscar Mishap?

I wasn’t watching the Academy Awards last night when it happened, but it was all over social media so quickly that it felt live.

You probably know the story by now: Warren Beatty was given the wrong envelope, and Faye Dunaway correctly read the movie on the card in that envelope: La La Land wins best picture. Then the mistake is realized that Moonlight is given the award.

Man, that’s rough. To have the elation that you’ve won only to learn that it’s a mistake is a cruel twist of fate. The people on that stage spent so much time, energy, creativity, and money making a film that they loved. I can’t imagine the tumult of emotions they must have experienced up there.

I’ve watched the clip a dozen times since then, and the thing that really sticks with me is how differently two of the La La Land producers responded. The first producer to be informed of the mistake said, “We lost, by the way, but, you know…”

Another producer–Jordan Horowitz–quickly took the mic and conveyed the message in a different way. “I’m sorry, there’s been a mistake. Moonlight,  you guys won best picture.”

It was a reminder to me that even in the face of shock and failure, you have the choice to be inward-facing or outward-facing. The first producer focused (understandably so) on his loss. Horowitz, however, focused on Moonlight’s win. I like that. I’m not sure I would have the grace or poise to respond that way, but I like it.

What was your reaction to this memorable moment at the Academy Awards?


5 Responses to “How Would You Respond to the Oscar Mishap?”

  1. Paul Howard says:

    I think for the most part they were incredibly gracious about it. I think Emma Stone talking later saying how they loved Moonlight so where thrilled for them says a lot. Sure, she had an Oscar of her own, but I think she (and for that matter Jordan Horowitz) had clearly remembered that even being nominated for an Oscar is an incredible achievement. Sure, Moonlight was voted to be “better”, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that people clearly think highly of your movie.

  2. I never watch the awards, but I’ve been picking up clues that indicate to me that somehow they all know the outcome ahead of time. Is this true? How would he have known he lost?
    If I knew ahead of time, I would have tried to correct the mistake, I hope.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Benjamin: Based on what I’ve read, I don’t think anyone knew in advance. I think some of them started to figure out that something was wrong when they were already on stage.

      • Paul Howard says:

        One of the production team came out (you can see him wearing a headset in the videos) along with both of the partners in PWC (the accounting firm who sorted the results and also the only two people who knew what was in the envelopes). The biggest issue, perhaps, is that they took as long as they did when the wrong thing was read out.

        It seems from details that have come out now that Brian Cullinan (the male one of the two partners) was busy tweeting a picture of Emma Stone backstage and didn’t discard the backup “best actress” card so that was top of the pile and he handed it to Warren Beatty by mistake. Simply mistake to make with a very embarrassing consequence.

        https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-39112851 has a lot of the details that have now come out.

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