How did the Oscars mix-up happen? | Film | DW | 28.02.2017
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How did the Oscars mix-up happen?

It was an unprecedented fiasco: "La La Land" was mistakenly awarded the best picture Oscar before "Moonlight" was revealed as the real winner. And Trump sees himself at the center of the blunder.

After actors Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway mistakenly declared Damien Chazelle's musical "La La Land" winner of the best picture Oscar on Sunday, three of the film's producers had already started giving their acceptance speeches on stage. In the background, other members of the team were finding out about the blunder.

"La La Land" producer Jordan Horowitz was the one who stopped the celebrations: "I am sorry, there's been a mistake. 'Moonlight,' you guys won best picture," he declared, leaving everyone confused for a few seconds. "This is not a joke," he then had to repeat it twice, holding up the right card to the cameras.

Warren Beatty then stepped up to the microphone to explain what happened: "I opened the envelope and it said 'Emma Stone, La La Land.' That's why I took such a long look at Faye and at you. I wasn't trying to be funny!"

"Even in my dreams this cannot be true," said director Barry Jenkins when he unexpectedly picked up the statuette for his low-budget coming-of-age drama.

Moonlight director Barry Jenkins embraces La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz as they swapped their Oscar (Reuters/L. Nicholson)

"Moonlight" director Barry Jenkins embraces "La La Land" producer Jordan Horowitz as they swapped their Oscar

Envelope handed out twice

Shortly before, Emma Stone had received the award for best actress in a leading role. After winning she had kept the card with her name on it the whole time in her hands, she later said backstage. 

However, the global accounting firm responsible for carrying the winning ballots to the ceremony, PwC, formerly PricewaterhouseCoopers, always holds two copies of each winning envelope, allowing them to be handed out either from the left or right side of the stage, as presenters walk in from both sides throughout the ceremony. This is how an envelope for the category main actress could have been handed out twice.

Academy Awards briefcases (Reuters/M. Blake)

Duplicates of each envelope are kept in these briefcases

Monday afternoon, the "Wall Street Journal" reported that the accountant who had mistakenly handed out the wrong envelope, Brian Cullinan, had also posted a behind-the-scenes tweet with Emma Stone, holding her statuette for best actress, which could have distracted him from doing his job correctly. The tweet has been deleted since.

"Once the error occurred, protocols for correcting it were not followed through quickly enough by Mr. Cullinan or his partner," representatives at PwC said in a statement. It took over two minutes before the embarrassing mix-up was corrected.

The accounting firm, which has been handling the Academy Awards' process during the ceremony for the past 83 years, said they "sincerely apologize" and "deeply regret" the error. 

Trump takes credit for blunder

In an interview with the alt-right website "Breitbart News" after the Oscars, President Donald Trump said the chaos surrounding the last award of the ceremony was due to Hollywood's obsession with him.

"I think they were focused so hard on politics that they didn't get the act together at the end," he told the site previously managed by Steve Bannon. "It was a little sad. It took away from the glamour of the Oscars. I've been to the Oscars. There was something very special missing, and then to end that way was sad." 

Trump was the target of jokes and criticism throughout the night as Oscar-winners railed against his immigration policies.  

eg/jlw (dpa, AP, AFP)

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