PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm responsible for the Academy’s ballot-counting process for 83 years, has vowed to investigate what led to one of the biggest gaffes in Oscar history, after presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway named La La Land as Best Picture instead of the real winner Moonlight.
In a sweeping apology, PricewaterhouseCoopers explained Beatty and Dunaway were mistakenly given the envelope for Best Actress, which listed La La Land‘s Emma Stone as the winner, prompting Dunaway to declare La La Land the big winner of the evening.
Beatty, who was obviously confused by what he read on the card, then interrupted the acceptance speech, awkwardly trying to explain Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight was the real winner.
WATCH: Barry Jenkins says Warren Beatty searched him out to show him Best Picture card
As the La La Land team was celebrating onstage, producer Jordan Horowitz took to the microphone to say: “There’s been a mistake. Moonlight, you guys won best picture.” He then graciously passed his statue to the Moonlight producers, reiterating, “This is not a joke.”
“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,” said PricewaterhouseCoopers in a statement.
“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.”
Cameras captured the gasps and stunned faces of celebrities in the audience as the snafu unraveled on stage – several of which were immediately turned into memes as social media users reacted to the moment.
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Host Jimmy Kimmel tried to make light of the moment by making a joke about the time Steve Harvey announced the wrong winner of the Miss Universe pageant saying, “Personally, I blame Steve Harvey for this.” Kimmel – a first time Oscar’s host – later added, “I knew I would screw this up.”
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“Even in my dreams this cannot be true,” said an astonished Jenkins, once he reached the microphone. “To hell with dreams! I’m done with it because this is true.”
Jenkins later told reporters the mix-up was “unfortunate” but said he was elated to have won the night’s top honour.
But Moonlight star Mahershala Ali, who one Best Supporting Actor, admitted the conclusion threw him for a loop.
“I don’t want to go up there and take anything from someone,” he said afterward. “It’s very hard to feel joy in a moment like that.”
What could have caused the envelope mix-up?
According to reports, the initial mix-up may have been caused by a so-called fail safe for Oscar presenters. Duplicate envelopes for each award are reportedly held in the wings in case anything goes wrong with a presenter, The Guardian reported.
Some have speculated Beatty was handed the duplicate envelope for the Best Actress award, which had just been given to La La Land’s Stone, instead of the card for Best Picture.
A close up of Beatty’s hand shows he was indeed holding the Best Actress envelope on stage; however, Stone had already accepted her award and was in possession of it. That means Beatty must have had the duplicate.
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“I think everyone’s in a state of confusion still,” said Stone. Later the actress, who pledged her deep love of Moonlight, added, “Is that the craziest Oscar moment of all time? Cool!”
It was a shocking upset considering La La Land came in with 14 nominations, a record that tied it with Titanic and All About Eve.
WATCH BELOW: La La Land producer calls handing Best Picture award to Moonlight a ‘real honour’
Jenkins’ coming-of-age drama, made for just $1.5 million, is an unusually small Oscar winner. Having made just over $22 million at the box office as of Sunday, it’s one of the lowest grossing best-picture winners ever – but also one of the most critically adored.
However, as of Monday morning, the envelope snafu seemed to have eclipsed Moonlight‘s big win on social media, as the globally trending hashtag #BestPicture contained more reaction to the mix-up than the movie’s win.
Warren Beatty looking at the card trying to figure out how Emma Stone could win Best Picture pic.twitter.com/NkQrmYDHwg
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– With files from The Associated Press