Moonlight has won the best picture Oscar in a chaotic awards ceremony climax which mistakenly awarded the top honour to La La Land, a fiasco which stunned Hollywood and viewers around the world.
Faye Dunaway named La La Land as the year’s best picture at the end of Sunday night’s ABC broadcast only to be corrected a few minutes later as the musical’s makers celebrated on stage, a tableaux likely to be immortalised in Hollywood annals.
Audible gasps were heard in the Dolby theatre when La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz declared the real winner was Moonlight, a coming-of-age drama revered by critics.
A close-up of the red envelope suggested Dunaway and Warren Beatty had an envelope containing a previous award for best actress – Emma Stone of La La Land – prompting Beatty to hesitate before handing over to Dunaway, who named La La Land as best picture winner.
Two minutes later Horowitz, as celebrations on stage turned into commotion, bewildered millions by saying a mistake had been made and that it was not a joke. He held up a card showing Moonlight was the winner.
The host Jimmy Kimmel tried to make light of the extraordinary bungle: “I knew I would screw this show up. I really did.”
Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accounting firm that tallies Oscar votes, took responsibility and issued an apology. It said: “We sincerely apologize to Moonlight, La La Land, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and the Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for best picture. 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, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.”
Speaking backstage minutes later, Moonlight’s director Barry Jenkins said the error had left him speechless. “I’d never seen that happen before. It made a special feeling more special but not in the way I expected. The last 20 minutes of my life have been insane … beyond life changing.”