Director Barry Jenkins said he was “speechless” after his movie “Moonlight” was announced as the winner of best picture on Sunday night, following an unprecedented moment in Oscars history. And he wasn’t the only one.
“Is that the craziest Oscar moment of all time?” Emma Stone, winner for best actress, asked backstage. “We made history tonight.”
But what exactly happened that led to that now-infamous moment where “La La Land” was mistakenly announced as best picture at the Academy Awards?
Here’s how it all went down:
Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty present
Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty – on hand to celebrate the 50th anniversary of “Bonnie and Clyde” – presented the nominees for best picture. On stage, Beatty was given the task of opening the envelope that was supposed to contain the winner. (Later, Beatty would say it contained the name of a winner, but not the winner.)
On stage, Beatty looked at the card and said, “And the Academy Award…”
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The crowd laughed, assuming he was building suspense.
He looked down at the card again and then looked at Dunaway.
“…for best picture…”
Dunaway playfully told Beatty, “You’re impossible.” She assumed he was joking around.
“Come on,” she prompted him.
He showed her the card, and Dunaway read it aloud.
“‘La La Land,’” she said.
‘La La Land’ has a lovely night…briefly
“La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz was the first to speak. Producer Marc Platt followed.
As Platt spoke, viewers at home saw someone run across the stage behind him.
From the crowd, “Moonlight” star Mahershala Ali, a winner for best supporting actor, noticed the activity.
“When I did see security or people coming out on stage, and their moment was being disrupted in some way, I got really worried,” he told press backstage.
Jenkins wasn’t surprised by the initial result.
“I think all the movies that were nominated were worthy so I took the result,” he said backstage. “I applauded like everyone else.”
On stage, “La La Land” producers were approached by a man wearing a headset and holding an envelope.
Platt called producer Fred Berger to the mic next. As Berger began speaking, Beatty started heading to the mic, but Berger beat him to the announcement.
“We lost, by the way, but, you know…” he said.
Horowitz clarified: “I’m sorry, there’s a mistake. ‘Moonlight,’ you guys won best picture.”
“This is not a joke,” he said, gesturing to the “Moonlight” cast and producers and inviting them to stage.
Platt added: “This is not a joke. They read the wrong thing.”
Horowitz showed the correct envelope to the crowd.
“I wanted to express to them that they had won,” he told CNN later.
Jimmy Kimmel then hopped on stage and attempted to clear the air.
“I think you all should just keep it anyway,” he joked.
Off stage, the “Moonlight” crew celebrated. Director Barry Jenkins covered his mouth in shock.
“It threw me more than a bit,” Ali said. “I didn’t want to go up there and take anything from somebody. It’s very hard to feel joy in a moment like that.”
As the “Moonlight” cast and creators headed to the stage, Kimmel said, “This is very unfortunate what happened.”
“Personally, I blame Steve Harvey for this,” Kimmel said, referring to the TV host’s infamous Miss Universe gaffe.
“I’m going to be very proud to hand this to my friends from ‘Moonlight,’” Horowitz interjected.
Beatty attempted to explain himself further.
“I want to tell you 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 [the audience]. I wasn’t trying to be funny.”
Photos later confirmed that Beatty and Dunaway were accidentally handed the envelop containing the winner for best actress in a leading role.
Stone told press she was confused because she had the card announcing her win with in her possession “the entire time.”
Two partners from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) – the accounting firm responsible for tabulating the results and keeping them confidential – prepare two briefcases with the envelopes used by presenters.
The pair stand backstage and hand envelopes to award presenters before they walk onstage. It was a breakdown in the final stage of this process that led Dunaway to announce “La La Land” as the winner
Behind Beatty, the two casts traded spots.
“This is ‘Moonlight,’ the best picture,” Beatty said.
Matt Damon whistled from the audience.
Taraji P. Henson was shown with her mouth wide open in the crowd.
“Very clearly, even in my dreams this could not be true,” Jenkins said. “But to hell with dreams. I’m done with it because this is true.”
Jenkins also offered a thanks to the “La La Land” team.
“I have to say, and it is true, it’s not fake: We’ve been on the road with these guys for so long. And that was so gracious and so generous of them,” he said. “My love to ‘La La Land.’”
“Moonlight” producer Adele Romanski summed up: “Thank you to the Academy. I don’t know what to say. I’m still not sure this is real.”
Romanski said she hoped the movie’s win was “inspiring to people, little black boys and brown girls, and other folks watching at home who feel marginalized.”
She hoped they took “some inspiration from seeing this beautiful group of artists…standing up here on this stage accepting this top honor.”
Stone was the first directly involved in the viral moment to address the press backstage.
“I don’t even know what to say,” she said. “I think it’s an incredible outcome, but very – a very strange happening for Oscar history.”
She also expressed her love for “Moonlight.”
“God, I love ‘Moonlight’ so much. I was so excited for ‘Moonlight,” she said.
Jenkins, meanwhile, said he was given no official explanation for what happened.
“I will say, I saw two cards,” he said. “I wanted to see the card…and [Beatty] refused to show the card to anybody before he showed it to me. And so he did. He came up stairs and he walked over to me he showed the card….and I felt better about what happened.”
Jenkins thanked the “La La Land” team for being “so gracious” in the moment.
“I can’t imagine being in their position and having to do that,” he said. “We spent a lot of time together in the last six months and I can’t imagine being in their position and having to do that. It’s wild.”
He added: “I wasn’t speechless because we won. I was speechless because it was so gracious for them to do that.”
CNN’s request for comment from the Academy and was not immediately returned.
PwC said in a statement: “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.”
“The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected,” the company said. “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,” the statement added.
Speaking to CNN’s Brian Stelter on Monday morning, Horowitz made light of the mistake.
“Hey, I won the Oscar for best picture. I got to thank my wife and kids. And then I got to present the Oscar for best picture! Not many people can say that,” he said.
CNN’s Brian Stelter and Stephanie Elam contributed to this report.