- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 26, 2017

LOS ANGELES — In a shocking development, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway read the wrong information on Sunday night, mistakenly saying that “La La Land” had won when, in fact, “Moonlight” was the best picture.

As speeches by “La La Land“‘s producers were being delivered, it was revealed that the winner was actually “Moonlight.” Mr. Beatty had mistakenly read the winning card for Emma Stone, star of “La La Land.”

Mr. Beatty said he had been handed the wrong envelope.

“I was not trying to be funny,” he explained before turning the microphone over to Barry Jenkins, director and co-writer of “Moonlight.”

Backstage after the show, Mr. Jenkins said he had concluded that the best picture envelope opened by Mr. Beatty and Miss Dunaway in fact had two cards in it, not one.

“No explanation was given,” Mr. Jenkins said of the awkward moment that closed out the 89th annual Academy Awards.

“I will say I saw two cards, and I will just say that things happen,” he said, far less irritated than whimsical about perhaps the most surreal moment in Oscars history.

On Monday, PriceWaterhouseCoopers apologized for the error.

“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. We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred,” the accounting firm said in a statement.

We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.

According to Scott Feinberg, the awards columnist for the Hollywood Reporter, Miss Dunaway said after the show “No. I’m not going to speak about it.”

An Academy representative told The Washington Times that the event was unprecedented. The nearest any comparable event occurred in 1996, when Sharon Stone and Quincy Jones were presenting the best musical score award.

However, when they got out on stage, they did not have the envelope at the ready, which was mistakenly taken off-stage by the previous category’s winner, who then ran onstage to hand over the envelope, which announced that “Il Postino” had won best score.

Jordan Horowitz, one of the producers of “La La Land,” had to interrupt a colleague’s acceptance speech when some Academy members got in his ear about the mistake. He then made the announcement.

“There’s a mistake. ‘Moonlight,’ you guys won Best Picture,” he told the confused audience, before holding up the card showing that indeed, “Moonlight” had won.

Despite the mix-up, Mr. Jenkins said in the press interview room moments after the telecast had that the creators of “La La Land” were incredibly gracious in the moment when they learned their film was not in fact the big winner.

“I can’t imagine being in their position and having to do that,” he said, adding that the creators of both films have traveled the awards circuit together for months, which inevitably leads to a certain familiarity and camaraderie. “I was speechless not because we won, but because it was so gracious of them to do that.”

Possibly adding to the confusion is that Mr. Kimmel is known for making a comic sketch out of this kind of event. Indeed, both Mr. Beatty and Mr. Horowitz said from the stage in those confusing moments that this was not a joke.

On his talk show, Mr. Kimmel regularly “invites” Matt Damon only to have him bumped when the show (supposedly) runs out of time.

Earlier in the evening’s show, in fact, Mr. Damon and Ben Affleck were presenting an award. As Mr. Damon began to speak, the orchestra began playing over Mr. Damon — the usual cue that a winner has gone over the allotted acceptance time. After Mr. Damon, playing along, began to protest the mistake, the show revealed that Mr. Kimmel was “actually” conducting the orchestra.

• Eric Althoff can be reached at twt@washingtontimes.com.

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