HOLLYWOOD, California — People in the nosebleed seats at the Dolby Theater were already getting up to leave the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony when La La Land was announced the Best Picture winner. But then La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz interrupted his colleague's speech.
"There's a mistake. Moonlight, you guys won Best Picture," Horowitz said. There was scattered applause, then a silence in the audience as he repeated himself. "This is not a joke."
Inside the theater, the audience was bewildered and in some cases agitated over the mix-up that ultimately led to Moonlight director Barry Jenkins and his cast and crew taking the stage, rushing through their acceptance with some of the jilted La La Land contingent still standing beside them.
"Someone gave them the wrong card!" an audience member howled after the show, standing atop the grand staircase entrance to the Dolby. "You couldn’t have done that for one of the documentaries? Best Editing?"
"It seems like [Jenkins'] moment got stolen," said her friend. "That’s what it feels like. His moment got stolen. You don’t mess up like that." (The women declined to give their names because they work in the industry and "because we're being truthful.")
A man standing near several almost human-sized Oscar statues who wished to remain anonymous (he works for a company that earned an award) had sympathy for Warren Beatty, one of the presenters of Best Picture, who later came back onstage to apologize for the snafu. He thought the actor was taking too much heat. "I don’t think it was his fault. It was actually Faye Dunaway who said La La Land. Warren Beatty didn’t say anything. Did you notice that?" he said intently. "He was looking, and then he showed it to her, and she said La La Land." (Apparently still processing the incident, Dunaway told The Hollywood Reporter later on Sunday night, "No, I'm not going to speak about it.")
"I didn’t think it was real," said attendee Devon Bloore, who works as an assistant in the academy's library. "Pretty awkward." Her date, Nick Warner, added, "It’s unfortunate that there was a historical flub at the biggest award of the night."
(PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm responsible for tallying the votes, has apologized to all parties, is investigating the incident, and in a statement went on to say, "The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. ... We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.”)
There was still bewildered chatter as audience members shuffled out of the theater and into the LA version of cold in their formalwear. Abbi and Erin Athoe, sisters who had traveled from New York to be at the awards show, were shocked by the mistake but said they hadn't actually seen any of the Best Picture nominees. They agreed, though, that they should probably go see Moonlight now.