CSI Oscars: Decoding What Happened During the Great Best Picture Gaffe of 2017

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·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
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In what will inevitably go down as one of — no, the — craziest moment in Oscar history, presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced the wrong winner for Best Picture at the Academy Awards late Sunday night. They called La La Land. That film’s team came up onstage and began making speeches. Then, in a moment of mayhem and confusion, La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz told the world that there was a mistake. Moonlight was the real winner.

That much we know. But questions abound, even after Beatty stepped up to the microphone to insist he was given the wrong envelope, one for Best Actress that Emma Stone won moments before. Jimmy “The Fixer” Kimmel closed the show by saying, “I blame Steve Harvey for this.”

If the card read “Emma Stone,” how come neither Beatty nor Dunaway realized at the time that they had the wrong envelope? And why did Stone say during her post-event press room interview that she was in possession of her envelope while they announced Best Picture? Is someone lying? Were there two cards? And how did the presenter wind up with the wrong card?

We pieced together the puzzle in real time to attempt to explain what the heck happened.

12:09 a.m. ET: La La Land announced as Best Picture.

12:11 a.m. ET: Moonlight announced as actual Best Picture.

12:12 a.m. ET: Chaos reigns!

12:21 a.m. ET: Twitter points out that Warren Beatty double-checked the envelope (but made the announcement regardless).

12:22 a.m. ET: Twist maestro M. Night Shyamalan claims credit for writing the end of the Oscars.

12:24 a.m. ET: Closeups reveal Beatty did in fact have incorrect envelope.

12:26 a.m. ET: Access Hollywood blames Leonardo DiCaprio.

12:26 a.m. ET: Or maybe it was Matt Damon?

12:27 a.m. ET: Even The Academy’s official Twitter handle announces La La Land. The plot thickens.

12:36 a.m. ET: Barry Jenkins tweets proof of his Moonlight win.

12:41 a.m. ET: Emma Stone throws a curveball into this whole weird game.

12:46 a.m. ET: Maybe there was some confusion between DiCaprio and Beatty?

12:52 a.m. ET: Jenkins tells reporters that he saw two envelopes when he finally made his way to the stage. Insiders explain that there are in fact two envelopes for each category.

So there you have it. No one was lying. There were two envelopes. (This was confirmed to Yahoo Movies by a source at PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Academy’s longtime accounting firm, which is charged with tallying the votes and keeping the results under lock and key.) Beatty was accidentally given the extra Best Actress envelope, which confused him and Dunaway, but which they read anyway. When the correct Best Picture envelope was handed to Horowitz and the La La Land team, he opened it, discovered the mistake, then called the Moonlight crew to the stage.

As for why Beatty still let Dunaway announce La La Land, when he was clearly confused when he tore open the envelope and the card said, “Emma Stone?” We’ll let Jimmy Kimmel explain:

Update (3:09 a.m. ET): The Academy’s ballot counters at PricewaterhouseCoopers have issued a statement about the mix-up: “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. We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.”

More to come, we’re sure.

Watch Barry Jenkins explain his side of the story:

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