Many would agree that this year’s Academy Awards ceremony featured more drama than a number of the films up for Oscars.
But the shocking mix-up that initially gave the best picture award to “La La Land” instead of “Moonlight” overshadowed an earlier embarrassing gaffe when the Academy ran the wrong photo during its In Memoriam tribute to the late costume designer and Academy member Janet Patterson — a mistake that, it turns out, could have easily been prevented.
Instead of showing a photo of the four-time Oscar-nominated Patterson, who died suddenly in October at age 60, the Academy projected a photo of the very-much-alive and active producer Jan Chapman, who most recently produced “The Daughter,” starring Geoffrey Rush, and the thriller “The Babadook.”
To compound matters, Chapman and Patterson were good friends and colleagues who had worked together on many projects, including Jane Campion’s 1994 Oscar-winning “The Piano,” for which they were both nominated.
According to Rocco Hindman, president and CEO of Sandra Marsh & Associates, the below-the-line agency that represented Patterson for more than 20 years, the error could have been avoided. “But we were never asked to furnish or verify any images of Ms. Patterson,” he says.
Hindman notes that when Patterson died in October, the agency notified the Academy as a courtesy.
“[We] asked about her possible inclusion in the In Memoriam segment but never received a response,” he says.
While allowing that the Academy’s process for inclusion is kept confidential, Hindman notes that the gaffe was due to what turned out to be a mislabeled photo.
“It’s something we could have easily rectified had we been contacted,” he says. “It just seems logical for the Academy to obtain correct information and verify photos.”
The Academy later apologized for the mistake.
A native of Sydney, Patterson began her career in TV, designing costumes for the 1984 Australian series “Sweet and Sour” and the 1985 miniseries “Palace of Dreams.” Her lifelong collaboration with Campion and Chapman included the series “Dancing Daze” and the TV movie “2 Friends.”
Patterson built a small but potent résumé that included Oscar-nominated work on three of Campion’s films — “The Piano,” “Bright Star,” and “The Portrait of a Lady.” (She also worked on the director’s “Holy Smoke.”) Patterson also designed costumes for Gillian Armstrong’s “Oscar and Lucinda” (for which she was also Oscar-nominated) and P. J. Hogan’s “Peter Pan.” Her work was additionally seen in Thomas Vinterberg’s 2015 film “Far From the Madding Crowd.”
“She was immensely talented and basically wore two hats, since she was also a very accomplished production designer on such films as ‘Bright Star,’ ‘The Last Days of Chez Nous,’ and ‘The Portrait of a Lady,’” says Hindman.
Patterson won BAFTA and Australian Film Institute awards in both fields.
“She wasn’t the kind of designer who just went from film to film,” Hindman adds. “She was quite choosy and picked projects based on their storytelling potential, the filmmakers involved, and their emotional impact. She was happy and engaged when working, but she was also happy to disconnect and wait for the right film to come along.”
Patterson was a “very private person,” he adds. “People have referred to her as a recluse, but she wasn’t. She just didn’t seek the limelight. She was humble, self-effacing, and will be greatly missed.”
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