During the final few minutes of the 2017 Academy Awards, there was only one question on everybody's minds: "What the hell just happened?!" After Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway mistakenly announced the wrong winner for best picture, viewers and celebrities alike were abuzz with theories about who was responsible — and they wasted no time in turning the cringeworthy moment into a meme.
Many names have been jokingly thrown into the fray about who to blame for the mistake; was it Leonardo DiCaprio getting back at the Academy for all those years without an Oscar, or Matt Damon sabotaging Jimmy Kimmel's big night? But after some in-depth investigation, we finally have the truth about who is at fault for the legendary Oscars snafu . . . and it's not who you think.
Whose Fault Was It, Really? An Investigation
- Warren Beatty: Because Beatty opened the envelope containing the wrong film, it was a natural first reaction for people to blame him for the flub. However, a closer look at the actor's hands during the big moment reveals that he was in possession of an envelope labeled "Actress in a Leading Role." Based on a replay of the moment, it appears that Beatty also gives the winning announcement a second, wary glance and a halted announcement before handing it to Faye Dunaway in a cautious fashion. Given his obvious confusion and apparent unwillingness to read the wrong words aloud himself, we dub Warren Beatty free of blame in this situation.
- Faye Dunaway: As the person who actually read the wrong film's name, Dunaway is next in line when playing the Oscars blame game. Footage reveals that throughout the short period of confusion after Beatty opened the incorrect envelope, the actress appears impatient for the results, then quickly announces the movie name after Beatty hands her the winner card. Many have faulted Dunaway for announcing the name without closely inspecting the card, but there is no way for her to have known whether Beatty was truly confused or simply playing coy with the news of the night's big win. Because the scenario is a high-pressure one and understandably puzzling for an unknowing party, we also clear Faye Dunaway of all charges.
- Leonardo DiCaprio or Emma Stone: Once it became clear that Beatty was indeed handed the wrong envelope, many blamed Leonardo DiCaprio or Emma Stone, who had each been in possession of the best actress envelope when DiCaprio announced Stone's big win. However, Stone later revealed in the press room that she had been holding her own winner card when the best picture mix-up took place. Because she and DiCaprio had clearly not set down or returned the card he'd used to read her name shortly beforehand, they cannot be to blame for the mistake. We hereby find them innocent.
- PricewaterhouseCoopers Accounting Firm: After Stone revealed that she held onto her own winning announcement card, yet Beatty clearly also held an envelope for her category, a natural question arose: why on earth are there two envelopes for the same award, and who mixed them up? Well, the answer is a contracted accounting firm called PricewaterhouseCoopers, which tallies the Academy votes and distributes the envelopes to presenters offstage. They have two copies of each winning card — one for each stage entrance — and firm partners distribute the cards themselves. This means that a PwC partner mistakenly handed Beatty the wrong card, setting the whole embarrassing mix-up into motion.
So, In Conclusion . . .
The accounting firm is to blame for the Best Picture award confusion, and has since issued an apology for the error.
While the hiccup was certainly awkward and resulted in mixed emotions for the category winners and losers alike, it seems that all has been forgiven. Barry Jenkins, the director behind Moonlight, publicly applauded La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz for handling the situation with grace. The casts of each film have nothing but good things to say about one another following the mix-up, so it seems that the Oscars drama has (for now) come to an end.