Fame and celebrity

Debacle at Oscars: Moonlight wins best picture after La La Land is mistakenly announced

In stunning error at Academy Awards, best-picture presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway read from incorrect envelope

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 February, 2017, 10:06am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 February, 2017, 6:34pm

This year’s Oscars descended into chaos when the wrong film was announced as best picture.

Here’s our live coverage from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood (all times local, followed by Hong Kong time):


9:20pm (1:20pm HK time): The coming-of-age drama Moonlight is the winner of the best picture Academy Award, although its victory was overshadowed by a botched announcement.

Shock spread through the Dolby Theatre when the producers of La La Land were stopped in the middle of their acceptance speeches to be informed that presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway had incorrectly announced La La Land as the winner.

“I wasn’t trying to be funny,” Beatty explained, saying he had seen the name Emma Stone from La La Land when he opened his envelope. A closeup of the envelope in his hand showed that it was indeed labelled “actress in a leading role”.

In pictures: 89th Academy Awards

Host Jimmy Kimmel came forward to inform the cast that Moonlight had actually won. Jordan Horowitz, producer of La La Land, then showed the correct card to prove that Moonlight was the winner. “I knew I would screw this up,” said Kimmel, a first-time host. “I promise to never come back.”

Beatty and Dunaway somehow took the wrong envelope onto the stage. When they realised the mistake, representatives for ballot tabulators Price Waterhouse Coopers raced onstage to stop the La La Land acceptance speech.

But backstage, Stone said she was holding another envelope announcing her earlier win. “I think everyone’s in a state of confusion still,” said Stone. Later the actress, who pledged her deep love of Moonlight, added, “Is that the craziest Oscar moment of all time? Cool!”

Watch: ‘Moonlight’ wins best picture at botched Academy Awards


8 :58pm (12:58pm HK time): Emma Stone’s role of a struggling actress in La La Land has won her the best actress Academy Award.

Stone won for her portrayal of Mia, an aspiring actress forced to suffer the indignities of failed auditions and working as a barista at a studio cafe. Her character’s career gets a nudge from a struggling jazz pianist played by Ryan Gosling.

It is the actress’ first Oscar, and comes during a year in which La La Land and its catchy song-and-dance numbers have charmed Hollywood. The film tied history with its 14 Oscar nominations.

It is the sixth Oscar La La Land has won Sunday, so far.

Watch: Emma Stone wins best actress award


8:50pm (12:50pm HK time): Casey Affleck’s portrayal of a grieving father in Manchester by the Sea has won him the best actor Academy Award.

It is Affleck’s first Oscar. He is the younger brother of Ben Affleck and took the Manchester part after Matt Damon had to drop the role.

Affleck appeared to get emotional after his win. He thanked Denzel Washington, who he said taught him how to act but who he had never met before Sunday’s ceremony.

Affleck plays a janitor who’s still reeling from the loss of his son when he is forced to confront another death in his family. Manchester by the Sea is also nominated for best picture.


8:40pm (12:40pm HK time): Damien Chazelle has won the best director Academy Award for the film La La Land.

Chazelle also wrote the screenplay for La La Land, which is vying to become the first musical in 15 years to win the best picture Oscar. His film is an homage to past musicals, and stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.

At 32, he is the youngest best director winner.


8:35pm (12:35pm HK time): Manchester by the Sea has won the best original screenplay Academy Award , while Moonlight has won the adapted screenplay Oscar.

Manchester was written by Kenneth Lonergan, who also directed the best picture contender that stars Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams.

Moonlight was written by Barry Jenkins, working from a story by Tarell Alvin McCraney.


8:20pm (12:20pm HK time): La La Land’s City of Stars is the winner of the Academy Award for best original song.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone perform a duet of the song in the film; its music is by Justin Hurwitz, with lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

It beat out another La La Land song, Audition (The Fools Who Dream), for the Oscar.

La La Land also won the best original score Oscar for Hurwitz.

In pictures: the winning looks on the Oscars red carpet

The wins for La La Land came after a montage of the film’s two nominated songs was performed by John Legend, who was introduced by Gosling and Stone.


8pm (12pm HK time): The Syrian war documentary The White Helmets has won the short documentary Academy Award.

The Netflix film focuses on the rescue workers who risk their lives to save Syrians affected by civil war. Director Orlando von Einsiedel, who took to the stage with British producer Joanna Natasegara, urged Oscar attendees to stand up to demonstrate their support for a quick end to the Syrian civil war, which prompted a standing ovation.

Von Einsiedel also read a statement from the group’s founder in which he thanked the academy for the recognition and stated that the organisation had saved 81,000 lives.

Many of the group’s members have been killed by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s air forces. One of the film’s cinematographers, 21-year-old Syrian Khaled Khateeb was unable to attend Sunday’s ceremony after his entry into the United States was blocked. Natasegara said on the red carpet Sunday that the decision “sad and confusing.”

Department of Homeland Security correspondence showed that the 21-year-old was blocked because of “derogatory information” — a broad category that can include anything from terror connections to passport irregularities.


7:40pm (11.40am HK time): Kevin O’Connell is finally an Oscar winner.

On his 21st nomination, the 59-year-old sound re-recording engineer has won for sound mixing on Hacksaw Ridge.

Until Sunday he had owned the record for most nominations without a win, having set that mark in 2008 with his 18th nomination and loss.

He shared the trophy with three others for their work on the Mel Gibson-directed movie.


7:25pm (11:25am HK time): Just like at the movies, movie stars at this year’s Academy Awards are munching on candy and popcorn as they watch the show unfold.

About an hour into the show, bags filled with various movie treats came floating down from the ceiling and into the audience’s hands. A few surprised recipients were plunked on the head by them.

More treats were promised later.

Not everybody in the audience dug in, however. Some people in the upper balconies tossed their bags down to people below.

Host Jimmy Kimmel, perhaps in a nod to the show’s notorious length, quipped that perhaps the Oscars should be handed out this way next year.


7:15pm (11:15am HK time): Zootopia has won the best animated film Academy Award. The Disney film tells the story of an earnest rabbit who is the first of her kind to become a police officer in a city in which predators and prey live together in a sometimes fragile peace. The winner of the best animated short Oscar is Piper.


7:05pm (11:05am HK time): Iran’s The Salesman has won the Academy Award for best foreign language film. It is the second win in the category for writer-director Asghar Farhadi, who previously won for 2011’s A Separation. Iranian astronaut Anousheh Ansari accepted the award on behalf of the director Farhadi, who was absent from the ceremony in protest of Trump’s travel ban.

“I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight,” Ansari read in a statement. “My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the US.”

Firouz Naderi, a former Nasa director, and an Iranian, stood beside Ansari as she read Farhadi’s words.

The Salesman is a thriller about a married couple’s attempts to find peace and justice in Tehran after the wife is attacked in her apartment.


6:50pm (10:50am HK time): Viola Davis won an Oscar on her third try, for her acclaimed supporting role in Denzel Washington’s big screen adaptation of August Wilson’s searing play Fences.

The 51-year-old, a nominee in 2009 and 2012, bested a field that included two past Oscar winners - Nicole Kidman (Lion) and Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures) - as well as Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea) and Naomie Harris (Moonlight).

Davis said in her acceptance speech: “Here’s to August Wilson who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people.” She also praised Washington and her parents, breaking down in tears.


6:25pm (10:25am HK time): It’s not only actors getting standing ovations at the Oscars — the audience gave a resounding welcome to a former Nasa mathematician who is an inspiration for the film Hidden Figures.

Mathematician Katherine Johnson was brought out on stage to thunderous applause in an introduction by the actresses who portrayed Johnson and other female black mathematicians in the best picture nominee.

At least one woman in the audience was seen crying at the recognition for Johnson, who was part of a group of black women who helped put Nasa ahead in the Space Race against the Soviet Union.

Johnson is played in the film by Taraji P. Henson.


6:15pm (10:15am HK time ): A documentary examining the broad implications of O.J. Simpson’s trial and acquittal on murder charges has won the Oscar for best documentary.

The ESPN film O.J.: Made in America runs seven hours and 47 minutes and is the longest film to win an Academy Award.

Director Ezra Edelman paid tribute to Simpson’s late wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ron Goldman, whose brutal killings led to the so-called “Trial of the Century” against the former NFL great.

The film is one of several documentary contenders this year that examine racial issues in America, including I Am Not Your Negro and 13th.


5:50pm (9:50am HK time): Mahershala Ali has become the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar, taking the Academy Award for best supporting actor for his Moonlight role.

Ali won for his first Oscar-nominated role, in which he plays a Miami drug dealer who mentors a young boy who is being teased and bullied.

“I want to thank my teachers, my professors,” Ali said. “One thing that they consistently told me... ‘It’s not about you. It’s about these characters. You are a servant. You’re in service to these stories and these characters’.”

It has been a breakout year for Ali, who starred on the Netflix series Luke Cage and also had a role in another Oscar-nominated film, Hidden Figures.

Muslims have won Oscars in various categories over the years - including Pakistani documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and feature director Asghar Farhadi - but none has taken a statuette for acting.

Ellen Burstyn, who won a best actress Oscar in 1975, has practiced a blend of Sufism and other religions since her late 30s but has said she considers herself a “spirit open to the truth” rather than a Muslim.


5:45pm (9:45am HK time): The Oscars have started off on an upbeat note with Justin Timberlake dancing in the aisles of the Dolby Theatre and interacting with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

Timberlake kicked off the show with a performance of his Oscar-nominated song Can’t Stop the Feeling that included a high-five with Denzel Washington. Actor Javiar Bardem danced like he was in a nightclub.

The singer had promised a politics-free opening to the 89th annual Oscars, and he delivered.

Host Jimmy Kimmel kept the mood light in his opening, telling Timberlake that if his former bandmates in ‘N Sync were watching, they’d let him back into the band.

Kimmel didn’t stray entirely from politics, and urged audience members to reach out to someone with opposite views from them. He also took the first shot at US President Donald Trump, saying his policies had made the Oscars seem less racist.

Watch: Justin Timberlake kicks off the Oscars

5:15pm (9:15am HK time): Each celebrity who strolls the Oscars red carpet seems to have their own style as they pass their cheering fans in the bleachers.

Some, like Emma Stone and Jeff Bridges, smile politely and wave while others just walk by, seemingly oblivious to the adulation.

Laura Dern and Nicole Kidman, meanwhile, joined hands and lifted them in a cheer of their own.

As for those in the bleachers, when they aren’t cheering many are gossiping.

Among the comments overheard: Vince Vaughn and Dern are tall and Michael J. Fox is really short.


5pm (9am HK time): Justin Timberlake is the king of the Oscars red carpet, as least as far as the bleacher fans are concerned.

While some celebrities like Viggo Mortensen and Scarlett Johansson ignore the bleacher crowd, Timberlake stopped to lead a cheering war between two sections.

As wife Jessica Biel stood by in a stunning gold dress, Timberlake put his hand to his ear to draw applause.

Then he’d judge which section was winning by raising and lowering his hands

The crowd responded with raucous cheers.


4: 30pm (8:30am HK time): Justin Timberlake says the beginning of the Oscars is going to be free of politics.

Timberlake tells The Associated Press, “Watch the top of the show, it will be very un-political. I can promise you that.”

It is an apparent tease to Timberlake’s performance of his Oscar-nominated song, Can’t Stop the Feeling, which is from the animated film Trolls.

Timberlake says he’s honoured that the film academy honored such a feel-good song. Timberlake says “I think the world could use a little bit of that.”

Even before Sunday’s ceremony begins, politics is on the mind of many nominees. Some top nominees, including Ruth Negga and director Barry Jenkins, are wearing blue ribbons supporting the American Civil Liberties Union.

Others, including documentary nominee Ava DuVernay and best actor nominee Andrew Garfield, say art is inherently political and winners should express their feelings about the current political climate if they wish.


4:20pm (8:20am HK time): It was a no-brainer for Lin-Manuel Miranda when it came to picking a date for the Oscars.

It’s his mother, Luz, who got him there after all.

Miranda’s mother says she stayed up late watching the Oscars every year and told her son he would be there someday.

To which her son adds that she earned the honour “by calling dibs when I was 10 years old.”


4pm (8am HK time): Stars are mixing high fashion with some advocacy on the Oscars red carpet.

Several top nominees are sporting blue ribbons supporting the American Civil Liberties Union, including best actress nominee Ruth Negga and best original song nominee Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Miranda brought his mother to the Oscars, and she also prominently displayed the ribbon. The ACLU is among the groups suing over a travel ban imposed by President Donald Trump’s administration that has been placed on hold by federal courts.

Director Barry Jenkins planned to wear one, and realised in the middle of a red carpet interview that he had lost it.

Jenkins, who is nominated for best director for Moonlight, says he does not yet know what he would say if he wins an Oscar Sunday. He says, “I think art is inherently political,” and he supports any artists who speak out about politics at the awards show.

Best actor nominee Casey Affleck also wore the ribbon at Saturday’s Independent Spirit Awards, where he won the award for best male lead.


3:45pm (7:45am HK time): First rule for Oscar bleachers fans: Yell loudly if you want to get a celebrity’s attention.

That’s what a group of fans did — repeatedly — until Ruth Negga politely turned away from a red carpet TV interview to give them a wave.

Before she could, however, one of her earrings fell out. Fortunately her team saved it, she smiled and waved, then moved on.

After waving to the crowd, Lin-Manual Miranda made sure bleacher fans didn’t overlook the person he was with. He pointed to her and mouthed the words, “My Mom.”

Jackie Chan, beaming ear to ear, pretended to toss one of two stuffed pandas he was carrying into the crowd. A disappointed groan moved through the bleachers when he moved on.


3:30pm (7:30am HK time): Jackie Chan has brought some furry friends to walk with him on the Oscars red carpet.

The Hong Kong action star did red carpet interviews clutching two plush panda toys. He told The Associated Press that he is a panda ambassador and also owns two of the bears in China.

The bears are dressed in yellow jackets and silver boots with Unicef name tags, while Chan is sporting more traditional formal attire. Chan says he takes the bears with him everywhere, snapping photos with them. He says he may sell them for the charity.

Chan was a recipient of an honorary Oscar last year.

Watch: stars on the Oscars red carpet


2:40pm (6:40am HK time): Celebrities have begun arriving on the red carpet in Hollywood ahead of the 89th Academy Awards.

Hundreds of people sitting in the fan bleachers shouted excitedly when actor Jerry O’Connell walked by.

Broadway star Cynthia Erivo is also among the first arrivals, her shock of white hair a beacon in the crowd.

The weather is slightly chilly and there’s the possibility of sprinkles from grey clouds overhead.

Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse