Oscars Producer: Best Picture Fiasco ‘Like the Hindenburg’ Disaster

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Academy Awards producer Michael De Luca opened up about the Best Picture mix-up during the Oscars this week in an interview, comparing the experience of being backstage during the fiasco to that of the 1937 Hindenburg disaster.

The 51-year-old producer — who took the reins at the Oscars for the first time this year after producing films like 50 Shades of Grey and Captain Phillipstold the Hollywood Reporter that the broadcast was going along smoothly until the last presenters of the night, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, mistakenly announced the wrong winner for the night’s most coveted prize.

“It was like the Hindenburg report,” De Luca told THR. “I literally heard, ‘Oh my god! He got the wrong envelope!’ And then it was slow motion. You perceive things slowly as the adrenaline rises and the cortisol floods your system.”

At the tail end of Sunday night’s nearly four-hour-long Oscars broadcast, Beatty and Dunaway announced the Best Picture winner: La La Land, the L.A.-based musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone that had been widely expected to capture the prize.

But two minutes later, after the film’s producers had already begun delivering their acceptance speeches, La La producer Jordan Horowitz calmly stepped to the microphone and announced that Moonlight, the Barry Jenkins-directed film about a young black man’s coming of age in Miami, had actually won Best Picture.

“There’s a mistake,” Horowitz said, before holding up the Best Picture card and turning it toward the cameras. “‘Moonlight, you guys won Best Picture. This is not a joke.”

It wasn’t until after the show that the cause of the mix-up was revealed; Beatty had apparently received the wrong envelope (Best Actress for La La Land‘s Emma Stone) before walking out onstage.

In the days since the broadcast, much of the blame for the fracas has focused on Academy accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and its managing partner Brian Cullinan, who was tasked with doling out the envelopes Sunday night. Reports suggested that Cullinan had been tweeting photographs of celebrities throughout the night and may have been the one responsible for handing the wrong card to Beatty.

Both the accounting firm and the Academy issued apologies, with PwC taking “full responsibility” for the gaffe but neglecting to explain exactly what went wrong. The Academy, meanwhile, praised the “tremendous grace” shown by Moonlight producers under the circumstances.

“For the last 83 years, the Academy has entrusted PwC to handle the critical tabulation process, including the accurate delivery of results,” the Academy said in its apology statement. “PwC has taken full responsibility for the breaches of established protocols that took place during the ceremony.”

De Luca told THR that the mix-up left him “heartbroken,” but that he has since moved on.

“I wanted the heartfelt moments to be what we’re talking about today, and I wanted the funny moments that Jimmy brought, the really inventive or irreverent bits. I wanted that to be the topic of conversation,” he said. “The anger came later but I’ve been through all the stages now. Now, I’m into acceptance and forgiveness.”

De Luca added that he hopes the Academy invites him back to produce next year for what will be the show’s 90th anniversary.

“I loved it,” he told the outlet. “I’ve got to say in all seriousness, with the mistakes aside, it was a great experience.”


Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum


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