This week for On the Lot, our special look at the business of entertainment, we get a first-hand account at last night's Academy Awards ceremony. Rebecca Keegan of Vanity Fair was at the Oscars and the Vanity Fair after-party.
The Oscars are known to go a little sideways sometimes but last night set a new standard for Oscar craziness.
Best Picture #EnvelopeGate
Presenter Faye Dunaway announced "La La Land" had won best picture. The "La La Land" folks filled the stage but before the acceptance speeches could begin, the error was revealed. "Moonlight" was, in fact the winner.
The fingers seem to be pointed at Price WaterHouse Coopers, the accounting firm that is charged with guarding the envelops with the winners names in them.
There will be an investigation. Price WaterHouse Coopers issued a statement about three ours after Best Picture, saying that they're going to look into exactly what happened. I can tell you from where I was standing in the stage right wings. As soon as the ‘La La Land’ people started to walk towards to stage, I heard a stage manager next to me say, ‘Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god– they've got the wrong envelope.’ And then people backstage quickly went into motion. Then, those folks who were watching saw the exchange where the poor ‘La La Land’ producer had to say, actually, my movie didn't win, ‘Moonlight’ did.
What seems to have happened is that Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty were given two Best Actress envelopes instead of one Best Actress and one Best Picture envelope. And they saw ‘La La Land’ written on it because it was the Emma Stone winning envelope. Obviously, ‘La La Land’ did not win best picture.
I feel a little empathy for poor Warren Beatty. I was standing there when he immediately walked backstage and he looked horrified. A stage manager went up to him and said, ‘Mr. Beatty, security would like the envelopes.’ And Beatty said, ‘I'm going to hold onto them. I'm going to give them to Barry Jenkins in an appropriate moment.’ (Barry Jenkins is the Writer/Director of ‘Moonlight’.) And that is ultimately, what Beatty did.
#EnvelopeGate turns to after-party buzz
The envelope mix-up was a hot topic at the after parties
It's all anybody was talking about. Speculating about could Beatty and Dunaway handled it differently– what they might have done in the situation. Also some people were talking about how unfortunately for both movies in a sense because ‘Moonlight’ didn't really get its proper moment to bask. There were literally taking the Oscars out of the hands of the other movie. And then, poor ‘La La Land’ had this moment of triumph and then has it wrenched from them. It was definitely a memorable, spontaneous show. We've all been saying, we don't want to Oscars to be so predictable. Well, this surely wasn't predictable!
Backstage vantage point
Rebecca Keegan was backstage from the Oscars and got to see the stars interacting with each other and their off-camera reactions.
That stage position is always a fun one to see moments that tend to be a little bit of a cynicism cure for me. One was when Emma Stone walked back immediately after winning and she walked right into Brie Larson– last year's Best Actress winner. Something about all that adrenaline rushing through Emma's body and then, she saw the face of someone she knows and feels comfortable with, and she just collapsed into Brie Larson's arms and started crying and shaking and they just kind of stood there for a moment. It was quite sweet.
It was also fun to see Lin-Manuel Miranda watch the monitor while Auli'i Cravalho, the 16-year-old girl who voices ‘Moana’, was singing his song. She'd never been in so much as a school play before. She made her live debut at the Oscars. Lin was watching it from the monitor and he was shaking his head and grinning from ear to ear. He had really pushed for her to be forward in the performance which was sort of a risky thing to do. Obviously, he's the much more seasoned performer of the two of them.
Last night was a shift from the past two years of #OscarSoWhite. Is this a turning point for the industry?
Because there was so much discussion about that Best Picture debacle, I think there's a little bit of a delayed reaction to just how remarkable it is that ‘Moonlight’ won. This was the first year of Oscar voting since the Academy instituted its new guidelines intended to foster inclusion in the group. So there were 624 new people voting this year. A much more diverse group– many more women and people of color. Many more international people than there had been in the past. Of course, we'll never know because their ballots are secret but it's interesting to contemplate if that made the difference between ‘Moonlight’ and ‘La La Land’ winning.
Moonlight is the first movie to be financed by A24 which is a teeny-tiny, little Brooklyn based distributer. To win Best Picture on the first film that you finance– they had released some before. ‘Room’, last year which was also a Best Picture nominee. That's really quite remarkable. And at such a low budget. It's just sort of an amazing little-movie-that-could kind of story.
Remembering Bill Paxton
Let's take a moment to remember a fine actor who died over the weekend. Bill Paxton was 61. According to a representative of his family, his death was due to complications from surgery. Rebecca Keegan interviewed him when writing her book about James Cameron.
He was just a really warm, really funny guy. He and Jim Cameron met in the '70s when they were building sets on Roger Corman movies together. And then, Jim would go on to cast him in ‘Terminator’, ‘Alien’, ‘Titanic’, ‘True Lies’. They had a really close friendship. When I emailed Jim yesterday, he said he was reeling from the news and he wrote a really beautiful remembrance of Bill Paxton that you can ready at VanityFair.com
Quotes edited for clarity.
To hear the listen to the interview, click on the blue Media Player above.