Anything can happen on live TV, as the 2017 Oscars reminded viewers Sunday night.
After La La Land was incorrectly named Best Picture—before the rightful winner, Moonlight, was revealed—E! News got a play-by-play from the people involved as well as the star-studded audience. "It's a little bit mixed up, but [I'm] happy as hell. We won Best Picture," director Barry Jenkins told E! News' Zuri Hall at Governors Ball moments after the mix-up. "As a kid, you watch the Oscars and you imagine being up onstage, and I was up there twice. It's a beautiful feeling."
Despite the embarrassing error, Jenkins was grateful that the film's producers (Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Adele Romanski) were being recognized in the same category as La La Land producers Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz and Marc Platt. "At first it was bittersweet," Jenkins said. "We're all friends, you know? We hope everybody can win. And those guys, we spend a lot of time on the road together, with all that crew and us. So, I wasn't surprised when they 'won.'"
"Any of these nine films could have been chosen. But then when the switch happened, I have to say, they were extremely gracious—so gracious, in fact, that I think it made the bittersweetness and the shock even more," Jenkins, who received the award for Best Adapted Screenplay, told E! News. "I felt bad for them. I just love them. These things happen. I make movies. We film a scene, I don't know, 10-15 times...Nobody does those things on purpose. It wasn't malicious."
"I will say that I saw the card, and when I saw the name of our movie on it, the small film made in Miami in 25 days about a kid who often isn't centered in a narrative, I felt damn good," Jenkins admitted. "I felt so good. It's an affirmation that all these different Americans are valid."
When all was said and done, Jenkins merely wanted to celebrate Moonlight's triple wins with his cast and crew. As the director told E! News, "I am going to go drink champagne and dance!"
Hall also caught up with La La Land's Horowitz, who said he too had "mixed emotions" about the night, due to the Best Picture error. "[It's] certainly not what I expected when I came in here tonight. I don't know that that's ever happened in the history of the Oscars," Horowitz said. "But I'll tell you what: I was really happy to be able to give it to all my friends from Moonlight."
Echoing Jenkins' sentiments, he said, "We've been on a real journey together for the past six months." As for the embarrassment he may have felt onstage, Horowitz said, "It was a thing. When I saw that envelope on the stage eventually and it said them on it, there was no option."
Horowitz then walked E! News through what happened during the night's most awkward moment.
"There was a stagehand guy who started buzzing around looking for the envelope, and I had taken the envelope from whomever—either Warren Beatty or Faye Dunaway. I walked up there, I took the thing and I did my speech and I was just holding the envelope. Then one of the stagehand guys came on and started looking for the envelope and asked me for my envelope. He opened it and it said Emma Stone, La La Land' on it, right? At that moment it was clear that there was a problem, and so they started looking for the Best Picture envelope," the movie producer said. "I don't know who had it; Warren maybe had it, or someone else? I don't know."
"At certain point there was clearly a Best Picture envelope on it that said Moonlight on it, and I happened to be standing next to the stagehand when that happened. It happened really fast," Horowitz said. "Listen, I'm a producer. I gather things together and I change directions and I march things forward. I had just finished saying how much love there was in the community and I want to do diverse and bold work, and so to be able to actually put that into action and make that physical by bringing those guys up onstage and giving them the award that they won...I don't want to say it was an honor, because it was really confusing, [but it felt right]."
Going into the ceremony, only two people know the winners: Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz. PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm which has tallied the ballots for years, issued an apology Sunday night. "We sincerely apologize to Moonlight, La La Land, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture. The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. We are currently investigating how this could have happened and deeply regret that this occurred," the company told E! News. "We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation."
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Michelle Williams, a Best Supporting Actress nominee for her role in Manchester by the Sea, had a front row seat when television history was made. "The guy was right in front of us, talking into his headset saying, 'La La Land did not win. Get them off the stage! Moonlight won!'" she recalled to E! News' Marc Malkin at Governors Ball. "He was right in front of us." Busy Philipps, Williams' date for the 89th Academy Awards, added, "I was sitting next to Ben Affleck—I don't even know him—and I grabbed him and I was like, 'You have to do something. Go get them!'"
"That was just so bizarre. So awful," Nicole Kidman, a Best Actress nominee for her role in Lion, said at Governors Ball. "I can't imagine what they were thinking up there. I feel so bad, but, you know, things do happen. We're human and mistakes happen."
Kidman's husband, Keith Urban, looked for the silver lining in the snafu. "Both movies will now get a lot of attention tomorrow," the country musician said, "so maybe both now are winners."
"We all make mistakes all the time, so there's something incredibly beautiful about seeing it on stage," Andrew Garfield, a Best Actor nominee for his role in Hacksaw Ridge, told E! News exclusively. "There was something quite beautiful about seeing a mistake on such a mass scale. That's what's so human about that: There was something wonderful about the inescapable humanity, and I'm very, very happy for Moonlight. It's a beautiful film, and a film for our times."
Mahershala Ali, who was named Best Supporting Actor for his role in Moonlight, shared his version of events in the press room backstage. "La La Land has done so well and it's resonated with so many people, especially in this time when people need a sense of buoyancy in their life and need some hope and light. So, that film has really impacted people in a very different way than Moonlight," the actor explained. "When their name was read, I wasn't surprised. And I am really happy for them. It's a group of some extraordinary people—in front of the camera and behind the camera—so I was really happy for them. And then when I did see security or people coming out onstage and their moment was being disrupted in some way, I got really worried."
When Moonlight was named as the rightful winner, Ali said, "It just threw me a bit because—it threw me more than a bit—but, you know, I just didn't...I didn't want to go up there and take anything from somebody. It's very hard to feel joy in a moment like that...but I feel very fortunate for all of us to have walked away with the Best Picture award. It's pretty remarkable."
Ali wasn't alone in feeling that way. E! News caught up with his Moonlight co-stars at Governors Ball, including Best Supporting Actress nominee Naomie Harris, and they all took the Best Picture error in stride. "I'm still in shock, to be quite honest with you," Harris said. "It's going to take me a while to process—like someone might come along and say, 'We got it wrong again.'"
—Reporting by Alli Rosenbloom