PwC, the accountancy firm that has been responsible for counting Oscars votes for 80 years, has apologised for handing presenters the wrong envelopes for the best picture award, causing the Academy Award’s top prize to be erroneously handed to La La Land.
Moonlight, an evocative coming of age story about a young gay black man, was the actual winner of the best picture Oscar but was almost denied its victory in chaotic scenes after La La Land’s actors and producers went onstage to accept the award.
The mix-up came at the end of a politically charged ceremony in which Donald Trump was the subject of frequent jokes by host Jimmy Kimmel.
After receiving the best picture envelopes from two PwC accountants, presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced that La La Land had won. But as the producers and cast of Damien Chazelle’s modern musical were on stage giving emotional thank you speeches, they were told that Moonlight was the real winner.
“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,” PwC said in a statement. “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,” PwC added. “We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.”
Video from the broadcast showed that Mr Beatty was holding the envelope for best actress, which went to Emma Stone for La La Land.
Chazelle’s musical was the hot favourite going into the evening, with a record-tying 14 nominations. Chazelle won the best director award, while Emma Stone won best actress for her performance in the film, which was produced by Lionsgate. There were also La La Land Oscars for score and best original song.
But Moonlight kept pace with it over the course of a marathon four-hour ceremony. Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney won best adapted screenplay, while Mahershala Ali won best supporting actor — the first Oscar for a Muslim American actor.
There were other firsts, with Amazon and Netflix scoring their first Academy Awards — and the first by streaming services. Netflix won in the best documentary short category for The White Helmets, which looked at the group that has rescued thousands of victims of war in Syria.
Kenneth Lonergan won best screenplay for Manchester by the Sea, which was produced by Amazon Studios, while Casey Affleck won best actor for his role in the film.
ESPN, The Walt Disney Company’s sports cable network, also won its first Oscar for the documentary OJ: Made in America.
Mr Trump loomed large over the ceremony, although he was rarely mentioned directly. Gael García Bernal, presenting the Oscar for best animated film, which was won by Disney’s Zootopia, addressed the president’s plan to build a wall on the Mexican border, saying: “As a Mexican, as a Latin American, as a human being, I am against any form of wall that wants to separate us.”
There were other criticisms of the new administration. Many of the nominated stars wore blue ribbons in honour of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has pushed back against many of the new president’s policies.
Asghar Farhadi, director of The Salesman, the Iranian film that won best foreign film, boycotted the ceremony. But in a statement read out on stage the director referred to the recent US ban on people visiting from seven countries — including Iran.
“My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of the other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the US,” he said.
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