“It’s chaos” — that’s what Warren Beatty says it was like immediately after his co-presenter Faye Dunaway mistakenly announced La La Land as the winner of this year’s Oscar for Best Picture.
The actor made an appearance this week on BBC’s The Graham Norton Show, where he shared what it was like on stage as the now-unforgettable mix-up unfolded. Beatty was good-humored about the mistake that Norton called “the TV moment of if not the year, the decade,” replying with a tongue-in-cheek, “Not the century?”
During the 89th Academy Awards in February, Dunaway announced La La Land as Best Picture instead of Moonlight, the actual winner. She and Beatty had been given the wrong envelope by PricewaterhouseCoopers accountant Brian Cullinan (it contained the Best Actress winner card for Emma Stone), resulting in one of the most shocking and memorable moments in Oscar history.
After some teasing back and forth with Norton, Beatty gets down to what was running through his head when he opened the wrong envelope and read what was on the card. He said, “I thought well, maybe this is a misprint. And then, I shouldn’t foul up the show just because someone made a little error.”
As for rumors that Beatty passed the buck to Dunaway, handing her the card so she would be the one responsible for the error, he insists he was merely following protocol. “My instructions were take the envelope when I walked out. I couldn’t have it before that. And then I go out, and then I say something, and then I open the envelope and then I give it to Faye and she then says what it says.”
Still, though awards pundits and Oscar viewers are sure to be talking about this moment for years to come, Beatty told Norton that he didn’t feel like he was the center of attention that night. When Norton asked him if it’s “all anyone could talk about,” he responded with a true Hollywood retort: “No, that’s not true, people talk about themselves.”
While the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has confirmed it is sticking with PricewaterhouseCoopers in spite of the mix-up, there’s no word yet on whether Beatty and Dunaway will be invited back for next year’s Oscars ceremony. But at least Beatty has given us all a little more insight into what it was like for him in the midst of the chaos.