Here’s how that Best Picture mixup at the 2017 Oscars *probably* happened

At the very end of the 89th Academy Awards, the incorrect Best Picture winner was announced.

Pause for a second to wrap your head around that and maybe scream for a few seconds.

Mistakes happen, because that’s just a fact of life. It’s rare that they happen during the live Oscars telecast. A mistake this big has actually never happened before, and the Oscars are pushing 90 years young. But hey, first time for everything. The Best Picture presenters, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, had the Best Actress envelope, so they announced the winner as La La Land (Emma Stone had just snagged that award). However, the real winner was Moonlight.

It was a chaotic few moments on the stage as people scrambled to figure out what was happening. The La La Land crew then backed off the stage to let Moonlight up to give their speeches. In the end, everything was fine, and chalked up to just being a huge mixup. But how exactly did it happen??

Though the The Academy has still not offered up a firm explanation, from what those directly involved in the situation are saying, and rewatching the telecast again, we can sort of figure it out:

Blame two identical sets of envelopes.

Did you know that there are two sets of Oscar envelopes? Probably not. The Oscars make a big deal about ~secrecy~, but two people — Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz, partners at the professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers that handles the ballots — bot have a set of the envelopes. As Brian explains:

[Martha and I] stand on opposite sides of the stage, right off-screen, for the entire evening, and we each hand the respective envelope to the presenter. It doesn’t sound very complicated, but you have to make sure you’re giving the presenter the right envelope.

More than likely, Best Actress presenter Leonardo DiCaprio entered from one side of the stage with one envelope, and Warren and Faye entered from the other side with the other envelope, completely by accident. And that’s when everything began to fall apart.


If you rewatch the videos, Warren is clearly holding an envelope that says “Best Actress” and he hesitates for a VERY long moment before Faye reads the name off the card. According to The Hollywood Reporter: 

An eyewitness backstage told THR that after Dunaway announced La La Land, a stage manager was heard saying, '"That's the wrong envelope. It's Moonlight.'"

However, La La Land had already taken to the stage and it took a few extra seconds to double check this and then communicate to the cast and crew on the stage that they weren’t actually the winners.

As for Emma Stone claiming that she had her Best Actress card the whole time? That’s true, and completely fine, as we’ve already established that there are *two* sets of cards. She had one, and unfortunately Warren and Faye had the other.

Case closed, that’s the end of #OscarEnvelopeGate 2017…we hope.