'Moonlight' wins Best Picture Oscar in stunning upset after wrong title is read

By Karen Butler
'Moonlight' wins Best Picture Oscar in stunning upset after wrong title is read
Actor Mahershala Ali, winner of the award for Actor in a Supporting Role for "Moonlight," appears backstage during the 89th annual Academy Awards at Loews Hollywood Hotel in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles on February 26. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 27 (UPI) -- The coming-of-age story Moonlight was named Best Picture at the Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles Sunday after presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty announced the musical La La Land had won the top prize.

The cast and creative team behind La La Land took the stage and began giving their acceptance speeches when the error was called to light.


Several moments of confusion ensued before host Jimmy Kimmel appeared and confirmed: "This is very unfortunate what happened. Personally, I blame Steve Harvey for this. ... Warren, what did you do?"

The La La Land stars, clearly embarrassed, handed over the statuettes and vacated the stage.

"I wanted to tell you what happened. I opened the envelope and it said, 'Emma Stone, La La Land.' That's why I took such a long look at Faye and at you. I wasn't trying to be funny," Beatty said, stepping up to the microphone and insisting he had been given Stone's Best Actress envelope instead of the Best Picture notice.


Holding up another card, he read, "This is Moonlight, the Best Picture."

Writer-director Barry Jenkins, who earlier won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, then accepted the night's biggest award.

"Very clearly, even in my dreams, this could not be true. But to hell with dreams. I'm done with it because this is true," Jenkins said. "Oh, my goodness!"

The film also earned the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Mahershala Ali.

Before the more than 3-hour-long ceremony closed, Jenkins praised the La La Land family he had gotten to know on the awards circuit this season.

"I have to say -- and it is true, it's not fake -- we've been on the road with these guys for so long and that was so gracious and so generous of them. My love to La La Land. My love to everybody," the filmmaker concluded.

Despite the night's awkward ending, La La Land still earned numerous accolades with the 32-year-old man who helmed it, Damien Chazelle, becoming the youngest filmmaker in history to win the Best Director Oscar.


The feel-good flick also picked up the prizes for Best Production Design, Cinematography, Original Score and Original Song for "City of Stars."

Chazelle first thanked his fellow nominees, as well as stars Stone and her co-star Ryan Gosling.

"I want to thank my family -- my parents are in the crowd, my sister Anna -- thank you for always believing in me. And finally, I want to thank Olivia, my love, sitting there," he continued. "This was a movie about love, and I was lucky enough to fall in love while making it. And it means the world to me that you're here sharing this with me. Thank you. Thank you so much."

In accepting her own trophy, Stone told Chazelle she appreciated what she called a "once-in-a-lifetime" role.

"I'm so grateful to have been involved in this film. And thank you for your faith and your patience and such a wonderful experience," she said. "And Ryan Gosling, thank you for making me laugh and for always raising the bar, and for being the greatest partner on this crazy adventure. To our whole crew, everyone that put their heart and souls into this film, I'm gonna find you all individually and I'm gonna thank you, along with my friends who I love so much -- I'm gonna hug the hell out of you when the feeling re-enters my body. I still have a lot of growing and learning and work to do, and this guy is a really beautiful symbol to continue on that journey, and I'm so grateful for that."


The Best Actor honor went to Casey Affleck for the family drama Manchester by the Sea, which won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for writer-director Kenneth Lonergan, as well.

"That means so much to me," Affleck said as the crowd applauded and he scooped up his prize. "One of the first people who taught me how to act was Denzel Washington and I just met him tonight for the first time, thank you. And to all the other nominees for your great work, I'm proud to be in your company. You guys are very brave and I admire what you do. I'm only here, really, because of all the talents and good will of so many people, they're impossible to name. But most of all, Kenneth Lonergan, who made this part and without this part and without his writing, I wouldn't be here for sure. And he directed it. ... Thank you also to Matt Damon for creating this opportunity. ... Of course, my mother and my father, for mostly, usually, believing in me, in doing this. Ben, I love you, you ain't heavy. Thank you all very much, appreciate it."


Viola Davis won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance in Fences.

"O, captain, my captain, Denzel Washington. Thank you for putting two entities in the driving seat: August and God. And they served you well," Davis said to her director and co-star in the screen adaptation of August Wilson's classic, stage drama.

Davis and Washington previously won Tony Awards when they starred in the play version of Fences.

The Salesman won for Best Foreign Language Film, O.J.: Made in America was deemed Best Documentary Feature and The White Helmets was declared Best Documentary Short.

The Best Animated Feature title was bestowed on Zootopia and the Best Animated Short statuette went to the team behind Piper.

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