Oscars producer Michael De Luca opened up about the moment La La Land was incorrectly called as the Best Picture winner

By Lindsay Kimble
March 01, 2017 12:49 PM
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As the fallout from the Best Picture winner mix-up seen ’round the world continues, those at the helm of both films involved are focused on finding the good in the unimaginable.

In a new “morning after” interview with Variety, Moonlight director Barry Jenkins and La La Land director Damien Chazelle — the night’s Best Director winner — get candid about what happened at the 2017 Academy Awards.

“It’s messy, but it’s kind of gorgeous,” says Jenkins of the moment he realized that his film was the true winner of the night’s most coveted award.

Noting that he and the Moonlight cast and crew were greeted with hugs by the shocked La La Land group, Jenkins adds, “You have these two groups of people who came together for a second. There’s a picture with me hugging Jordan [Horowitz, La La Land producer] and Adele [Romanski, Moonlight producer] has her arm on his shoulder. That’s what the moment was.”

Both directors understand that there’s a sort-of expected rivalry between them, but were happy to squash it, with Chazelle explaining, “It’s weird to be friendly with someone but to feel like there’s a mano-a-mano thing, which I guess is the nature of the Oscars. So it was nice to explode that myth a little bit on a big stage.”

Chazelle, 32, admits that he momentarily considered the news that his musical was not, in fact, the winner, to be a misguided stunt. “Everything looked so energized, I, at first thought there was some kind of prank going on,” he tells Variety.

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic; JEAN-BAPTISTE LACROIX/AFP/Getty

Despite the unthinkable, both men still have high praise for each other’s work. Chazelle says when he first saw Moonlight, he was floored: “It was so beautiful.”

Similarly, Jenkins, 37, says La La Land made him long for his homebase like never before.

“I hadn’t been to L.A. in like two months at that point. I had been traveling overseas,” he tells the magazine. “It made me feel nostalgic for L.A., which I have never felt.”

Though he didn’t get to give his prepared acceptance speech because of the shock, Jenkins says it’s still been like having a vision granted.

“I have been saying that Tarell [Alvin McCraney, Moonlight’s writer] and I are that kid in the film, and that kid does not grow up to make a piece of art that gets eight Academy Award nominations,” explains Jenkins. “It’s a dream that I never allowed myself to have. When we were sitting there and that dream of winning didn’t come true, I took it off the table. But then I had to very quickly get back into that place. And my first thought was to get to the stage to give Jordan a hug as quickly as possible.”

At the close of the 89th Academy Awards, audiences watched as Faye Dunaway stood alongside Warren Beatty and incorrectly named La La Land as the Best Picture winner. It has since been revealed that the PricewaterhouseCoopers accountant tasked with handing out the winners envelopes gave Beatty the wrong one.

Gavin Bond for Variety

“It was like the Hindenburg report,” Oscars producer Michael De Luca told KCRW’s The Business, according to The Hollywood Reporter, of the incident in a new interview. “I literally heard, ‘Oh my God! He got the wrong envelope!’ And then it was slow motion. You perceive things slowly as the adrenaline rises and the cortisol floods your system.”

De Luca added, “I wanted the show to be remembered for the Katherine Johnson moment, the James Foley moment with Sting, and Dev Patel’s wonderful introduction of Sting. I wanted the heartfelt moments to be what we’re talking about today, and I wanted the funny moments that Jimmy [Kimmel] brought, the really inventive or irreverent bits.”

“I wanted that to be the topic of conversation. The anger came later but I’ve been through all the stages now. Now, I’m into acceptance and forgiveness.”