Obits for famous people are often written in advance, and you know that somewhere in the first two or three paragraphs of Warren Beatty‘s obit-in-waiting there’s a mention of The Great LaLa Land vs. Moonlight Oscar Envelope Screw-Up.
Nominated for 14 Academy Awards and winner of a Best Director Oscar for Reds. The co-auteur of Bonnie and Clyde and Bugsy, and the ruling creative force behind Shampoo, Bulworth, Dick Tracy and Heaven Can Wait. Teen heartthrob star of the early ’60s after his Splendor in the Grass debut. One of the greatest nookie kings in the history of Western Civilization. And — history will never forget — the guy who didn’t know quite what to do when he opened a Best Picture winner envelope that said “Emma Stone, LaLa Land,” and so he handed it to co-presenter Faye Dunaway.
The snafu wasn’t Beatty’s fault, of course, but in the hazy fog of public memory he’ll never be able to fully rid himself of this world-class embarassment. Fairly or unfairly he’s stuck with it. Ditto Dunaway, Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel and the infamous Brian Cullinan, the Price Waterhouse guy who gave Beatty the wrong envelope and will forever be wearing a scarlet tattoo (“T” for tweeter) on his forehead.
I’m recalling all this because of Scott Feinberg‘s “‘They Got the Wrong Envelope!’: The Oral History of Oscar’s Epic Best Picture Fiasco,” which appeared on the HollywoodReporter‘s site on 2.26 and is part of the 2.28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Great reading, an epic saga, a “howtheydunnit” page-turner.
The piece represents only about 1/5 of what Feinberg gathered together with all the interviews and whatnot. It took him “months.” The initial draft was 31,000 words, and “a lot of juicy stuff” didn’t make the cut, I’m told. I see a book in this — maybe a 50,000 word coffee-table book with all kinds of great photos and sidebars and whatnot. Hell, it would make a great documentary — think of it! From the intro: “One year after the craziest, most improbable and downright embarrassing moment in Academy Awards history, 29 key players open up (many for the first time) about the onstage chaos, backstage bickering and who’s really to blame for Envelopegate and the two minutes and 23 seconds that La La Land beat Moonlight.
“Since the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929, Hollywood’s biggest night has produced its share of drama. But nothing — nothing — can hold a candle to the otherworldly insanity that unfolded at the very end of the 89th Oscars on Feb. 26, 2017, when the wrong Best Picture winner was announced.
“Ahead of the one-year anniversary of Envelopegate, THR spent months interviewing dozens of key players from that ceremony to document the incredible series of events that led the teams behind two films, Moonlight and La La Land, to collide on the same stage. A few of them said they would prefer to leave that awkward (and, for some, painful) night in the past; many, however, were willing to look back and laugh at an Oscars that neither they, nor anyone else, will ever forget.
*All subjects were interviewed for this story with the exception of Beatty (whose comments were on The Graham Norton Show), Ryan Gosling (Entertainment Tonight), Mike De Luca (KCRW’s The Business), Annette Bening (Jimmy Kimmel Live!) and somebody named “Natoli” (The Wrap).