It was the biggest blunder in Oscars history.
It all began when veteran actors, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway sashayed up to the microphone on stage at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood recently to announce the winner of best picture 2017. After a few awkward quips, Beatty ripped open the large red sealed envelope, examined the contents and then turned to Dunaway looking perplexed. He began reading: ‘The winner for best picture,’ then paused before handballing the envelope to Faye Dunaway who wasted no time announcing: ‘La La Land.’
The 3500-strong audience erupted, the soundtrack to the movie played, and the whole cast and crew of the musical drama hustled onto the stage and jostled for position. For all intents and purposes, ‘La La land,’ had won best picture.
But then something unprecedented occurred. Midway through the emotional and long-winded acceptance speeches by directors and producers, a barrel-chested stage manager elbowed his way through the crowd brandishing another red envelope. What?
Amidst the chaos, staff appeared from Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC), the firm which has held the coveted role of overseeing the ballot for 80 years. Producer of ‘La La Land,’ Jordan Horowitz, took the microphone and apologetically revealed the real winner of best picture was, in fact, ‘Moonlight.’
Time stood still. Warren Beatty squirmed, the cast on stage looked dazed and the audience, who were later captured in official photographs, were wide-eyed, open-mouthed and shaking their heads. It was an uncomfortable moment and one that won’t easily be forgotten.
All the presenters immediately went into damage control. Jimmy Kimmel, the emcee for the night, made light of it, Faye Dunaway stepped aside and Beatty quick as a whip grabbed the microphone in an attempt to explain this wasn’t his fault – he was given the wrong envelope.
It was a colossal error for a production that is usually so slick – a blunder even noted by US President Donald Trump. Twittersphere and newsfeeds buzzed with comments and commentary, linking the disaster to that of the botched announcement made by Steve Harvey at the Crowing of Ms Universe in 2015.
The glitch, completely overshadowed the excitement and the glamour of a 3.5 hour, perfectly oiled machine – which is a shame. Instead of celebrating the arts and all that had been achieved this past year, the focus was squarely shifted to the disaster that transpired. We later learned it was a human error. It happens. If we were all to be completely honest, who hasn’t stuffed up at one point or another? To err is human. Right?
While most of us will never have the chance to bungle in front of such a massive audience – 32 million to be exact, all of us have made mistakes and we can all learn five things from the Oscar debacle:
1. ’Fess up – US Chairman of PwC, Tim Ryan, didn’t waste any time in offering up his sincerest apologies to all concerned, saying in a public statement: ‘At the end of the day we made a human error.’
2. Own the mistake – In addition to a public apology, PwC have completely shouldered the responsibility.
3. Forgive yourself – Brian Cullinan, the PwC accountant and father from California who handed over the wrong card and who has since been told he will no longer represent PwC at the Oscars again, has said he feels ‘terrible’ and ‘horrible,’ reminding us that perhaps self-forgiveness is the most important step after an embarrassing public spectacle.
4. Respond with grace and wit – The quiet hero of the night was ‘La La Land’ producer Jordan Horowitz, who was quick to right the wrong when it became clear ‘Moonlight’ was the actual winner, and to state that it would be ‘his honour’ to hand over his golden statue. Jimmy Kimmel also jumped in to alleviate the tension of the cringe-worthy moment with some quick wit.
5. Dust off and move on – There were several people who walked off that stage feeling far more awkward than they had when they walked on, including the entire mistakenly summoned ‘La La Land’ team. We can imagine they each in their own way had to laugh off the discomfort of the moment, dust off and move on.
No matter what mistakes we make in life, we need to stay on the track, – keep moving and trust that eventually the pain of our mistakes will not be in front of us or next to us, but behind us.
In her best-selling book, Living Courageously, Joyce Meyer writes: ‘Even the most righteous person fails to do everything he knows all the time, but he is committed to not giving up.’ Remembering these simple truths can help us to stay positive, hopeful and filled with faith the next time we fall.