Commentary: The Oscars best picture mix-up: PricewaterhouseCoopers will never live this down

Author: James O'Rourke IV

James O Rourke
James O'Rourke IV

When Academy Award-winning actress Faye Dunaway looked at the card, smiled and said, "La La Land," the Hollywood luminaries assembled Sunday in the Dolby Theatre burst into applause and cheers, as did many of the TV viewers still awake. They, like the producers of the remarkably successful musical, thought that the movie had been named best picture of the year.

Not so. Moments later, when Jordan Horowitz, producer of "La La Land," took the microphone and began waving his index finger in the air, it was clear something was not exactly right. "Sorry guys, hold on. There's a mistake. 'Moonlight,' you guys won best picture. This is not a joke." He then held up the correct card and the camera zoomed in on the print. Sure enough, "Moonlight" was listed as best picture.

How does this happen? It was reminiscent of Steve Harvey announcing in 2015 that Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez, had won the Miss Universe contest. In fact, she was runner-up. Pia Wurtzbach, Miss Philippines, had been voted the winner that year. Apologies, tears, recriminations and a thousand rewrites for late evening newscasts quickly followed.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the venerable public accounting and professional services firm, issued a statement of apology by 3 a.m., some 2 1/2 hours later: "We sincerely apologize to 'Moonlight,' 'La La Land,' Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for best picture. The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope, and when discovered, was immediately corrected. We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred."

Read the entire commentary on The Chicago Tribune website.