The Oscars best picture mix-up: How the unforgettable moment unfolded

There were audible gasps when the error was revealed.

ByABC News
February 27, 2017, 12:45 PM

— -- The ending shocked even hardened Hollywood veterans. Minutes after "La La Land" was mistakenly announced as the best picture winner at the Oscars, the award went to the cast and crew behind the indie film "Moonlight" — a moment that drew audible gasps and had everyone asking, "What happened?"

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm that tallies the Oscars voting, later apologized, saying in a statement that the presenters were erroneously given the wrong envelope.

Here is the full breakdown of the dramatic best picture mix-up.

9:03 p.m. Pacific time

Presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty take the stage to announce the best picture nominees.

Warren Beatty carries an envelope reading "Actress in a Leading Role" as he walks on stage with Faye Dunaway to present the Oscar for Best Picture during the 89th Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Feb. 26, 2017.
Patrick T. Fallon/The New York Times via Redux

9:08 p.m.

Beatty opens the envelope, takes out the card and appears to look inside the envelope for another card.

He smiles, pauses and says, "And the Academy Award ..." then pauses again. He looks back down at the card before saying, "For best picture ..."

"You're impossible. Come on!" Dunaway says, and Beatty passes the card to her.

She glances at the card and announces, "La La Land"!

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty speak onstage during the 89th Annual Academy Awards on Feb. 26, 2017 in Hollywood, Calif.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

After the "La La Land" team members embrace, they head to the stage to accept the biggest award of the night.

"Moonlight" director Barry Jenkins later told reporters backstage, "I think all the movies that were nominated were worthy, so I accepted the results. I applauded like everyone else."

"I noticed the commotion that was happening, and I thought something strange had occurred," he said.

9:09 p.m.

"La La Land" producer Jordan Horowitz, holding the Oscar and the envelope onstage, begins his acceptance speech.

Jordan Horowitz, left, of "La La Land," mistakenly accepts the award for best picture at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, in Los Angeles.
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

9:10 p.m.

Behind Horowitz, people begin to realize something is amiss when an Oscars producer walks onstage.

As "La La Land" producer Fred Berger gives his acceptance speech, people hover behind him, and "La La Land" star Emma Stone, who won the best actress award minutes before, is seen mouthing, "Oh, my God."

9:11 p.m.

Berger concludes his acceptance speech, turns to the people behind him and then turns back to the mic, saying, "We lost, by the way."

"La La Land" producer Fred Berger, bottom, speaks at the microphone as production staff consult behind him regarding a presentation error of the Best Picture award during the 89th Annual Academy Awards on Feb. 26, 2017 in Los Angeles.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Horowitz steps to the microphone and says, "Guys, I'm sorry. No, there's a mistake. 'Moonlight,' you guys won best picture ... This is not a joke."

"This is not a joke," "La La Land" producer Marc Platt echoes. "I'm afraid they read the wrong thing."

"This is not a joke," Horowitz repeats. "'Moonlight' has won best picture."

Backstage there was an audible collective gasp, then silence.

Horowitz holds up the best picture card reading "Moonlight" and shows the audience. He announces "'Moonlight,' best picture," and the crowd erupts.

"La La Land" producer Jordan Horowitz holds up the winner card reading actual Best Picture winner "Moonlight" as Warren Beatty and Jimmy Kimmel look on during the 89th Annual Academy Awards on Feb. 26, 2017 in Hollywood, Calif.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
The cast of "Moonlight" celebrates as "Moonlight" wins the best picture award at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
Matt Sayles/Invision/AP
"Moonlight" castmembers Mahershala Ali and Trevante Rhodes hug after it was announced that the movie won Best Picture during the telecast of the 89th Academy Awards on Feb. 26, 2017 in Hollywood, Calif.
Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/Polaris

"There was a lot of confusion onstage, and at a certain point it was clear that the wrong envelope had been given," Horowitz told "GMA" exclusively this morning. "Then they kind of showed us the best picture envelope, and it said 'Moonlight,' and that's when I sort of jumped to the mic and made sure everybody knew what was going on."

He added, "It was like this slow, steady realization that something wasn't right. It needed to be corrected, so we jumped in and did it."

Horowitz said he held up the card because "I think people needed clarity at that moment."

Producer Jordan Horowitz holds up the card for the Best Picture winner, "Moonlight."
Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel tries to lighten the mood, saying, "This is very unfortunate what happened."

"Personally, I blame Steve Harvey for this," Kimmel says, alluding to Harvey's crowning the wrong Miss Universe winner in 2015.

"I would like to see you get an Oscar anyway," Kimmel says to Horowitz.

Ryan Gosling reacts as the true winner of best picture is announced at the Oscars, Feb. 26, 2017, in Hollywood, Calif.
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

"I'm going to be really proud to hand this to my friends from 'Moonlight,'" Horowitz says.

The cast of "Moonlight" and ""La La Land" appear on stage as presenter Warren Beatty shows the winner's envelope at the 89th Oscars on Feb. 26, 2017 in Hollywood, Calif.
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

9:12 p.m.

Then it was time for Beatty to take the mic.

"Warren, what did you do?" jokes Kimmel.

"I want to tell you what happened," Beatty says to the audience.

Members of the casts and crew from "Moonlight" react as presenter Warren Beatty announces that "Moonlight" won the Best Picture award at the 89th Academy Awards, Feb. 26, 2017.
Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

"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 says.

"Well, you were funny," says Kimmel.

As Beatty speaks, Horowitz is seen in the background embracing "Moonlight" supporting actor winner Mahershala Ali and others from the "Moonlight" team. Horowitz then hands off the Oscar.

"La La Land" producer Jordan Horowitz hands over the Best Picture award to "Moonlight" writer/director Barry Jenkins following a presentation error onstage during the 89th Annual Academy Awards, Feb. 26, 2017, in Hollywood, California.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

"This is 'Moonlight,' the best picture," Beatty says, and the audience erupts in applause.

Matt Damon whistles.

Producer Adele Romanski, writer/director Barry Jenkins, producer Jeremy Kleiner and cast and crew members accept Best Picture for "Moonlight" during the 89th Annual Academy Awards, Feb. 26, 2017 in Hollywood, Calif.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

9:13 p.m.

Jenkins says to the crowd, "Even in my dreams, this could not be true. But to hell with dreams. I'm done with it, because this is true. Oh, my goodness."

Writer and Director Barry Jenkins of "Moonlight" holds up the Best Picture Oscar.
Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

"Moonlight" producer Adele Romanski says, "I'm still not sure this is real, but thank you to the academy, and it is so humbling to be standing up here."

Cast and crew of "Moonlight" accept the Best Picture award onstage during the 89th Annual Academy Awards, Feb. 26, 2017, in Hollywood, Calif.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Jenkins later told reporters that Beatty refused to show anyone else the winning card before showing it to him.

"He came upstairs, and he walked over to me, and he showed the card. Everybody was asking, 'Can I see the card?' And he's like, 'No, Barry Jenkins has to see the card. I need him to know,'" Jenkins recalled. "And he showed it to me, and I felt better about what had happened."

9:15 p.m.

As Kimmel concludes the show, he says, "I don't know what happened. I blame myself for this."

Host Jimmy Kimmel reacts to the news that the wrong movie had been announced as winner of the Best Picture award during the 89th Annual Academy Awards, Feb. 26, 2017, in Los Angeles.

"Let's remember, it's just an awards show," he continues. "I mean, we hate to see people disappointed, but the good news is, we got to see some extra speeches. We had some great movies. I knew I would screw this show up. I really did. Thank you for watching. I'm back to work tomorrow night at my regular show. I promise I'll never come back. Good night!"

PricewaterhouseCoopers issues apology overnight

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm that tallies the Oscars voting, said in a statement after the show, "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.

"We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the academy, ABC and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation."

In a video posted last week to the PricewaterhouseCoopers YouTube page, one of the firm's two co-balloting leaders said, "We have the winners in sealed envelopes that we hold and maintain throughout the evening and hand those to the presenters just before they walk out onstage."

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did not immediately issue a statement.

'La La Land' producer's gracious moment

In the midst of the shocking mix-up, it was Horowitz's gracious words onstage — "I'm going to be really proud to hand this to my friends from 'Moonlight'" — that kept the night moving forward.

He told "GMA" this morning that he "wanted to make sure that the right thing was done."

"Because, you know, at that point it was not about me ... It was about making sure that 'Moonlight' got the recognition it really deserves."

"Those guys are my friends," Horowitz said of the people behind "Moonlight," whom he said he got to know well during the monthslong buildup to the Oscars. "I wanted to make sure they had their moment."

The kind gesture didn't go unnoticed by Jenkins.

"The folks from 'La La Land' were so gracious," he told reporters backstage. "I can't imagine being in their position and having to do that. I wasn't speechless because we won. I was speechless because it was so gracious of them to do that."

ABC News' Morgan Korn, Jeff Costello, Lindsey Jacobson, Lesley Messer and Molly Shaker contributed to this report.

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