LOS ANGELES – African-American coming-of-age tale “Moonlight” won the Oscar for best picture on Sunday on a big night for Hollywood diversity that was overshadowed by an embarrassing onstage gaffe over the top award.
In a mishap that caused uproar and confusion, presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway initially announced that romantic musical “La La Land”, the presumed favorite for best picture, had won.
As the casts of both films stood awkwardly on stage, Beatty explained he had been given the wrong envelope to open.
It was the first time in living memory that such a major mistake had been made at the Academy Awards, Hollywood’s biggest night. It even eclipsed the prior three hours of a show peppered with jokes about U.S. President Donald Trump.
Accountants Price Waterhouse Cooper, who oversee the ballots, said the presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope.
“We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred,”
PwC said in a statement, while apologizing to “Moonlight” and “La La Land”, Beatty and Dunaway and Oscar viewers.
Officials from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences were not immediately available to comment.
“Is that the craziest Oscar moment of all time?” Stone, who won the best actress Oscar for her “La La Land” role as a struggling actress, told reporters backstage “It’s a very strange happening for Oscar history.”
“Moonlight,” about a young boy struggling with poverty and his sexuality in Miami, also brought a supporting actor Oscar for first timer Mahershala Ali, a best adapted screenplay statuette.
Viola Davis won for her supporting role as a long suffering housewife in African-American family drama “Fences.”
The recognition for both the actors and their films made a stark contrast to the 2016 Academy Awards when no actors of color were even nominated.
“Moonlight” producer Adele Romanski said she hoped the movie would inspire “little black boys and brown girls and other folks watching at home who feel marginalized.”
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Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel fired off political zingers and even tweeted at the Republican president, getting no immediate response.
Several celebrities wore blue ribbons on Sunday in support of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) advocacy group that worked to get Trump’s bid to ban travelers from seven majority Muslim nations blocked in U.S. courts. But for the most part, speeches at the ceremony were mild or made general pleas for tolerance rather than directly attacking Trump.
Iranian director Asghar Farhadi was an exception. His drama “The Salesman” was named best foreign language film but Farhadi, boycotted Sunday’s ceremony because of the Trump’s travel ban.
In a speech delivered on his behalf by Iranian-American space expert Anousheh Ansari, Farhadi said his absence was due to “an inhumane law that bans entry into the U.S… Dividing the world into the ‘us’ and ‘our enemies’ categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war.”
(Additional reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy, Nichola Groom and Lisa Richwine)