Jimmy Kimmel Gives First Long Explanation About That Oscar Mishap

"I walk up onstage and all hell is breaking loose."
Image Group LA via Getty Images

By now you’re aware that the 89th Academy Awards ended with “La La Land” erroneously being announced as Best Picture over “Moonlight.” The mistake was unprecedented for the Oscars and caused a beyond cringeworthy moment of confusion for everyone involved.

By now, it’s fairly clear that the PricewaterhouseCoopers accountant tasked with handing Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway the Best Picture envelope messed up the transfer. But given the still-unbelievable nature of what happened, it’s certainly understandable to want to keep hearing more of the details behind the flub.

Award show host Jimmy Kimmel decided to give an interview to his friend Bill Simmons on The Ringer’s “Bill Simmons Podcast” Wednesday.

The lengthy episode went live Thursday morning and it’s well worth your time if you’re at all curious about the situation.

“Yeah, it is funny, because somebody said to me yesterday, ‘You better get your story exactly straight because you’re going to be telling this story for the rest of your life,’” Kimmel told Simmons at the beginning of the show. “And I thought, I don’t want to tell this story for the rest of my life. It’s about the wrong envelope being handed over. It’s essentially a boring story.”

But then Kimmel went on to gamely claim, “You know, I haven’t done any interviews since the Oscars and so there are many things that people don’t know about what happened that night.”

Below, the Huffington Post has transcribed the most relevant Kimmel quotes about the moment.

(The below transcription has been lightly condensed and only includes Kimmel’s parts in the conversation.)

Here’s Kimmel’s recollection of when he found out.

Kimmel was sitting next to Matt Damon for a planned joke to close the show that obviously got cut.

We’re waiting for the camera to come to us and we’re kind of concentrating and suddenly the stage manager wanders up onstage, which is never supposed to happen. And he’s in the shot, which I know is not supposed to happen. So I really don’t know what’s going on.

I don’t hear very well, so Matt hears somebody say something to the effect of ― they had the wrong movie for Best Picture ― and so he says to me, “I think they announced the wrong Best Picture.” And I said, “What?!” He said, “Yeah, I heard them saying that it’s the wrong movie.” And I looked at Matt and I said, “Well, I guess I better go up there.” [Laughs] And he said, “Yeah, I guess you better.”

I walk up onstage and all hell is breaking loose. People are mad and confused. And I feel bad for them, but I can’t help but laugh because it’s such an uncomfortable situation.

People were very confused. It wasn’t a great moment for a joke because people wanted to know what was going on. I didn’t know what was going on.

What Kimmel initially thought happened:

Kimmel claimed that Beatty and Dunaway had trouble reading the teleprompter during rehearsal and had to come back a second time to try again. Kimmel assumed Warren had misread the envelope because of this.

They came to two different rehearsals because it was hard to see the teleprompter. So that definitely was a part of the issue, I think. Just vision in general. But, you know, I can’t read the menu in a restaurant.

"La La Land" producer Jordan Horowitz, Jimmy Kimmel and Warren Beatty.
"La La Land" producer Jordan Horowitz, Jimmy Kimmel and Warren Beatty.
Image Group LA via Getty Images

Shortly after he left, Kimmel saw the evidence on social media that Beatty was in the clear.

Beatty declined to come on Kimmel’s show Monday to explain the situation, but Kimmel still went out of his way to tell the actor about the evidence clearing his responsibility.

K: One of our writers saw somebody posted on Instagram, or something, a close-up [where] they zoomed in on the envelope that was in his hand. They got it off the television broadcast. And I went in, after all this commotion ― it was still going on ― I left, we had a little toast after the show ― I went back in.

And I said, “Warren, you can see on the envelope. You can see right here, the envelope you were handed said “Outstanding Female Actress.” So, I just announced to him, “You’re free to walk the streets of Hollywood again!” And I walked out of the room.

Everybody laughed and that was kind of the end of it.

Here’s what the host thinks he would have done if he were the one responsible for the mistake.

Only the designated accountants from PricewaterhouseCoopers, the firm responsible for counting Oscar ballots, know the winners beforehand, and so a coverup of the mistake could have been possible.

: You know what they could have done? They could have just went with it. I don’t know what I would have done in that situation, but the thought would definitely cross my mind of just letting “La La Land” have the Best Picture. [Kimmel laughs]. Because it was the favorite. It’s not like it would have been a huge surprise.

Then, he told Simmons about the since-cut plan to close the show with Damon.

Matt Damon and Kimmel famously have a “rivalry,” which lent itself to various pranks throughout the show.

: The plan for the last joke was ― the Best Picture winner is announced, they make a speech. I was assuming the Best Picture was not going to be “Manchester by the Sea,” and I said to Matt, “If it’s not ‘Manchester by the Sea,’” I’m going to be sitting next to you. This will be my revenge from the Emmys.” Because at the Emmys, he walked onstage after we lost our category.

I’d be sitting next to him and it would start on me and I’d start wrapping the show up and then the camera would widen and we’d see Matt was sitting next to me. And i would say, “Wow, unbelievable. Casey won and Kenneth won. There’s really only one person that didn’t win tonight and it’s you ― for this movie.” And it would have been just a nice little button to the whole night.

Matt Damon at the Oscars.
Matt Damon at the Oscars.
Kevin Winter via Getty Images

That night, Kimmel made sure to insist this was not a prank.

Kimmel often does pranks on his late-night show, but he insists he had nothing to do with whatever happened. Below is what Kimmel told Simmons he said that night.

K: “Hold on a minute, I’m just going to make one thing very, very clear right now that this was not a ― if this was a prank, I’m not in on it. I’m one of the victims here.”

Simmons predicted this moment would end up in the first paragraph of Kimmel’s obituary. Kimmel hopes that isn’t the case.

The late-night host does not want this to be the case.

K: That would be terrible.

Here’s Kimmel’s more condensed explanation from his show:

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