‘Moonlight’ Director: Best Picture Snafu Made Winning ‘More Complicated’

Barry Jenkins Moonlight Oscars

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

The best picture snafu that closed out Sunday’s Academy Awards telecast was still reverberating on Monday’s network morning news programs.

“Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins told “CBS This Morning” that the mix-up that resulted in “Moonlight” being named the winner a few minutes after “La La Land” was mistakenly announced only added to the surreal quality of the night for him. “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that his focus after learning the truth was “making sure ‘Moonlight’ got the recognition it deserves.”

The key players on both films emphasized that they have become friendly while traversing the awards circuit together during the past few months.

“They say truth is stranger than fiction. That was the moment I’ve been living in,” Jenkins said, adding that it still felt “surreal” to him to be up on the Oscar stage.

At the climax of the three and a half hour telecast, presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty announced “La La Land” as the best picture winner, capping a strong run of wins by the Lionsgate musical. But after the movie’s cast and producers were on stage exulting, “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz came to the mic to explain there was a mistake and that the film industry’s top honor actually went to “Moonlight.”

Jenkins was clearly still processing the experience as he and writer Tarell Alvin McCraney spoke with “CBS This Morning.”

“It just made it much more complicated,” Jenkins said. “The celebration is bound up now between our film, ‘La La Land’ and the Academy in a very complicated way. As somewhat of a Shakespearean tragedy, maybe is a bit more interesting,” he said. 

McCraney added that the confusion and the time pressure they faced after getting up to the stage “made it difficult to say all the thank-yous we needed to say. But at the same way, it was a great way to show all the camaraderie we had for both of the films.”

Horowitz has earned kudos for his graceful handling of what had to be a crushing blow for the “La La Land” team.

“It was a surreal moment for sure but I wanted to make sure the right thing was done. At that point it was not about me — it was about making sure ‘Moonlight’ got the recognition it deserves,” Horowitz told “GMA” in a telephone interview. “Those guys are my friends. I wanted to make sure they had their moment.”

“GMA” anchors pressed Horowitz for details on how he was informed of the mistake. Horowitz said “it was just confusion and chaos” on stage and “this slow, steady realization that something wasn’t right.” Finally, he realized that showing the card inside the envelope was the way to prove that he wasn’t kidding in citing “Moonlight” as the real winner.

“When everybody saw that (in) writing then it was really clear this was something that was happening,” Horowitz said.

After the show, Horowitz spoke with Jenkins and “Moonlight” star Mahershala Ali (who won supporting actor) at the Governors Ball.

“We shared a moment. We gave each other a hug and said ‘Wasn’t that surreal?’ We congratulated each other on our work and put it all behind us,” Horowitz said.

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