‘La La Land’ producer on handing over the best picture Oscar — ‘I just righted a wrong’

"La La Land" producer Jordan Horowitz hands the best picture Oscar to "Moonlight" filmmaker Barry Jenkins.
(Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

“La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz may not have the Oscar for best picture, but he does now possess a distinction uniquely his own.

“I got to accept the Academy Award for best picture and then, within five minutes, I got to present the Academy Award for best picture,” Horowitz told The Times over the phone Monday. “It’s not the worst thing. Nobody on the planet can say that — except me.”

Shortly after Horowitz delivered his acceptance speech Sunday night, he noticed a great deal of commotion behind him. A stagehand approached, asking to see his envelope. Horowitz looked at the card and saw Emma Stone’s name. The correct envelope was soon produced. Shortly afterward, Horowitz announced: “Guys, guys, I’m sorry. No. There’s a mistake. ‘Moonlight,’ you guys won best picture.”


It was the most shocking, surreal moment in the history of the Oscars. Horowitz talked to us about being in the middle of it:

When did you realize something was amiss?

One of the stage hands asked for my envelope, and I showed it to him and at that point it became clear that it was a duplicate best actress envelope. Well, we didn’t know that at the time. But that’s what happened. And then there was a bit of a scramble for where the actual envelope was and it came out of somewhere, they opened it, we saw it and told everyone and then showed everyone.

Initially nobody believed you. I think people thought you were being gracious and sharing the Oscar with “Moonlight.”

I know. I sensed that in the room, which is why I pulled the piece of paper. It needed that clarity.

What did you think initially when you looked down and saw Emma Stone’s name on the card?

You know, they just handed it to me. You just take it. I didn’t look at it and say, “Is this the right envelope?”

There’s little precedent for the wrong envelope being given.

Exactly. But I tell you what. I think everyone from this moment on is going to look at that piece of paper. [Laughs]

You’ve received a lot of praise from people, including “Moonlight” writer-director Barry Jenkins, for acting decisively and with such grace.

My producer brain took over. My wife just laughed at that. [Horowitz is married to filmmaker Julia Hart.] She knows my process.

I just righted a wrong. I was grateful I was able to do that. I don’t know what happened, whatever the mix-up was, but once that envelope was shown to me, it was clear that somebody needed to clear things up and make sure the spotlight was on “Moonlight.” I mean, listen, a $1.5-million independent film about black gay youth in America won the Academy Award for best picture, and that’s something we should be celebrating today.

That was a beautiful thing in the chaos — the obvious love and respect between the people who made “Moonlight” and “La La Land.”

Art competitions are weird at their core. I was talking to Barry and [“La La Land” writer-director] Damien [Chazelle] this morning about it. In the lead up to all this stuff, things tend to lose their humanity a little bit because it’s “La La Land” and “Moonlight” and the politics of it with a capital P.

It was nice to have a real human moment and remind people that there are artists making these pictures and working hard to tell any number of kinds of stories. I do like that we were able to have that moment in front of a lot of people because, in my view, that’s what our industry is and needs to be — a community that loves and respects each other. I think we need to have more of that.

And your wife did get to hear those beautiful things you said about her on the stage.

I’m glad she got to hear it. [Sighs] What are you going to do? What are you going to do? We love “Moonlight.” We love those guys. We spent the last six months with them, you know? It’s a thing that happened. It’s still just totally surreal.

Twitter: @glennwhipp


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