A Look at the History of Oscars Ceremonies: Flubs, Controversy and Politics

A look at Oscar flubs and controversies.
'La La Land' producer Jordan Horowitz holds up card with Best Picture winner 'Moonlight.' Getty

As we count down to Sunday's Oscars ceremony, a long list of political and current events promise to shadow the lengthy broadcast of Hollywood winners.

There is President Trump, of course, always a favorite butt of celebrity jokes. There is the vitriolic and divisive battle over gun control that most recently erupted after the Feb. 14 carnage at a Florida high school that took 17 lives. 

Also looming large over the storied ceremony is the conclusion of last year's show, a Best Picture flub that's widely considered one of the worst mistakes in Academy Award history.

The producers of La La Land were already making acceptance speeches when a PricewaterhouseCoopers accountant came running onstage saying, "He took the wrong envelope!"

"He" being actor Warren Beatty, who had somehow picked up an extra envelope naming Emma Stone as Best Actress in La La Land.

Producer Jordan Horowitz eventually looked at the right envelope and held it up before a befuddled audience. "There's a mistake," he said. "Moonlight, you guys won Best Picture. This is not a joke." After a series of gasps, pure confusion and audience members turning to each other and whispering, 'What?' the crowd burst into cheers and applause as it was confirmed that Moonlight was indeed the Best Picture of 2017.

Here is a look at other oddities and controversies from the Motion Picture Academy's history:

Marlon Brando’s 1973 Snub

Instead of showing up to collect his Best Actor award for The Godfather, the reclusive and eccentric celeb sent Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather instead, who refused the Oscar on his behalf. The Academy responded by banning recipients from sending proxies to the microphone.

That Naked Man Behind David Niven in 1974

There was the British actor, minding his own business as he hosted the Oscars, when from behind the curtain ran a man in his birthday suit, flashing the peace sign, as well as himself. The practice of “streaking,” (think of it as the granddaddy of the Ice Bucket Challenge) was in full swing at the time.

Niven didn’t miss a beat. “Isn’t it fascinating to think that’s probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?”

Vanessa Redgrave’s 1978 “Zionist Hoodlums” Speech

The actress was already in public hot water, for producing a documentary sympathetic to the Palestine Liberation Organization, when she won the Best Supporting Actress statuette for Julia. Things got worse when she accepted the award and referred to protesters outside the theater as "a bunch of Zionist hoodlums." She was booed amid scant applause.

Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins Get Banned from the Oscars in 1993

The actors, who were in a relationship at the time, were there to present the Best Editing Oscar. But they kicked off their presentation by noting the 266 Haitians being held at Guantanamo Bay because they were HIV-positive.

“On their behalf, and on behalf of all the people living with HIV in this country, we would like to ask our governing officials in Washington to admit that HIV is not a crime,” said Sarandon. The show’s producer, Gil Cates, banned them as presenters, but the injunction didn’t stick.

Michael Moore Takes On George W. Bush and Gets Booed in 2003

In his acceptance speech for Best Documentary, the maker of Bowling for Columbine dropped a bomb on then-President George W. Bush, just days after the U.S. invaded Iraq.

“We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president,” Moore said, referring the 2000 presidential contest that was ultimately decided by a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

“We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons... Shame on you, Mr. Bush!” His remarks were jeered in the audience and backstage.

The Oscars will be broadcast live at 7 p.m. EST on ABC. Check local listings. 


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