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Faye Dunaway Recalls Moment She Gave Oscar to Wrong Movie

by Tim Stelloh /
Actors Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty announce the best picture winner at the 89th Academy Awards in Los Angeles on Feb. 26, 2017. Barry Jenkins' "Moonlight" -- not, as it turned out, "La La Land" -- won best picture at the Academy Awards in a historic Oscar upset and an unprecedented fiasco that saw one winner swapped for another while the "La La Land" producers were in mid-speech. Presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway apparently took the wrong envelope -- the one for best actress winner Emma Stone -- onto the stage. When they realized the mistake, representatives for ballot tabulators Price Waterhouse Coopers raced onstage to try to stop the acceptance speeches.Kevin Winter / Getty Images

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One of the most agonizing moments in Academy Awards history came with a dramatic pause.

“He pulled the card out of the envelope and he didn’t say anything,” actress Faye Dunaway told NBC News' Lester Holt in an exclusive interview aired Monday, recalling the mix-up that led her and Warren Beatty to briefly name "La La Land" as the best motion picture of 2017.

They should have said "Moonlight," of course, but the pair was given the wrong card with the wrong category.

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And that’s when things got weird.

“He paused,” Dunaway recalled. “He looked over at me. I finally said: 'You’re impossible.' I thought he was joking.”

Beatty then handed the card to Dunaway, who didn’t bother investigating further — "nobody thinks to look [at] what the category is," she said — and promptly read "La La Land."

It wasn’t until Dunaway heard a loud voice from the left — "No, you didn’t win" — that she realized something was wrong.

On stage, Dunaway said, she was stunned and confused. Later, she felt guilty.

“I thought, I could have done something, surely,” she said. “Why didn't I see Emma Stone's name on the top of the card? But, you know, I was dealing with Warren and his charming manner, and I was trying to hurry him up and trying to get the award, because the show was running late. So I didn't notice it.”

Later, Dunaway said, she asked Beatty why he gave her the wrong card.

“He said, ‘Well, I — y —,'" she said. "I don’t know what his answer is."

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