From La La Land being announced as the wrong Best Picture winner to Will Smith slapping Chris Rock last year, here are some of the most memorable Oscars controversies.
The Academy Awards are one of the most talked-about events. A fair amount of controversy is credited with helping to make Hollywood’s award show immensely popular over the years. Let’s take a look back at the most contentious Oscar moments of all time ahead of the 95th Academy Awards on March 13.
Will Smith slapping incident
Nobody will ever forget the Oscars from last year. Will Smith stunned everyone in 2022 by slapping comedian Chris Rock on the stage. Smith slapped Rock while the latter was presenting the category for best documentary feature. Rock cracked a controversial joke about Will Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head, which she shaved after being diagnosed with alopecia.
Smith resigned from the Academy on April 1 due to backlash over his behaviour, writing in a statement, “I betrayed the Academy’s trust. I denied other nominees and winners the opportunity to celebrate and be recognised for their outstanding work. I’m devastated.” Smith has been barred from the Academy for ten years.
The Oscars were shocked in 2017 when La La Land was declared Best Picture at the end of the broadcast by presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. In reality, Moonlight won Best Picture that year, and the presenters had been given the envelope for the Best Actress winner (La La Land’s Emma Stone) by mistake. After explaining the live blunder, the Moonlight team took the stage, where La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz handed them the statuette.
Marlon Brando’s Award Refusal
Brando had decided to boycott the March 1973 Oscars in protest of how Native Americans were portrayed onscreen, as well as to honour the ongoing occupation at Wounded Knee, in which 200 members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) faced off against thousands of US marshals and other federal agents in the South Dakota town.
After presenters Liv Ullmann and Roger Moore announced the best actor nominees and Ullmann called out Brando’s name as the winner, the telecast cut to Littlefeather, then 26, walking to the stage from her seat at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion as the announcer explained, “Accepting the award for Marlon Brando and The Godfather, Miss Sacheen Littlefeather.”
Littlefeather, on the other hand, raised her right hand to decline Moore’s statuette as she approached the podium, telling the Chandler audience and the 85 million viewers watching at home that Brando “very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award.”
Adrien Brody kisses Halle Berry
Adrien Brody grabbed presenter Halle Berry and kissed her passionately as he accepted his Oscar for Best Actor for his role in The Pianist in 2003. Berry revealed what was going on in her head at the time during a 2017 appearance on Watch What Happens Live, asking, “What the f—- is happening right now?” Berry, however, had been swept up in her moment and “just f—-ing went with it.”
All White Nominees Lead to #OscarsSoWhite
The Oscar nominations were announced in January 2015, revealing a majority of white nominees. April Reign was inspired to create the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, which quickly went viral on Twitter.
Jumping for joy
In a display of obvious joy, Roberto Benigni made headlines when he won best foreign language film in 1999.
When his name was called, the actor and director literally jumped for joy.
He stood on his seat, cheering and responding to the audience’s applause. To emphasise his victory, Roberto straddled the seats and stood directly over Speilberg.
A famous kiss
In a jaw-dropping moment in 2003, Adrien Brody accepted his award in an unusual manner.
Brody went for a full kiss with Halle Berry instead of the usual handshake after winning best actor for The Pianist.
The audience could be heard cheering and gasping at what was taking place in front of them.
Angelina Jolie, the best supporting actress Oscar winner in 2000, shocked the world when she kissed her brother on the lips.
“I’m in shock, and I’m so in love with my brother right now,” Angelina said as she accepted her award. He just hugged me and told me he loved me, and I know he’s overjoyed for me. And, you know, thank you.”
Later that night, Jolie, 24, attended an afterparty where she posed for photographers with her brother.
The couple exchanged a kiss on the lips, and the split-second moment made front pages around the world.
In 2017, one of the most awkward and embarrassing moments at the Academy Awards occurred during the announcement of the most anticipated award, Best Picture.
La La Land was incorrectly announced as the winner, but no one knew as the cast and directors approached the stage to accept their award.
Producer Mark Platt gave his thank you speech, but Fred Berger takes over the mic and gives his own speech, concluding, “We lost.”
“This is not a joke,” Horowitz says as he raises his hand. La La Land realised they hadn’t won, so Horowitz holds up the correct card, which reads Moonlight as the winners.
Michael Moore used his acceptance speech for Bowling for Columbine to make a political statement.
Moore brought his fellow documentary nominees onstage to accept his award.
He delivered an impassioned speech about “fictitious times,” referring directly to George W. Bush’s contested presidential election and the Iraq War.
“We oppose this war, Mr. Bush!” “Shame on you!” exclaimed Moore. The audience immediately turned on him, booing him until the music faded him out and off the stage.
In 2003, a fugitive who cannot enter the United States won best director, sparking controversy.
The Pianist, a Holocaust drama directed by Roman Polanski, won the award.
He fled the United States for France in 1978, just before being sentenced to prison for having sex with a 13-year-old girl.
No one expected the film to win, resulting in one of the biggest upsets in recent Oscar history.