Let’s face it: awards shows have always been the breeding ground for surreal moments. They go out live, they feature creative people from disparate fields, and emotions are already running high. This can lead to bits like Kanye West interrupting other people’s speeches (he did it before Taylor Swift), television directors shouting down the “time’s up” music, or simply baffling wins (Jethro Tull over Metallica for Metal Album?). But the Academy Awards remain the champions in water cooler “What just happened?” moments. Here are the five strangest Oscar moments, but you’ve probably already guessed the winner.
5. Rob Lowe Duets with Snow White
At the 61st Academy Awards in 1989, there was an opening that has achieved immortality in the Bad Choices Hall of Fame. Grease producer Alan Carr put together a production number that was supposed to honor old Hollywood. It had elderly stars whisked through to quick intros and outros, Merv Griffin singing, and all of it orbiting a young actress (Eileen Bowman) leading the chaos as Snow White (Disney would later sue). Rob Lowe was trotted out as Snow White’s date, and they dueted on “Proud Mary” with modified lyrics. Yes, this all happened. Lowe has good-naturedly joked about the segment in a variety of outlets for years. Bowman told her side to The Hollywood Reporter in 2013; Rob Lowe does come off like a prince in her story, as she recalled him as being “wonderful” through rehearsals and the performance itself. But it wasn’t a fairy tale for everyone else. Alan Carr never worked in that town again.
4. The Streaker
The Streaker (Uploaded to YouTube by The Oscars)
Cultural creativity was on fire in the early 1970s. Great films seemed to get released monthly. Punk, hip-hop, and disco were aborning in New York City. And then there was . . . streaking. Running naked was nothing new (witness the early Olympics in ancient Greece), but it became a college fad in 1973. By 1974, public nudity invaded the Oscars. As actor David Niven was speaking, a naked man ran across stage behind him. The famously witty Niven laughed before he collected himself to opine: “Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings.”
3. Brando Gets an Award He Totally Refused
Marlon Brando was basically a lock to win Best Actor at the 1973 ceremony for his work as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather. Brando, however, had other ideas. At his request, actor and Native American rights activist Sacheen Littlefeather attended on his behalf. When Brando won, Littlefeather took the stage to refuse the award for Brando, who wanted to use the moment to point out Hollywood’s traditionally shoddy treatment of Native American actors, as well as draw attention to the standoff at Wounded Knee. Littlefeather kept the on-stage remarks brief and shared the full statement with the press after the fact. Over the years, Littlefeather has said in interviews that John Wayne, who was backstage, had to be restrained by security to prevent him from dragging her away from the microphone. The Academy has since disallowed proxy acceptances.
2. The Wrong Winner
Moonlight wins. (Uploaded to YouTube by Oscars)
The 2017 Oscar broadcast produced one of the all great “Wait, what?” moments. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, there to mark the 50th anniversary of Bonnie and Clyde, went to the mic to announce Best Picture. Beatty visibly hesitated, and Dunaway read that La La Land had won. As the creators were giving their acceptance speeches, chaos was ensuing behind them. Jordan Horowitz, producer of La La Land, got the word and informed the crowd that their film actually didn’t win. It was, instead, Moonlight. A backstage gaffe had resulted in Beatty and Dunaway being handed the back-up Best Actress envelope. Beatty’s reaction had come from noticing that the card read “Emma Stone,” who had just taken Best Actress. Dunaway read the film’s name, but it was the wrong one. Though everything was corrected onstage and the La La Land personnel were very gracious, it was a jaw-dropping moment that still inspires memes based on the shocked faced in audience (we’re looking at you, Dwayne Johnson).
1. The Slap
E! Coverage of the Event (Uploaded to YouTube by E! News)
Pundits and fans will be unpacking what happened in 2022 for years. You know the story by now, but a brief recap. While onstage to present the Documentary Feature Oscar, Chris Rock made a wildly inappropriate joke directed at Jada Pinkett-Smith’s lack of hair. Pinkett-Smith, who has publicly discussed her struggle with alopecia, visibly rolled her eyes. Her husband, Best Actor nominee Will Smith, seemed to laugh, but seconds later mounted the stage and slapped Rock across the face. As a stunned Rock began to explain that it had been a joke, Smith twice shouted from his seat for Rock to “keep my wife’s name out of your [expletive] mouth.” Of course, Smith won Best Actor a few minutes later, and struggled with a speech that was obviously affected by the moment. Co-host Amy Schumer, who had been seen earlier in a Spider-Man costume, attempted to defuse the tension afterward by quipping, “I’ve been getting out of that Spider-Man costume. Did I miss anything? There’s like a different vibe in here.” Tiffany Haddish offered her a fist bump, and even Smith laughed.
Featured image: Shutterstock
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