Oscars 2017: Every crazy thing we saw backstage — including THAT flub
Not all of the suspense plays out onstage at the Academy Awards. USA TODAY watched the evening unfold from the wings of the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, where Hollywood insiders soothed nerves and swapped congratulatory hugs.
Let's get this party started
Oscars co-producer Jennifer Todd walks past host Jimmy Kimmel's dressing room backstage, pointing it out to a group that includes her husband, actor Chris Messina, and Captain Fantastic director/writer Matt Ross.
"Is he nervous?" Ross asks. "He didn't seem it," Todd says. After a brief tour of the stage, they head out to the red carpet.
Minutes later, Kimmel strolls past in a blue fleece sweatshirt emblazoned with a tiny Oscar statue logo, a backpack strapped on both shoulders. Talking intently, he heads to his dressing room, accompanied by an entourage of writers.
A calm Kimmel is in the orchestra pit, working on a skit with two stand-ins for Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. He's mock-conducting the orchestra to play them off the stage as Todd watches on a monitor.
"If you guys like that, I like that," Kimmel says happily. "Break a leg tonight — break multiple legs." He laughs. "OK, don't literally break anything."
He returns to his dressing room, beaming and giving good-luck high fives.
The champagne is flowing
Hailee Steinfeld walks past, holding her dress with one hand and swiping photos from the red carpet on her smartphone with the other. "She looks gorgeous," she tells a companion of one shot.
As she waits for an elevator, John Legend walks by with Chrissy Teigen. "Can we go straight to the green room?" he asks an attendant. Hand in hand, they pass Michael J. Fox and his wife Tracy Pollan. The sound of champagne corks popping can be heard as they enter.
A cart loaded with gleaming gold Oscars rolls by, accompanied by the sound of drilling as adjustments are made to the set.
Even the Oscar bathroom is icky
Adam Carolla heads into Kimmel's dressing room wearing a casual button-down shirt and re-emerges dressed for the show in a tux.
A resplendent Alicia Vikander swans past best supporting actor nominee Lucas Hedges (for Manchester by the Sea) on her way to the green room. Her train is so long that one of two women accompanying her nearly walks on it but pulls back in time, sighing in relief.
But it's not all glamour backstage. Dakota Johnson heads into the unisex bathroom with a female friend.
"Phew!" says Johnson as she walks out in her beautiful yellow dress, passing by Javier Bardem. "That is so gnarly. Can we get a candle in here?"
Meanwhile, Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic) leans against the wall, surveying the scene with a glass of wine and a program for the show in hand. He looks calm. "Why not?" the best actor nominee says. "I have nothing to worry about."
Lots of love for Meryl
Best actress nominee Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins) is parked by a wall with her husband, Don Gummer. They're having a private conversation as a security guard has the sole job of guiding people away from stepping on her dress.
As they're going through the program, Shirley MacLaine comes over to kiss them both. An assistant passes by and asks people to take their seats. The show is about to start.
Streep is people-watching as Matt Damon heads to the green room. Kate McKinnon walks by and calls out, "You are gorgeous" to Streep. Faye Dunaway stops by and introduces herself. "I so admire you," Streep tells her. Dunaway summons a photographer to take a picture. "Send me a copy!" she says.
As Streeps passes Kimmel's dressing room on her way to her seat in the auditorium, the assembled writers burst into applause. She blushes and keeps walking.
'Best show ever!'
Justin Timberlake's backup band walks by chanting, "We're going to the Oscars! We're going to the Oscars!"
"Yes, we are going to the Oscars!" says Janelle Monáe.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson joins the entire cast of writers as Kimmel emerges from his dressing room. They carry out their nightly Jimmy Kimmel Live pre-show ritual, screaming "Best show ever! Best show ever!" — with Johnson enthusiastically yelling along.
"It's not really going to be the best show ever," Kimmel jokes in a monotone voice, a smile on his face as he heads to the stage.
And just like that, Mahershala Ali has an Oscar
Vikander, the first presenter of the night, rests on a chair backstage, bopping her head (and massive diamond necklace) to Timberlake's Can't Stop the Feeling! The staff confirms that she has the right envelope and she hits the stage.
Jason Bateman walks past and gives a loud "Shhhh ..." even though no one is talking. McKinnon joins him and they prepare to present.
Newly annointed best supporting actor Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) makes his way backstage, seemingly stunned. A hyper Timberlake gives him a big hug and a "Congratulations, man!"
Timberlake bounds over to the green room, saying out loud to no one in particular, "Just trying to have some fun here, people."
"Man, you really killed it," someone yells out as the singer heads back to his seat.
She'll go far
An exhuberant Auli'i Cravalho receives her first review for her performance of Moana's How Far I'll Go from none other than Monáe, who beams and tells her, "That was amazing."
"Wait, did I miss my moment?" Taraji P. Henson jokes, watching the dancers. "Did my stand-in make it?"
Kevin O'Connell, part of the team that nabs best achievement in sound mixing for Hacksaw Ridge, gives a touching tribute to his late mother when he finally wins with his 21st nomination. One of the movie's stars, Vince Vaughn, claps heartily backstage when the award is announced and shakes O'Connell's hand. He can't get over it, even after O'Connell leaves. Hands shoved in his pockets, Vaughn says, "Twenty-one times. Twenty-one times, that's just crazy."
"And I love that he was wearing sneakers like a gentleman. It's like, 'After 21 nominations, I'm going to be wearing sneakers, dammit.' "
Viola Davis is ready to get comfy
MacLaine and Charlize Theron are quite the instant friends as they ready to present best foreign language film. Theron is protective of the 82-year-old actress, asking her if she wants to go over the script one more time, and MacLaine repeats the pronunciation of director/writer Asghar Farhadi's name (The Salesman). As the two watch the best supporting actress nominees, Theron puts her arm around MacLaine, who remarks, "She was so good" when Nicole Kidman is shown for Lion.
When supporting actress winner Viola Davis (Fences) comes backstage, Theron keeps MacLaine out of the way of the crush and is the first to hug Davis, saying, "Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Seriously, oh, my God."
After winning her first Oscar, Davis sits deep in the wings as a stylist pulls off her high heels and replaces them with an appropriately red pair of closed-toe shoes with Velcro straps. After Davis stands up, sweeps her dress down to cover the shoes and walks on, one of the show minders remarks, "That has to be an Oscar first."
"She just wants to be comfortable," the stylist says.
A 'La La Land' reunion
Seth Rogen is cooling his heels backstage, wearing a pair of glowing white sneakers for an upcoming Back to the Future skit. He's aware that everyone is staring at his feet, especially when a stylist tucks his tuxedo pants into the high tops, causing him to laugh.
During a commercial break, Kimmel hustles back to his dressing room to change. As he walks in, staffers ask, "Is it OK to clap?"
"Too early for that," says Kimmel, but he does allow fist bumps.
Heading into the green room, Teigen points out to her husband, "Your best friend is behind you, John." Legend looks back and sees his La La Land co-stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. The two men exchange a power handshake.
"John drops your name any chance he gets," Teigen tells Gosling.
When Rogen heads back to his seat, now wearing black shoes, someone asks, "What happened to the shoes?"
"They took them back," he says.
Chilling in the wings, Streep laughs as she watches Kimmel make President Trump Twitter jokes. She startles when she hears "Coming up, Meryl Streep!" during the commercial break, thinking she's missed her cue.
"What, what?" she says. "It has happened before." Her co-presenter Bardem laughs. "That was a moment," he says.
Afterward, Streep and husband Don stand next to Gosling and Stone to watch Legend's City of Stars and Audition (The Fools Who Dream) medley, Don's arm around her as she sways back and forth.
When La La Land cinematographer Linus Sandgren wins, Stone stomps her feet and squeals out loud. "I am so happy. So happy." She and Gosling run to the wings and are the first to congratulate Sandgren as he comes offstage.
'Moonlight' has a moment
After their skit, Damon and Affleck exit the stage and walk over to their producing partner Todd, who is also producing the awards show. "That killed," she tells them.
"The show's going great," Affleck says. "It's a little long," she says. "That's OK if it's long, if everyone's loving it," Damon says.
Affleck and Damon are the first to greet Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, best adapted screenplay winners for Moonlight.
"I'm feeling really good now," Jenkins says, Oscar in hand. "I just got hugged by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck."
Welcome to the best actress club
Damien Chazelle is unfailingly polite, even after winning his best director Oscar, the youngest to do so at age 32. He turns to presenter Halle Berry and says, "Well, it was nice to meet you."
He makes his way to the thank-you cam, then says hello to Todd. "Despite my nerves, this has been a really great night."
As Stone wins best actress for La La Land, last year's winner Brie Larson watches Stone's speech, hands folded beneath her chin, tears welling up in her eyes. "I've just got to hug her," she says.
When Stone walks backstage, she grabs Larson, they embrace and real tears roll down both their faces.
Finally, Larson asks, "Do you want to go?" Stone, in shock, stares at her Oscar. Asked if she wants to say anything on the thank-you cam, she says, "I really can't think right now."
USA TODAY's Bryan Alexander and Carly Mallenbaum give their observations on the Oscar best picture mixup. Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY
'La La Land' wins it all — or so it seems
The night's true drama kicks in when La La Land filmmakers take the stage to accept best picture. The accountant from PriceWaterhouseCoopers jumps up and says, "He (presenter Warren Beatty) took the wrong envelope!" and goes running onstage. Craziness breaks out. No one knows how Beatty got a best actress envelope; Stone later tells reporters in the media room that she has been holding her envelope the entire time.
"Oh, my God. Moonlight won, Moonlight won," a stagehand says, her hands on her head.
The Moonlight filmmakers pour backstage, with Jenkins holding the Oscar and muttering, "Oh, my God, oh, my God." Everyone looks befuddled.
"I feel so weird," Ali says. "Now, that was awkward." He runs into Gosling, who is smiling in spite of it all, and they hug.
Chazelle keeps his game face. "That was weird," he says.
Security is looking for Beatty, who had both envelopes. There's much confusion, because Oscar staffers carefully check presenters before they walk out, to make sure they have the right envelope in hand.
"What just happened?" says Kimmel, walking back to his dressing room in shock.
"I think for the rest of my life, I'm going to be asked about this," he says. "And I'm trying to remember the details correctly. My guess is it's going to be operator error. I don't know anything."
Later, he adds, "I really should go speak to Warren ... They should figure out a way to give mini-Oscars to La La Land."
Carolla, representing the writers, gives a speech backstage praising Kimmel's show. "In a town where no one roots for anyone, we all root for Jimmy," he says.
There are shouts of "Best show ever! Best show ever!"