Five controversies that the Oscars probably wish never happened

The Oscars, a glamorous occasion meant to celebrate films and the people who make them, have been happening every year since 1929. Like any long-lasting event, these awards have courted their fair share of controversies, snubs and gaffes.

So, as we approach this year’s broadcast on March 12, let’s look back at the various blunders and slip-ups that have happened throughout the years.

Frank Capra winning an Oscar, left, at the 1939 Academy Awards. Credit: Academy Awards

A tale of two Franks (1933)

When announcing an award winner, you need to make sure you are clear about who won. If not, then things tend to go wrong. During the 1933 awards, presenter Will Rogers said, “Come on up and get it, Frank.”

Unfortunately there were two nominees named Frank. Frank Capra got up and went to accept the award for Lady for a Day, only to find out that it was for Frank Lloyd for Cavalcade.

In his autobiography, Capra wrote: “That walk back through applauding VIPs yelling ‘Sit down! Down in front! Sit down!’ was the longest, saddest, most shattering walk in my life. I wish I could have crawled under the rug like a miserable worm. When I slumped into my chair, I felt like one.”

David Niven trying his best to keep it together. Credit: Academy Awards

A peaceful streaker (1974)

As co-host of the 1974 Academy Awards, David Niven had to be ready for anything, but when it comes to streakers there is only so much you can do. As he was preparing to introduce Elizabeth Taylor, a nude man named Robert Opel ran onstage, flashed a peace sign and quickly darted off. 

After a couple minutes of laughter from the crowd, Niven eventually pulled himself together and said: “Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?”

In 1976, Opel campaigned to become President of the U.S.A using slogans such as “Nothing to Hide”. Unfortunately, his candidacy didn’t make it very far.

This opening act was so poorly planned that the Oscars got sued. Credit: Academy Awards

Rob Lowe is no Prince Charming (1989)

The 1989 Academy Awards started as a trainwreck and never recovered. The ceremony opened with Snow White, played by an unknown actor named Eileen Bowman, following a group of stars while singing a modified version of the song I Only Have Eyes For You. Then, an ensemble of coconuts started dancing to I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts which led to Snow White being introduced to Rob Lowe. All that sounds like a fever dream, but that’s just where the opening act started.

After the awards, Disney sued the Academy for copyright infringement; it took a decade for Lowe’s career to recover and Bowman had to sign a non-disclosure agreement before vanishing into obscurity.

Years later, when asked about the experience, Bowman said: “That number was 15 minutes long from start to end, and I remember looking at Rob Lowe, going: ‘It’s finally over!’”

Moonlight accepting their award after a major mix up with the winning envelope. Credit: Academy Awards

And the winner goes to … oh no (2017)

In the lead-up to the 2017 awards, the two frontrunners for Best Picture were La La Land, a musical about a struggling actress and a jazz musician who fall in love, and Moonlight, a coming-of-age story that follows a man grappling with his identity as a black male and his sexuality from his youth to adulthood.  

Before the winner for Best Picture was announced, you could see that something was wrong. Presenter Warren Beatty appeared to not want to read out the envelope that he was given, before his co-presenter Faye Dunaway, who thought this was all a joke, looked at the paper and announced the winner as La La Land.

As this happened the cast for La La Land came on stage and started to accept their awards, only for it to transpire that, in fact, Moonlight had won. It turned out that the presenters were given the Best Actress envelope by accident.

Will Smith smacks Cris Rock across his face at last years Academy Awards. Credit: Academy Awards

The Slap (2022)

Last year’s Academy Awards had the slap that was heard around the world. Chris Rock was preforming a bit of crowd work on the lead-up to the announcement of the Best Documentary nominees. He started his set poking fun at Javier Bardem and his wife, Penélope Cruz, who were both up for acting nominations, before making a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s, Rock said: ”Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2, I can’t wait to see it.”

Following the joke, Will Smith made his way onto the stage and slapped Rock across his face, then walked back to his seat and yelled from the crowed: “Keep my wife’s name out your ****ing mouth.” Later that night Smith accepted his award for Best Actor for role of tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams’ father, Richard Williams, in the film King Richard.

Following the incident Smith issued an apology to Rock saying: “I’ve reached out to Chris and the message that came back is that he’s not ready to talk and when he is, he will reach out. So, I will say to you, Chris: I apologise to you. My behaviour was unacceptable and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk.”

Recently Rock has responded to the slap saying: “Everybody knows. Yes, it happened. I got slapped a year ago – I got smacked by this mother****er,” Rock said. “And people are like, ‘Did it hurt?’ It still hurts. I’ve got Summertime ringing in my ears.”

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