Let it never be said that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (for that is its full name) is immune to gaffes. Every year, the Oscars take place, and for the most part, the ceremony goes smoothly. However, every so often, a ceremony is interrupted by a mistake or an off-script moment that was never meant to happen, but that enhances proceedings to no end anyway due to being infinitely more entertaining. Such was the case this year, so to commemorate that iconic event, we thought we’d run through the 10 biggest mistakes in Oscars history. We’re not talking snubs here; these are genuine bloopers.
1. Will Smith slaps Chris Rock, 2022
Well, let’s get the big and obvious one out of the way first, shall we? At the 2022 Oscars ceremony, comedian Chris Rock made a rather off-colour joke about Jada Pinkett-Smith’s hair. Pinkett-Smith suffers from alopecia, a fact that has given her endless anxiety throughout her life, so her husband, Will Smith, alighted the stage and punched Rock in retaliation. There’s been endless debate about whether this moment was scripted (it wasn’t), but it has led to Smith’s resignation from the Academy. Oops.
2. David Niven is interrupted by a streaker, 1974
To call Robert Opel “a streaker” might be somewhat unkind. Opel was a gay rights advocate and actor in his own right, and to raise a little controversy, he ran naked across the stage as David Niven introduced co-host Elizabeth Taylor at the 1974 Oscars. Niven’s cutting remark has gone down in history; he commented that the only laugh Opel would ever get was by “stripping off and showing his shortcomings”. Some say this was staged, but either way, it was very memorable indeed.
3. Jennifer Lawrence trips, 2013
Jennifer Lawrence has built a reputation for herself as a relatable, down-to-earth starlet, and whether that’s true or a carefully constructed persona, she certainly reinforced that reputation at the 2013 Oscars. While collecting an award for the underrated Silver Linings Playbook, Lawrence tripped up the stairs thanks to a long and flowing gown. She managed to turn the event to her advantage, commenting that everyone else in the room was simply standing because they “feel bad that I fell”. Go J-Law.
4. Sam Smith gets it wrong, 2016
While accepting an Oscar for Best Original Song at 2016’s Academy ceremony, Sam Smith mistakenly claimed that “no openly gay man [has] won an Oscar”. Smith thought they were quoting from a speech by Ian McKellen, but they were wrong. Although only a small number of openly gay movie professionals have won Oscars, they’re still out there, and Dustin Lance Black, winner of the 2008 Best Original Screenplay award for Milk, quickly set the record straight on Twitter.
5. La La Land doesn’t win, 2017
Just one year after Smith’s gaffe, another mistake was made during the presentation of the Best Picture award. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were presenting the award, and they were handed an envelope that contained La La Land as the Best Picture winner, but this turned out to be wrong; the award actually went to Barry Jenkins’ rather excellent Moonlight. Suffice it to say that those responsible were indeed held responsible, and a mistake like this isn’t likely to happen again.
6. John Travolta’s mistake, 2014
How John Travolta still has a presence in Hollywood is something of a mystery, especially after the mistake he made at the 2014 Oscar ceremony. Introducing Frozen singer Idina Menzel, he somehow managed to mangle her name as “Adele Dazeem”, leading to consternation and jeers from the assembled crowd. Menzel got her own back in 2015, when she introduced John Travolta as “Glom Gazingo”. We’re still laughing about this one to this very day.
7. Greer Garson’s speech, 1943
This one’s not a blooper so much as a social faux pas, but we’re including it on the list anyway. In 1943, Garson was accepting her Best Actress award for Mrs Miniver, and she managed to make her speech last for around seven minutes (although only around four minutes of the speech survives today). There’s a good reason that winners are today told to keep their speeches to 45 seconds at most, although plenty of actors have breached that rule.
8. The show must not go on, 1959
Back in 1959, a then-on-fire Jerry Lewis was compering the show when it ended ahead of schedule. Left with 20 minutes to fill, Lewis, as a consummate comedian, did what he knows how to do best: he improvised. Cue cringeworthy dance-offs involving Clark Gable, lengthy talks with the orchestra musicians, and audience singalongs that must have felt just as depressing to the audience as they did to Lewis and the actors present that night.
9. Jan Chapman is very much alive, 2017
Whoever made this mistake should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Each year, the Oscars features an “In Memoriam” segment, which remembers departed industry pros and stars. That year, late designer Janet Patterson was due to be remembered, but the In Memoriam segment instead included producer Jan Chapman, who is very much still with us. Chapman described the incident as “devastating” and said she’d already urged the Academy to ensure it was the right photo.
10. James Cameron quotes his own movie, 1998
Alright, so perhaps we can cut James Cameron a little slack here, but this moment was no less cringeworthy for its earnestness. When accepting a Best Director award for Titanic in 1998, Cameron quoted…well, Titanic. He closed his speech by shouting “I’m the king of the world!”, which is a famous line delivered by Leonardo di Caprio in the movie. The reaction was less than enthusiastic, but hey – Cameron still has some of the highest-grossing movies of all time under his belt, so what do we know?