Al Pacino Says Awkward Best Picture Announcement Was a Deliberate ‘Choice’

Rich Polk/Variety via Getty Images
Rich Polk/Variety via Getty Images

When Al Pacino got up onstage at the Academy Awards on Sunday night, he dropped the name of the best picture winner so casually that many in the room were unsure that he’d done it.

“This is the time for the last award of the evening, and it’s my honor to present it,” he told the audience. “Ten wonderful films were nominated, but only one will take the award for Best Picture.” Rather than rattle off the list of nominees, Pacino then dove straight for the envelope.

“And, uh, I have to go to the envelope for that, and I will. Here it comes,” he said, fiddling with its clasp. “And my eyes see Oppenheimer.”

Lukewarm, halting applause gave way to a standing ovation only as Pacino said “yes, yes” and the film’s score filled the room. Before producers Emma Thomas and Charles Roven had even finished delivering their acceptance speeches, the awkward moment had gone viral on social media. “Al Pacino just going ‘uh yeah Oppenheimer’ lmaooo perfect ending no notes,” one X user tweeted.

But Pacino clarified the situation on Monday, saying in a statement that the move to skip straight to the winner had been a deliberate instruction from the ceremony’s organizers.

“There seems to be some controversy about my not mentioning every film by name last night before announcing the best picture award,” Pacino said, according to Variety. “I just want to be clear it was not my intention to omit them, rather a choice by the producers not to have them said again since they were highlighted individually throughout the ceremony. I was honored to be a part of the evening and chose to follow the way they wished for this award to be presented.”

The 83-year-old went on to acknowledge that “being nominated is a huge milestone in one’s life and to not be fully recognized is offensive and hurtful.

“I say this as someone who profoundly relates with filmmakers, actors and producers,” he continued, “so I deeply empathize with those who have been slighted by this oversight and it’s why I felt it necessary to make this statement. ”

Molly McNearney, an Oscars producer, also characterized it as “a creative decision” in a post-show interview with Variety, stressing that organizers were concerned the show was running down to the wire.

“People just want to hear who wins, and they’re pretty ready for the show to be over. At least that’s what we anticipated,” she said. “So, we did not give him a clip package. We did not give him nominations to read. I apologize if our decision to not have to read through all those nominations put him in a tough spot.”

McNearney did note, however, that Pacino’s choice not to use the traditional “and the Oscar goes to” flourish had confused the crowd. “But listen, that’s the excitement of live television,” she quipped. “You never know what you’re going to get exactly!”

Host Jimmy Kimmel was among those who clowned on Pacino’s omission, joking to Kelly Ripa after that it seemed like he’d “never watched an awards show before,” adding, “God bless him.”

Also complicating matters behind the scenes might have been the notable absence of Michelle Pfeiffer, who was originally meant to present best picture alongside Pacino, her Scarface co-star. (Reunions were a recurring theme of the evening, with Twins and Junior alums Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger presenting, as well as Beetlejuice co-stars Michael Keaton and Catherine O’Hara.)

A rep for Pfeiffer confirmed to USA Today on Monday that the actress had been kept on the East Coast by her schedule, and that the Oscars had been made aware of the conflict last week.

So Pacino, flying solo, announced best picture in a way only he could. And if nothing else, his performance wrangled the only smile of the evening out of old pal (and TheGodfather Part II co-star) Robert De Niro.

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