Advertisement

19 Infamous Oscars Scandals And Controversies That Make Me Wish They Had Twitter A Hundred Years Ago

The Oscars are meant to celebrate achievements in film, but sometimes, the drama that unfolds during or around the ceremony is way more intense than anything in the award-winning movies.

Here are 19 major Oscars scandals and controversial moments from throughout the years:

1.At the 2022 Academy Awards, host Chris Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith's shaved head.

chris on stage gesturing towards the Smiths in the audience. Text on image says "Jada, I love ya! G.I. Jane 2, can't wait to see it!"
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences / Via youtube.com

Moments later, her husband, Will Smith, infamously got onstage and slapped Chris across the face. Later that night, Will took home the Best Actor award.

Will slaps Chris onstage
Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images

Watch the full clip below, with this part starting at the 1:05 mark:

Four months later, Will addressed the incident in a YouTube video. He said, "I've reached out to Chris, and the message that came back is that he is not ready to talk — and when he is, he will reach out... I will say to you, Chris: I apologize to you. My behavior was unacceptable, and I'm here whenever you're ready to talk... I spent the last three months replaying and understanding the nuances and the complexities of what happened in that moment. I can say to all of you, there is no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment...to handle a feeling of disrespect or insults."

In her memoir Worthy, Jada said, "I thought, ‘This is a skit.' ... I was like, ‘There’s no way that Will hit him. It wasn’t until Will started to walk back to his chair that I even realized it wasn’t a skit... We had been living separate lives and were there as family, not as husband and wife. But when I hear Will yell 'wife' in the chaos of the moment, an internal shift of 'Oh shit...I am his wife!' happens instantly."

2.While presenting the Best Picture Award at the 2017 Oscars, Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty accidentally announced the winner as La La Land instead of Moonlight.

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty on stage announcing a Best Picture winner at the Oscars
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences / Via youtube.com

However, midway through the cast and crews' acceptance speech, producer Jordan Horowitz was reportedly shown an envelope with the correct winner's title, so he interrupted the speech to ensure Moonlight got their big moment.

Two scenes at an award show, one with Fred Berger speaking and another with Jordan Horowitz correcting a Best Picture announcement
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences / Via youtube.com

It turned out that someone had given Warren the wrong envelope, so he and Faye accidentally read the Best Actress winner, which Emma Stone had been awarded immediately prior.

Behind the scenes, Warren showed director Barry Jenkins the correct envelope so that he could be confident his film Moonlight was the true winner.

Here's the full clip:

3.When Billy Crystal hosted the Oscars in 2012, his opening included a pre-filmed skit parodying the Best Picture nominees. In the video, he played Sammy Davis Jr. in blackface.

Justin Bieber, Billy Crystal in blackface as Sammy Davis Jr, and Billy Crystal as himself sitting together
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences / Via youtube.com

He'd played the singer in a similar manner several times on Saturday Night Live in the '80s.

On social media, many viewers rightfully criticized the host and the Academy.

Here's the clip:

4.At the 2000 Oscars, Angelina Jolie won Best Supporting Actress. In her acceptance speech, she said she was "so in love with" her older brother, James Haven.

Angelina smiles on stage, expressing gratitude in a heartfelt speech
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences / Via youtube.com

Later in the night, as they were being photographed ahead of the Vanity Fair afterparty, Angelina and James briefly kissed. It was actually their second red carpet kiss, following a moment from the Golden Globes a few months earlier (which is pictured below).

Angelina and James kissing, one holding a Golden Globe award, at an award show event
Ron Galella, Ltd. / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

A few months later, Angelina told Entertainment Weekly that it was nothing "more than brotherly" between her and James. She said, "My parents really loved that moment, and that’s what will always matter."

A lot of people made incest jokes about them, including Jay Leno. So, when Angelina appeared on The Tonight Show, she confronted him about it.

She said, "I’ve been waiting for this. When somebody says stuff about your family, it’s just not OK. And my mom’s just not been OK about the stuff about me and my brother. … Just do me a favor and read these things you’ve said. I highlighted the two that she really appreciated — it made her sick."

Jay read the two jokes she'd highlighted and brought on a piece of paper. When he tried to defend himself, she interrupted him and said, "No, you’re not the only one, and it’s good of you to jump in with everybody else. Sometimes it’s good to just stand up for something."

Watch the full video of Angelina's acceptance speech below:

5.During the 2013 Oscars, host Seth MacFarlane performed an ill-received opening number called "We Saw Your Boobs," in which he named actors who'd done nude scenes. He also mentioned Scarlett Johansson's nude picture leaks.

Seth MacFarlane performs at an event wearing a formal suit and bow tie; text overlays reference a comedic song
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences / Via youtube.com
Seth sings about seeing Scarlett Johansson's breasts on his phone
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences / Via youtube.com

As he sang, the camera occasionally panned to the women he named, capturing their uncomfortable reactions.

Naomi Watson's face falls as her name is sung, and Charlize Theron covers her face and looks down
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences / Via youtube.com

Here's the full video:

6.In 1974, as host David Niven was introducing presenter Elizabeth Taylor, a completely nude streaker ran across the stage behind him, threw a peace sign, then disappeared.

the streaker runs behind David and throws a peace sign
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences / Via youtube.com
David in tuxedo on stage; text overlay contains comedic monologue about streaker's antics
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences / Via youtube.com

The streaker, Robert Opel, later posed in the press room. He said, "It just occurred to me that it might be an educative thing to do. You know, people shouldn’t be ashamed of being nude in public. Besides, it’s a hell of a way to launch a career."

Afterwards, some viewers had a conspiracy theory that the streaking had been a planned publicity stunt, especially with the host's quick, witty reaction.

However, producer Jack Haley Jr. said there was "no way" it could've been planned. He told the New Yorker, "David wouldn’t have stood for that."

On The Mike Douglas Show, Robert said that he snuck through security using a press pass he got from a friend. He waited around backstage and acted helpful. Then, at the start of the broadcast, he ducked behind some scenery and stripped off his jumpsuit. He remained hidden until the final envelope of the night.

Here's the full clip:

7.When host Will Rogers announced the Best Director winner at the 1934 Academy Awards, he called out, "Come up and get it, Frank!" So, Lady for a Day director Frank Capra began making his way to the stage — but Will had actually meant Cavalcade director Frank Lloyd. The walk back to his seat was "the longest, saddest, most shattering walk in [his] life."

Franklin Hansen, Will Rogers, and Frank Lloyd in black-tie attire laugh joyfully at an awards ceremony
Franklin Hansen, Will Rogers, and Frank Lloyd in black-tie attire laugh joyfully at an awards ceremony
Frank Capra in patterned suit with tie leaning on railing, looking thoughtful. Vintage film still
Frank Capra in patterned suit with tie leaning on railing, looking thoughtful. Vintage film still

New York Times Co. / Getty Images, Bettmann / Bettmann Archive / Via Getty

In his autobiography The Name Above the Title, he wrote, "I wished I could have crawled under the rug like a miserable worm. When I slumped in my chair, I felt like one. All my friends at the table were crying… Sneaking out of the Biltmore, shame soured into bitter, galling anger. I recalled reading Oscar articles to Mama, as she blessed me and cried for joy; sending clippings to my brothers and sisters about my four nominations — which they innocently mistook as winning four awards, and sent back 'Bravo! Bravo!' letters. Big stupido — running up to get an Oscar dying with excitement, only to crawl back dying with shame."

8.At the 2003 Academy Awards, Halle Berry presented Adrien Brody with Best Actor. Onstage, he kissed her suddenly and unexpected, and she "just fucking went with it."

Adrien kisses Halle, she appears shocked
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences / Via youtube.com

Appearing on Watch What Happens Live in 2017, Halle said that, when Adrien kissed her, her initial reaction was, “What the fuck is happening?”

She said, "I don’t know [if it was a good kiss]. I was too focused on ‘What the fuck is going on right now?’”

Here's the full clip:

9.In 2023, Andrea Riseborough was nominated for Best Actress for To Leslie, which is an indie movie, but her campaign had some people calling for her nom to be rescinded. Mary McCormack, who's married to the movie's director, Michael Morris, reportedly "emailed and called tons of members of the Academy’s actors branch, begging them to see the little-watched alcoholic drama and post online about Riseborough’s searing performance," according to Puck.

Andrea on a red carpet wearing a patterned outfit with a ruffled collar and bow tie
Cindy Ord / Getty Images for Vanity Fair

In a statement, Academy CEO Bill Kramer said, "The Academy has determined the activity in question does not rise to the level that the film’s nomination should be rescinded. However, we did discover social media and outreach campaigning tactics that caused concern. These tactics are being addressed with the responsible parties directly."

The Best Actress award ultimately went to Michelle Yeoh.

10.Mary Pickford's first adult role as Norma Besant in Coquette was poorly received, as was the film itself. So, she invited the five Board of Judges members (who chose Oscar winners at the time) to have tea at her legendary Beverly Hills estate, Pickford. In exchange, they named her Best Actress at the 1928–29 Academy Awards.

Three men in tuxes present Mary with her Oscar
Fpg / Getty Images

Her obvious bribery resulted in protests. So, as a result, the Academy changed the rules so that all members can vote for who wins.

11.When Bette Davis turned town the titular role in Mildred Pierce, her longtime rival Joan Crawford jumped at the chance to take it. In 1946, she won her first and only Oscar for the role — and she famously accepted it from her bed.

Joan in bed holding an Oscar trophy, wearing a ruffled gown with floral detail
Bettmann / Bettmann Archive / Via Getty

She reportedly accepted the award from bed because she was "too nervous."

12.The very first person to decline their Oscar was screenwriter Dudley Nichols. He was an important figure in the formation of the Screen Writers Guild, the predecessor to the WGA, which sought to provide better protections for screenwriters. In 1935, studios began favoring Screen Playwrights Guild members over SWG members because their interests were more closely aligned. So, when Dudley won Best Original Screenplay in 1936, he declined it on the grounds that "to accept it would be to turn [his] back on nearly 1,000 members of the Screen Writers Guild."

Black and white photo of Dudley wearing a suit and tie
John Springer Collection / Corbis via Getty Images

Eventually, the National Labor Relations Board had to mediate between the SWG, the SPG, and the studios. They ruled in the SWG's favor, essentially dissolving the rival guild.

Several years later, Dudley finally accepted his Oscar.

13.In 1973, Marlon Brando won Best Actor for The Godfather, but he famously sent activist and National Native American Affirmative Image Committee president Sacheen Littlefeather to decline the award on his behalf.

Sacheen Littlefeather declines Marlon Brando's Oscar, citing the film industry's treatment of Indigenous people in the US
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences / Via youtube.com

Both Sacheen and Marlon received a lot of backlash from the press and their peers. However, it was, of course, much worse for Sacheen. For example, she was plagued by false rumors that she wasn't really Apache, and Playboy dug up previously rejected pictures she'd posed for and published a three-page spread.

In a 2022 interview with the Academy, she said, "[John Wayne] did not like what I was saying up at the podium. So, he came forth in a rage to physically assault and take me off the stage. And he had to be restrained by six security men in order for that not to happen... [Afterwards] a lot of cheap shots were thrown at me. And there were a lot of rumors, gossip columnists that were trying to make it something that it was not. And I was boycotted from every talk show while people talked about me. I could not and was not allowed to speak for myself. It was as though I was silenced."

In 2022, the Academy released a formal apology to Sacheen. David Rubin, the then-president of the Academy, wrote, "The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified. The emotional burden you have lived through and the cost to your own career in our industry are irreparable. For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration."

Here's the full clip of Sacheen's speech:

14.In 1940, Hattie McDaniel won Best Supporting Actress for Gone with the Wind, making her the first Black Oscar winner. However, the Academy Awards were held at the Ambassador Hotel, which was segregated, so producer David O. Selznick had to get special permission for her to be allowed in. She was still forced to sit in the back of the room, separated from her white costars.

Hattie accepting her award
Bettmann / Bettmann Archive / Via Getty

After she died, she left the statuette to Howard University. Sadly, it went missing in the 1970s and was never found.

However, in 2023, the Academy finally gave the university a replacement of Hattie's Oscar.

15.When the Academy announced its 2015 nominees, all 20 of the acting nominees were white. In response, April Reign created the #OscarsSoWhite movement to call out the egregious lack of diversity. She tweeted, "#OscarsSoWhite they asked to touch my hair." By lunchtime, the hashtag was trending.

April in a tank top and blazer smiling, seated indoors
Valerie Macon / AFP via Getty Images

Selma director Ava DuVernay told the New York Times, "It was a catalyst for a conversation about what had really been a decades-long absence of diversity and inclusion."

April said, "It could’ve been a bunch of different things — there were no women in the directors category, there were no visibly disabled people nominated — so #OscarsSoWhite has never just been about race. It’s about the underrepresentation of all marginalized groups."

Then, in 2016, the acting nominees were once again all white. Many celebrities, including Lupita Nyong'o and George Clooney, joined fans in calling out the Academy. Some, including Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Spike Lee, boycotted the Oscars that year.

Jada, Will, and Spike at an event
Charley Gallay / Via Getty

April told the New York Times, "One time you could call a fluke, two times feels like a pattern."

Then-Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said, "We had already been working toward increasing diversity and inclusion, but we went from first to fourth gear."

In response, the Academy announced their plans to double "the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020."

In a statement, Cheryl said, "The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up. These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”

16.The now-defunct Best Motion Picture Story award went to Robert Rich for The Brave One in 1957. However, he wasn't at the ceremony. The producers claimed he was a former GI they met in Germany and that they had no idea what happened to him after they bought the story from him. The Academy looked and looked for Robert. Even Life magazine published a drawing of what he might look like. But no one could find him — and that's because he wasn't a real person.

Dalton Trumbo in glasses and bow tie sitting at a desk with a typewriter, looking at the camera
Bettmann / Bettmann Archive / Via Getty

In real life, "Robert Rich" was actually Dalton Trumbo, a well-known screenwriter who'd recently been imprisoned as a member of the Hollywood Ten. His name was on the Hollywood blacklist, a list of people who were barred from working in entertainment for alleged sympathy for or membership in the Communist Party.

Dalton kept the ruse up for two years. He even submitted this poem to Life: "Come back, Robert Rich, wherever you are / Return so the ghost can be shriven. / Do you live on the moon? Do you live on a star? / Is that where your legends are scriven?"

The situation became a PR crisis for the Academy, who ended up dropping their rule that barred blacklisted creatives from awards nominations.

17.When Marisa Tomei won Best Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinny in 1993, it sparked a decades-long conspiracy theory that presenter Jack Palance had called her name by accident. However, this has been disproven.

Marisa in sleeveless gown smiling, holding an Oscar award
Steven D Starr / Corbis via Getty Images

Her win was a surprise for several reasons. The competition was stacked, she was a newcomer, and her movie was a comedy rather than the typical "Oscar bait."

In 2017, Marisa told the New York Times, "It made me quite ashamed, actually. But on the other hand, it’s a load of [expletive]. I think it had to do more with the role that I played — that it was comedic and that it wasn’t upper class. I think it was more of a classist thing, frankly."

She went on to be nominated for Best Supporting Actress two more times, in 2002 and 2009.

18.In 1938, Alice Brady wasn't able to accept her Best Supporting Actress award because she was stuck at home with a broken ankle, so a "mystery man" accepted it on her behalf. However, both the man and the Oscar disappeared after that night — or so the story goes.

Vintage black and white still of Alice wearing a period costume with a collared dress
Universal History Archive / Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The story fascinated Olivia Rutigliano since she was 12, so, as a college student, she decided to crack the case.

While studying at the University of Pennsylvania, she was able to study cases of stolen Oscars thanks to a research grant. An email to the Academy revealed that Alice's case had quietly been solved a decade prior.

The "mystery man" actually turned out to be Henry King, who directed Alice in In Old Chicago, the film she was being awarded for. Following the afterparties, Alice's colleagues gave the Oscar to her, and she had to take it to the Academy to be engraved herself.

However, Alice died the year after her Oscar win, and the award seemingly disappeared sometime after that.

Several years after her search began, Olivia, then a PhD student at Columbia, decided to find the missing Oscar. Eventually, she found out that a Dallas auction house had sold it, though they'd wrongly labeled it as a "replacement" of Alice's original Oscar. However, Olivia was unable to get in touch with the anonymous buyer to tell them the truth.

In 2018, she told Mother Jones, "My plan is to keep talking about Alice Brady’s not-stolen Oscar and hope that the message gets to them."

19.And finally, When Chill Wills was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Alamo in 1960, he hired publicist W. S. "Bow-Wow" Wojciechowicz. The press agent put out a series of misguided ads, starting with a published list of every Academy member who'd gotten the actor's vote in the past.

Chill in a cowboy hat plays guitar, expressing joy, in a black and white vintage film still
Hulton Archive / Getty Images

The second ad listed every member of the Academy alongside a note from Chill, which said, "Win, lose or draw, you're all my cousins and I love you all.''

In response, Groucho Marx placed his own ad proclaiming, "Dear Mr. Chill Wills, I am delighted to be your cousin, but I voted for Sal Mineo."

The final and most controversial ad in Chill's Oscar campaign placed his picture over the rest of The Alamo cast. It said, "We of the Alamo cast are praying harder than the real Texans prayed for their lives in the Alamo for Chill Wills to win the Oscar as the best supporting actor. Cousin Chill's acting was great. [Signed] Your Alamo cousins.''

At the Oscars, Bob Hope joked, "I didn't know there was any campaigning until I saw my maid wearing a Chill Wills button."

Chill ultimately lost to Peter Ustinov.