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Oscars producer says changing Best Actor and Best Picture running order was "calculated risk"

Joaquin Phoenix presents the award for Best Actor at the Oscars 2021
Joaquin Phoenix presents the award for Best Actor at the Oscars 2021 (Image credit: Getty Images)

A producer behind the Oscars has spoken about this year's event, which, for the first time in the ceremony's long history, ended with the Best Actor statuette being awarded rather than Best Picture.

The result of the switcheroo has proven controversial, with the Oscars seemingly geared towards ending with Chadwick Boseman winning Best Actor instead of Anthony Hopkins. Boseman died from cancer in 2020 and the award would have marked a fitting tribute to the Black Panther actor.

ABC’s Rob Mills, executive vice president of unscripted and alternative entertainment at Walt Disney Television, spoke to Variety about the decision, describing the decision as a "calculated risk". 

"It wasn’t just the final categories, the whole show was mixed up," Mills said. "Screenplay, that usually comes in Act 5 or 6, one of the later acts. And best director was also very early. I think the point was, sometimes you watch the show and you feel like, ‘Gosh, I’ve seen this every year.’ So, it really was the ‘Wow, I really don’t know what’s coming next.'"

“It was not meant to end on somebody who was not present,” Mills continued. "It was a calculated risk, that I think still paid off because everybody was talking about it. Similarly, nobody wants the wrong envelope to happen, like it did three years ago, but everyone was talking about it. I think some people thought maybe they missed some awards. ‘Why is best picture early?’ or, ‘What’s happening, this is crazy,’ almost like, ‘How can this possibly happen? Best picture has to end it!’ Some people were upset, some people loved it and that was really the point that there was no apathy."

Boseman was widely expected to win the award for his performance in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. The actor previously won the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards for his portrayal of trumpet player Levee Green.

Despite not being present at the ceremony, the 83-year-old Hopkins – the oldest person to ever win Best Actor – posted his acceptance speech on Instagram the following morning and paid tribute to Boseman.

Also nominated in the Best Actor category were Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Gary Oldman (Mank), and Steven Yeun (Minari). Meanwhile, Nomadland went on to win Best Picture, and director Chloé Zhao won Best Director. 

For more from the Oscars, check out the Oscar 2021 winners list in full and the biggest Oscars talking points.

I'm the Entertainment Editor over here at GamesRadar+, bringing you all the latest movie and TV news, reviews, and features, plus I look after the Total Film and SFX sections and socials. I used to work at The Independent as a general culture writer before specializing in TV and film