damien chazelle barry jenkins variety oscar
Gavin Bond for Variety

This editor’s letter first appeared in the March 1, 2017 issue of Variety.

A funny thing happened on the way to our post-Oscar issue.

As we do every year, we prearranged what we like to refer to as our “morning after” cover, where we photograph and interview an Academy Award winner in the early hours following Hollywood’s biggest show. This year, we booked “La La Land” auteur Damien Chazelle, betting that he’d take home the honor for best director. Predetermining our cover subject doesn’t come without risk. We always have a back-up plan just in case we guess wrong.

Well, we guessed right. But what we could not have foreseen was having the good fortune to land two rival Oscar contenders for our cover — highly unusual given the often outsized egos and self-congratulatory nature among Hollywood’s A-list talent.

In fact, it was Chazelle’s camp that suggested to us in the eleventh hour that their client be joined by “Moonlight” writer/director Barry Jenkins, given the wild turn of events when “La La Land” was mistakenly announced as best picture. We jumped at the chance to have these two young, extraordinary filmmakers sit down for an exclusive interview with awards editor Kristopher Tapley. Chazelle and Jenkins hadn’t spoken until they traded stories Monday morning and posed for pictures in the courtyard of El Cabrillo, a two-story Spanish-style condominium built in 1928 by movie mogul Cecil B. DeMille.

One thing that struck me as I sat in the Dolby Theatre watching the surreal climax of the show, and later at the after-party for “La La Land,” was the humility and humanity displayed by the film’s producers and studio backer, Lionsgate, when the Oscar was suddenly swept away by the actual winner, “Moonlight.”

The high stakes and cutthroat tactics enlisted during Hollywood’s annual award season have long rivaled those of hard-fought political campaigns. But this year’s race showed the entertainment community at its absolute best. This was not a case of winner-take-all, but rather — as our cover story hopefully and joyfully exemplifies — proof that contenders share similar dreams, struggles, and frailties, and in fact can show respect and a generosity of spirit toward one another, whether they win or lose.

Check out our joint cover below:

Gavin Bond for Variety

Barry Jenkins tweeted about his appearance on Variety’s cover Tuesday morning.

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