Michelle Obama’s Oscar Moment: How the First Lady Became an Academy Presenter

The Best Picture announcement came via live satellite hook-up

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Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama announces the winner of the best picture Oscar via video link at the 85th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Calif., on Feb. 24, 2013.

There weren’t too many surprises from last night’s Oscars show, but there was one moment in the ceremony that was truly unexpected: although Jack Nicholson took the stage to announce the Best Picture winner—Argo, in case you missed it—he didn’t share the results. In fact, it was Michelle Obama, appearing via a live satellite feed, who opened the all-important envelope.

The First Lady’s involvement was kept secret up until the last moment — she wasn’t even included on the show production schedule, reports Deadline. The White House’s official statement on the event said that the First Lady, a big movie fan, was excited to take part in the presenting of such a significant honor. The idea to do the announcement via satellite came from Harvey Weinstein’s daughter Lily Weinstein, says Roger Friedman at ShowBiz411, after it became clear that there was no way the First Lady would make it to Los Angeles for the event; Sunday night was also the evening of the National Governors Association Dinner at the White House.

Many thing could have gone wrong in this complicated plan, but the show’s producers had a Plan B, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Although the chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers was in Washington to hand the Argo envelope to the First Lady—yes, even Michelle Obama has to find out the winner’s identity along with the viewers at home—there was a back-up envelope in a key location: as you can see in the video below, it was in Jack Nicholson’s hand.

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