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Putting Chadwick Boseman's Oscars category last was 'calculated risk,' ABC says

If anything, the switch shows Academy Award producers really don't know the winners in advance, a network executive says.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
2 min read
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Many Oscar-watchers assumed Chadwick Boseman would win the best actor honor for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, his final film.

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The Academy Awards typically close with the best picture award. But this year it was the best actor award that ended the show -- with many speculating the Academy assumed the late Chadwick Boseman was going to win, and wanted emotional memories of him to end the night. That didn't happen -- Anthony Hopkins, who wasn't present at the ceremony, won, and the show shut down abruptly. Now an ABC executive has revealed the decision was indeed a "calculated risk" that didn't happen as planned.

"(The show) was not meant to end on somebody who was not present," Rob Mills, executive vice president of unscripted and alternative entertainment at Walt Disney Television, told Variety

While Mills didn't directly say "we thought Boseman had it," he did go on to praise the award-order change for shaking things up.

"It was a calculated risk, that I think still paid off because everybody was talking about it," Mills said. "Some people were upset, some people loved it and that was really the point that there was no apathy."

He also pointed out that Hopkins' win proves the Oscar producers don't know the winners ahead of time.

Boseman's brother, Derrick Boseman, said the family isn't upset about the loss. He told TMZ the family wishes the winner, Hopkins, all the best, as "I"m sure [Anthony] would if Chad won."

In an Instagram video posted early Monday, Hopkins honored Boseman's memory.   

"I am grateful to the Academy and thank you. I want to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman who was taken from us far too early, and again, thank you all very much," the actor said. "I really did not expect this, so I feel very privileged and honored."