As part of Sunday’s Oscars broadcast, in a bid to top the magical moment from last year when a bus full of unsuspecting tourists introduced us to Gary from Chicago, Jimmy Kimmel hustled a squad of celebrities armed with free concessions into a movie theater full of similarly unsuspecting normies. The crowd of A-listers, which included Margot Robbie, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Lupita Nyong’o and Mark Hamill to name a few, interrupted an early screening of Ava Duvernay’s A Wrinkle in Time to general shock and delight. Armie Hammer waved around a hot-dog cannon. Guillermo Del Toro carried a giant sub. And in the aftermath, Gal Gadot stated that the six-minute gag was “much better” than the Oscars themselves—which, true.
To find out what it was like to be in the room where it happened, Slate spoke to Ibba Armancas, a director and screenwriter and sword-fighting group alumna who attended the fated screening. No stranger to life’s plot twists, Armancas describes how she lost it when Miranda offered her some Sour Patch Kids, among many other fantastical events.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Rachelle Hampton: How did you end up at this special screening of A Wrinkle In Time?
Ibba Armancas: So I’ve been jonesing to see it. I’m a huge sci-fi nerd, I do geeky sci-fi stuff all the time, so I was talking about A Wrinkle In Time to one of my friends and she was like, “Oh, you know I got this invitation to go to this thing but I want to go to an Oscars party, so why don’t you go?” And I was like, yes, I get to see A Wrinkle in Time before everyone else! I actually reached out to a couple of my friends, but most wanted to go to Oscars parties. A lot of people are regretting that this morning.
That is incredible. Did you have to sign any kind of waiver or release form that indicated you might appear on TV?
Yeah, they told us they were shooting something for a commercial and part of me was like, I’ve never seen footage of an audience in a commercial in my life, outside of maybe the Scream movies. But they also said this wasn’t the final cut of the movie, so I figured they were actually just going to look at us and ask us afterwards how we felt. Like it might help them decide a cut or something. So they did tell us they were going to film us but they kind of gave us a B.S. excuse—which to be fair I totally bought.
What was your reaction when Jimmy Kimmel and his squad of celebrities burst in?
We were at the midpoint of the movie, and I think Oprah is midway through a line and they just pause, the screen flickers, and you see Jimmy Kimmel walking down the aisle with Gal Gadot and at first, my gut reaction was just like, oh, somehow lines have been crossed, someone has fucked up in a booth, and I want to know what Oprah’s going to say. Then he starts to come down the aisle, and you start to hear the reactions. And I look over and literally, he’s right next to us. I could’ve reached out, I’m right on the aisle. There’s a photo of me just sitting there chilling: If my elbow bumped out I would’ve touched him. But a part of me was like, okay, cool, Jimmy Kimmel’s here, Gal Gadot’s here, this is kind of neat—they’re not really part of this movie, so I wouldn’t have expected them, but if they want to stop in, cool we’ll all hang.
And then I look around and I’m like, that man is a beautiful usher, and then I’m like, no that man is Armie Hammer. And I’m like okay, chill, I’m still chill. But then I’m like, oh behind me that’s Mark Hamill that just bumped me and at this point I’m starting to ramp up in my reaction but then I see Lin-Manuel Miranda and I lose my shit because I’m a huge fan. And then I think Emily Blunt comes by and she has her little basket of snacks and she’s like, ‘You want a snack?’ And it’s Red Vines are on top and I’m not a big fan of Red Vines, so I’m kind of digging through this basket before reality reasserts, and I’m like I’m wasting this woman’s time with my quest for a snack I want. And so I’m just like whatever, gummy bears are fine.
By this point we’re seeing Lupita and everyone is like, “what is going on?” but also slowly figuring out what is going on. And it’s kind of rare because it’s an L.A. audience: Most of the people I chatted with had some affiliations with the industry so they are not going to be the regular flip-their-shit people. But everyone’s now flipping their shit and all the people are still coming in, they’re chilling, they’re chatting, they’re making jokes. You could see the Oscars audience on the screen, that was really cool—I’m seated across from Meryl Streep, that’s a great person to be seated across from.
And then it’s like oh, group photo or whatever. And so we all scooch towards the middle, and I kind of like get up next to Lin and I’m like, can I be here? And he’s like, “Yeah, totally you can be here, have some Sour Patch kids?” and I’m like, your taste in candy is immaculate, my friend. It was just a frickin’ incredible, magical moment and then at the end, they’re all like cool, gotta get back to winning awards and being seen by millions of people and I was like, cool gonna find out what Oprah was going to say.
Wow, that sounds incredible.
It was a baller-ass time.
Who were you most excited to see once you realized what was happening?
Man, that’s such a tough one. I generally kind of prefer the content creators. I mean everyone there is a content creator, but I think Lin-Manuel Miranda was definitely the person that I was like, I have so much admiration for you and you’re in this room and you’re so kind. I think Mark Hamill is a delight of a person, he’s very kind to his fans. And then Lupita of course, I just saw Black Panther and that movie is out of this fricking world, those were definitely the triumvirate of losing my shit.
Any other notable interactions with celebrities?
So a couple of ladies, my friend, and I were seated on the corner… and Lupita exited in our aisle. When she appeared my friend freaked out because she was like, “Where did she come from? She just manifested like a vision.” And we were all sitting there and as she went by, one of the girls in our group said, “Wakanda forever” and Lupita turns to our whole group and does the move and goes, “Wakanda forever,” and we’re just at that moment sitting with stars in our eyes and dreams of Black Panther technologies and vibranium and dancing in the sky.
So what was it like going back to watching the movie?
It was a little jarring, I’m not going to lie to you. It’s not like the moment the last celebrity tail feather left the room they were like, back on! They gave us a second. Apparently a lot of Red Vines had not been given out earlier so they were like, we’ve got extra Red Vines, who wants Red Vines? So they gave us a solid ten, fifteen minutes to cool our jets and chat.
It’s a really inspiring movie about love and all this other incredible stuff, but it’s such a different tone from this rabid surprise, and the movie was turning to a dark point too, and it’s kind of emotional. So that was a little hard. I’m going to need to see it again because it was like oh, my soul is in a different place right now. I’m trying to be with you, but it’s hard.