The two accountants found at fault for botching the announcement of the winner for Best Picture at the Oscars on Sunday have been officially declared unfit for any future duty at the awards ceremony.
Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz have been blamed for the envelope mix-up that led to “La La Land” being declared best film before “Moonlight” was revealed as the actual winner.
Both are partners at the prestigious accountancy firm, Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC).
PwC has overseen the Oscar balloting process for 83 years. The company had earlier taken full responsibility for Sunday’s unprecedented gaffe, which stunned the star-studded Dolby Theatre crowd in Hollywood, as well as the live television audience of millions worldwide.
Chaos aux Oscars: “Moonlight” meilleur film et non pas “La La Land”, le cabinet d'audit s'excuse, par
verodupont</a> <a href="https://t.co/JMFVBQqzt7">https://t.co/JMFVBQqzt7</a> <a href="https://t.co/RExkFj6drt">pic.twitter.com/RExkFj6drt</a></p>— AFP USA (AFPusa) 27 février 2017
What is the procedure for announcing winners?
By tradition, two sets of sealed envelopes containing the names of all 24 Oscar winners are held by two PwC accountants on opposite sides of the stage.
They are handed out to the respective presenters as each category is announced. The two accountants are also supposed to memorise the winning names.
Meet Martha Ruiz and Brian Cullinan, CPAs at
PwC_LLP</a> in LA, who count the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Oscars?src=hash">#Oscars</a> votes: <a href="https://t.co/2D4H8WpR1U">https://t.co/2D4H8WpR1U</a> <a href="https://t.co/yHWIQDexJb">pic.twitter.com/yHWIQDexJb</a></p>— JournalofAccountancy (AICPA_JofA) 26 février 2016
PwC says Cullinan mistakenly handed best-picture presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway the back-up envelope for best actress in a leading role. It had been given to actress Emma Stone for “La La Land” a short time earlier.
Beatty hesitated before handing it to Dunaway, who immediately announced “La La Land” as the winner.
The “La La Land” cast and producers were already on stage giving acceptance speeches when the mistake was recognised. The producer of the musical, Jordan Horowitz, to interrupt the proceedings with the announcement that “Moonlight” had really won.
How did the mix-up happen?
It happened a few moments after Cullinan was found to have posted a now-deleted photo on Twitter of actress Emma Stone backstage after she won her Oscar.
Commentators describe it as a departure from official duties likely to have distracted him.
What the Academy says
A day after the incident, the Academy apologised to everyone affected, including Beatty and Dunaway. It said it would “determine what actions are appropriate going forward.”
A spokesperson for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences now says neither Cullinan nor Ruiz will be allowed to tabulate Oscar votes or hand out envelopes containing winners’ names in the future.
What they are saying
“Once the error occurred, protocols for correcting it were not followed through quickly enough by Mr Cullinan or his partner,” PwC said in a statement.