A veteran stage hand revealed that the two Oscars accountants hired by PriceWaterhouseCooper reportedly “froze” right as the wrong movie for Best Picture was announced. Now, the PwC duo that flubbed the Oscars Best Picture envelopes needs their own security to protect them. What is the latest information on the most shocking event to ever occur at the Academy Awards and will the duo be back to do a better job next year?
According to Gary Natoli, who spoke to The Wrap, the evidence is mounting that that the PwC experts not only knew a mistake was made, but they reacted slowly to resolve this issue. They were like deer in the heads lights.
“I’m sure they’re very lovely people, but they just didn’t have the disposition for this. You need somebody who’s going to be confident and unafraid.”
Perhaps what first should have clued Natoli that there was confusion about the proper protocol happened the day before the awards show. Brian Cullinan, the PwC accountant who had worked other Oscars, came over to chat with Natoli and stage manager John Esposito and started asking the experienced duo about what to do if there was a mistake with the envelopes. Cullinan explained that he was asked this question by a reporter, and he did not reveal what his answer was. It may be assumed that he was not quite sure of the answer himself.
Security Boosted for PwC Accountants in Oscar Gaffe Who Froze Backstage pic.twitter.com/elXNd8Xtvu
— news (@farhaadaarif) March 3, 2017
Natoli recalled that Cullinan said “‘Well, we would tell the stage managers and check with each other and react.’ And then he said to us, ‘Is that what we do?'”
Natoli then gave Brian Cullinan the proper protocol and told him exactly what he needed to do. The key was swift timing and getting the mistake resolved before any false winners arrived to the stage and spoke on the microphone.
“I said, ‘If you know who the winner is, you don’t need to check with each other. You need to immediately go out and rectify the situation, ideally before the wrong winners get to the mic.’ And he said, ‘OK, good, that’s what we thought.'”
In addition, if they were paying attention to what happened, they should have instantly known that there was a mistake as the PwC accountants were to memorize the winners in each of the categories.
— TheWrap (@TheWrap) March 2, 2017
So, on the evening of the Oscars, Brian Cullinan was working stage right, and Martha Ruiz was working the less busy stage left. Each member of the PwC duo had 24 envelopes with identical information. One side was going to give out an award, and the team member on the other side of the stage would be holding the extra envelope.
So, right before the end, Jimmy Kimmel was to do a small goodbye sketch with actor Matt Damon. Natoli was standing next to the host and only a few feet from PwC employee Martha Ruiz as they heard La La Land announced as Best Picture. Although Ruiz was supposed to have memorized all of the winners, she did not show any alarm or appear to realize that there were any issues as Warren Beatty looked confused at the envelope before he passed it on to Faye Dunaway. Nor did Ruiz have any questions for Natoli when Dunaway announced La La Land.
“I was in the wings stage left with Jimmy when they announced ‘La La Land.’ We watched for about 10 more seconds, and during that entire time Martha was no more than five feet away from us. When ‘La La Land’ was announced, she did not try to get my attention, she did not say anything. And she’s supposed to have memorized the winners.”
By this time, the busy Natoli was escorting Matt Damon’s wife away from her seat for the surprise sketch when he heard something very unexpected on his headphones.
“As I was taking Matt’s wife to the side of the house, I heard John Esposito on my headset say, ‘Brian says he didn’t think they said the right winner. Can you have Martha check her envelope?’ That was the first time I heard anything about it, and it was probably a minute, or a minute and 15 seconds, from the time Faye announced the wrong winner.”
Despite the elated La La Land squad giving acceptance speech after acceptance speech, the accountants seemed very slow and rather lackadaisical about any possible mistake that was made. As Natoli was not on stage, he radioed another stage manager to get to the bottom of this unthinkable debacle.
“She [Ruiz] was standing there with the envelope in her hand, very low-key. And John Esposito said that Brian was very low-key too, no urgency. But we had Martha open the envelope, and it said ‘Moonlight.'”
At this point, Natoli instructed that the accountants needed to go on stage and exclaimed, “Get the accountants out there!” They could not hesitate for even a moment. The wrong name was announced. They needed to fix this mistake now, but both PwC accountants froze.
“John was trying to get Brian to go on stage, and he wouldn’t go. And Martha wouldn’t go. We had to push them on stage, which was just shocking to me.”
Now Natoli found himself on stage believing that Faye Dunaway had just announced the wrong thing because “Brian had led us to believe that Faye had just said it incorrectly. So I went looking for the envelope.”
— Lisa Gutierrez (@LisaGinKC) March 3, 2017
Once he found the envelope, he realized that the duplicate envelope had been mistakenly given to the Bonnie and Clyde stars and in his mind, put together what had occurred. Jordan Horowitz announced, two minutes into speeches that it was Moonlight that won.
Even after everything was over with, Gary Natoli could not comprehend why the two accountants froze.
“I still do not understand the delay. Brian should have run out there on his own. Martha should have run out there.”
Natoli was understandably proud of how the stage managers dealt with a situation that should have been handled by the professionals that were hired for this specific purpose.
“I didn’t get on the headset and say, ‘Hey, producers, this is what’s happening. What do we do?’ We took our own initiative and got it done — and if we hadn’t done that, we could have been off the air before it was fixed. I’m proud of the way that we handled it, given the lack of response from PwC.”
While he was critical of the two PwC accountants that froze when they were needed most, he did defend them when it came to the difficulty to read the envelopes. They had complained to the Academy, but it appears that design trumped function.
“I had to look closely to see the category names. All they were thinking about was design, not function.”
As if looking like deer in the headlights was not bad enough, now, according to TMZ, it appears that there have been death threats made to the duo. In addition, photos of their homes were posted on social media. On Thursday, PwC announced that they are providing security for Cullinan and Ruiz. There has not been any other information forthcoming from PriceWaterHouseCooper.
— Teen Vogue (@TeenVogue) March 2, 2017
Will the duo be back for the 90th Academy Awards? According to Fortune, they will not. While it was difficult to read the writing on the red envelopes, a spokesperson explained that neither accountant followed the proper protocol and for that, they will not be returning. At this point, there is no word on whether PriceWaterhouseCooper will even be returning. One would hope that whoever is chosen to replace this duo is given some practice in walking to the front of a stage.
“Once the error occurred, protocols for correcting it were not followed through quickly enough by Mr. Cullinan or his partner.”
In addition, the company did not mention that Cullinan broke protocol by tweeting a now-deleted photo of an exuberant Emma Stone, who had won the Best Actress in a lead role for La La Land. The company did state that both still work for PWC, as of now.
Now that we are getting the full story, what do you think about the kerfuffle that occurred at the Oscars? Do you think Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway got an unfair shake? Share your comments and theories below.
[Featured Image by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]