The now-famous accountants who were responsible for the snafu at the Oscars had to be pushed into taking action on Sunday, according to a new report.
In an interview with The Wrap, head stage manager Gary Natoli said neither Brian Cullinan nor Martha Ruiz of PricewaterhouseCoopers showed any sense of urgency backstage when Faye Dunaway read the wrong winner for best picture.
“She was standing there with the envelope in her hand, very low-key,” Natoli said of Ruiz. “Brian was very low-key too.”
Each accountant not only had duplicate envelopes for all the categories, they were supposed to have memorized all the winners, said Natoli. Yet a “minute or a minute and 15 seconds” after Dunaway incorrectly announced La La Land, one of the stage managers told Natoli on the headset that “‘Brian says he didn’t think they said the right winner. Can you have Martha check her envelope?'”
Upon the urging of fellow stage managers, Ruiz opened her spare envelope, which said Moonlight. Natoli immediately instructed his staff to “get the accountants out there” but of them both hesitated. “[John Esposito] was trying to get Brian to go on stage, and he wouldn’t go,” Natoli told The Wrap. “And Martha wouldn’t go. We had to push them on stage, which was just shocking to me.”
On Wednesday, it was announced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that Cullinan and Ruiz will never work the Oscars again. It’s unclear for now whether PwC will continue its 83-year-relationship with the academy.
When Cullinan finally went on stage, he apparently had the attitude that Dunaway simply read the card incorrectly. “So I went looking for the envelope,” Natoli told The Wrap. By that time, La La Land producers were already in the middle of their acceptance speeches.
“I still do not understand the delay,” Natoli said. “Brian should have run out there on his own. Martha should have run out there … 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.”
Natoli also said that Cullinan should not have been taking pictures backstage and “not paying attention.” After the Oscars telecast, it was revealed that Cullinan posted a picture of winner Emma Stone on Twitter but later took down the tweet.
“I’m sure they’re very lovely people, but they just didn’t have the disposition for this,” Natoli told The Wrap. “You need somebody who’s going to be confident and unafraid.”
In the wake of Sunday’s shocking conclusion to the 89th annual Academy Awards, PricewaterhouseCoopers released a statement taking “full responsibility for the series of mistakes and breaches of established protocols during last night’s Oscars.”
“PwC Partner Brian Cullinan mistakenly handed the back-up envelope for Actress in a Leading Role instead of the envelope for Best Picture to presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway,” the firm stated. “Once the error occurred, protocols for correcting it were not followed through quickly enough by Mr. Cullinan or his partner.”
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also released a statement to apologize for the mistake. “We deeply regret the mistakes that were made during the presentation of the Best Picture category during last night’s Oscar ceremony. We apologize to the entire cast and crew of La La Land and Moonlight whose experience was profoundly altered by this error. We salute the tremendous grace they displayed under the circumstances. To all involved — including our presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, the filmmakers, and our fans watching worldwide — we apologize. For the last 83 years, the Academy has entrusted PwC to handle the critical tabulation process, including the accurate delivery of results. PwC has taken full responsibility for the breaches of established protocols that took place during the ceremony. We have spent last night and today investigating the circumstances and will determine what actions are appropriate going forward. We are unwaveringly committed to upholding the integrity of the Oscars and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.”