Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs was just as confused as everyone else when La La Land was mistakenly named Best Picture at the Oscars and chaos — all being televised on live TV — broke out on stage.
“Horror,” she told The New Yorker of her reaction in the immediate aftermath of the blunder. “I just thought, What? What? I looked out and I saw a member of [accounting firm] Pricewaterhouse coming on the stage, and I was, like, Oh, no, what—what’s happening? What what WHAT? What could possibly . . . ? And then I just thought, Oh, my God, how does this happen? How. Does. This. Happen. And it was such a wonderful show.”
After PricewaterhouseCoopers has taken “full responsibility” for the errors that led to La La Land mistakenly being named Best Picture at the Oscars on Sunday night, the Academy has also released a statement apologizing for the mix-up and reviewing what action to take as it investigates the night and its relationship with PricewaterhouseCoopers, the worldwide accounting firm that has handled the Oscars balloting for 83 years.
“We deeply regret the mistakes that were made during the presentation of the Best Picture category during last night’s Oscar ceremony,” the Academy said in a statement. “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.”
The statement continued, “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.”
In a statement released to PEOPLE Monday, the accounting firm admitted the mistake stemmed from PwC partner Brian Cullinan, one of the two representatives tasked with calculating and memorizing the night’s winners then giving out the sealed envelopes at the ceremony, mistakenly handed the back-up envelope for Actress in a Leading Role instead of the envelope for Best Picture to the presenters.
PwC also said that Cullinan and his associate, Martha Ruiz, did not follow protocol for correcting the error “quickly enough.” They only appeared onstage after multiple La La Land creators gave speeches – more than two minutes after La La Land was incorrectly named the winner.
Ahead of the show, both Ruiz and Cullinan seemed assured that no mistake of that kind would be made.
Cullinan told the Huffington Post before the ceremony that if a wrong winner were to be called, “We would make sure that the correct person was known very quickly. Whether that entails stopping the show, us walking onstage, us signaling to the stage manager — that’s really a game-time decision, if something like that were to happen. ”
He added, “Again, it’s so unlikely.”
The pair told the outlet that they check each other “multiple times,” so that when they’re handing off the envelopes “we’re very confident they’re getting the right envelopes and the contents in them are accurate.”