The moment of night at the 2017 Academy Awards was a blunder for the ages – and photos from the Best Picture chaos show even the Oscars accountants behind those winner envelopes couldn’t believe it went awry.
More than two minutes of confusion was broadcast live to millions of viewers before the real winners were announced.
In interviews before the Oscars – including a red-carpet chat hours before the drama – PricewaterhouseCoopers accountants Martha Ruiz and Brian Cullinan asserted their confidence in the procedure, even telling reporters that they weren’t nervous – and then after, on social media, seemed to be ignoring the snafu.
PwC, the accounting firm that counts and delivers the winning Oscar envelopes, has since publicly taken the blame for the incident in which La La Land was mistakenly called as the Best Picture winner over true victor Moonlight.
Ruiz, wearing a bright red gown, and Cullinan, in a tux, supervised the whole process and carried the envelopes with the winners to the Oscars. They have yet to speak out about the jaw-dropping situation.
Both could be seen onstage early Monday looking distressed as news of the mistake traveled through the La La Land cast and crew.
Ahead of the show, both Ruiz and Cullinan seemed assured that no mistake of that kind would be made, asserting to multiple outlets that the process had been perfected over decades.
On the red carpet, Cullinan told Inside Edition, “It’s certainly a big deal, but we’re not nervous. We’ve done this a few times and we prepare a lot.”
Presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced La La Land as the winner after being incorrectly handed the envelope that indicated the film’s star Emma Stone as the Best Actress victor. It took over a minute and a half before show producers stepped onstage to interrupt the La La Land acceptance speeches, and it wasn’t until over two minutes later that the musical’s producer Jordan Horowitz took the mic to announce the mistake.
Ruiz took to social media Monday sharing only a selfie with Michael Strahan from the red carpet, and neglecting to mention the incident.
Cullinan also 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.”
In an interview with MarketWatch from earlier in the month, Ruiz and Cullinan – who had proudly posed with the famed envelope briefcases on the carpet earlier Sunday night – revealed their entire process, explaining that they both stand backstage during the show and personally hand the envelopes to the presenters right before they walk out.
“When we close the envelopes, that’s the only place that the winner is written down,” Cullinan said, explaining that he and Ruiz personally stuff all the envelopes. “We make sure that we memorize them all. We don’t have a piece of paper or anything with us that indicates who the winners are, for security reasons. If you were to lose that or drop that or somehow misplace it, that wouldn’t be good.”
Ruiz became Oscars balloting co-leader in 2015, according to a PwC release. Cullinan has held the role since 2014.
The latter serves as PwC’s U.S. Board Chairman and is also a member of the firm’s Global Board, according to his LinkedIn profile. In addition, Cullinan is the managing partner for PwC’s Southern California practice. Cullinan received his Bachelor’s degree at Cornell University, and his Masters at Northwestern University.
Ruiz is a tax partner at PwC, where she’s worked since 1997. She received her Bachelor’s at California State University – Los Angeles, and Masters in Taxation at Golden Gate University. She is the mother of two girls, her LinkedIn profile said.