Prior to the opening of any envelope at the Oscars, only two people know the names of the winners: PwC accountants Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz. Each of them had a set of envelopes for all two dozen categories. Cullinan, the chairman of the US board of PwC, had led the Oscar ballot team since 2014 while Ruiz has been on the team for more than a decade.
We know Ruiz had given Best Actress presenter Leonardo DiCaprio her version of that envelope. It was Cullinan who gave Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway the spare Best Actress envelope instead of the Best Picture one. He had been holding both in his hands just before the one-time “Bonnie and Clyde” co-stars went out to present the last prize of the night.
During their introductory remarks, Cullinan was busy tweeting out a photo he had taken of Best Actress winner Emma Stone backstage holding her Oscar. When Dunaway said that “La La Land” had won Best Picture, two and a half minutes elapsed before the mistake was corrected.
Stage manager Gary Natoli recounts the backstage drama to The Wrap, describing the disaster as “a confluence of different things.” He reveals that earlier in the week, Cullinan had questioned him about the protocol should a wrong name be announced as a winner. “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.’” But that wasn’t what happened. Instead, reveals this Oscar telecast veteran, the two accountants had to be pushed onstage, “which was just shocking to me.”