On Thursday, academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs finally addressed directly the issue that has been the talk of the town since last Sunday’s Oscars when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were given the wrong envelope by PwC partner Brian Cullinan. In an email to the nearly 7,000 members of the academy, she acknowledges the mistake and says, “rest assured changes will be implemented to ensure this never happens again.”
As befits a public relations exec, Isaacs spins this 89th annual edition of the Academy Awards as “one of the best, and certainly most dramatic and talked about, Oscar ceremonies of all time.” She catalogues a list of highlights including Jimmy Kimmel as host, the acceptance speeches, the musical performances, and the ‘In Memoriam’ tribute (she ignores the mix-up that saw a photo of a living producer next to the name of a late costume designer)
Until now, the academy has had little to say about the mix-up beyond that it is “investigating the circumstances” and “will determine what actions are appropriate going forward.” On Monday, it did issue a statement from the accounting firm PwC, which has handled ballot counting for the last 83 years of the Oscars. That statement read in full:
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.
Prior to the opening of any envelope at the Oscars, only two people know the names of the winners: Cullinan and his colleague 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 Beatty and Dunaway the spare Best Actress envelope instead of the Best Picture one. The accountant did make his way onstage to right this wrong but only after several minutes, during which the “La La Land” producers delivered heartfelt acceptance speeches.What took Cullinan so long to bring this runaway train to a halt? We know he was waiting in the wings as he tweeted out a photo of Stone holding her Oscar as she awaited the announcement of Best Picture.