Oscars to keep accountants despite Best Picture mix-up, but with new safeguards

Thirty-one days after accountant Brian Cullinan handed Best Picture presenter Warren Beatty the wrong envelope, the academy confirmed that it is keeping his firm, PWC, as the guardians of the balloting process. However, rather than just two bean counters knowing the result, there will now be a third who will be stationed next to the ceremony’s TV director to sound the alarm if a mistake is made.

On March 1, academy president Cheryl Boone Issacs had confirmed that Cullinan and his associate Martha Ruiz won’t be back at the Dolby Theater next year and she revealed that the academy’s relationship with their firm was under review. The next day, she emailed the nearly 7,000 members of the academy to acknowledge the mistake and say, “rest assured changes will be implemented to ensure this never happens again.”

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On Wednesday (March 29), she emailed again to let members know the measures that were being put in place. One of the accountants will be PwC partner Rick Rosas who had led the ballot for 12 years until 2014. The other two scrutineers will be announced in the coming months.

Issacs also made mention of “partner rehearsals for possible onstage issues” (translation: the accountants will practice running out onstage to stop the show if the wrong name is announced). And she promised “improvements to onstage envelope category verification” (in other words, no more red envelopes with red writing). Finally, don’t expect any backstage tweets from the PwC reps, as Cullinan did of Best Actress champ Emma Stone as Beatty and Dunaway were about to make the wrong kind of Oscar history; Issacs confirmed “removal of electronic devices from backstage.”

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However, it won’t be Isaacs that oversees these changes as she has served the maximum four one-year terms as academy president and will be replaced this summer. She recently described this year’s ceremony as “really a wonderful night and yes, there was a little excitement at the end.” While she acknowledged it was a “shock,” she then opined, “what I thought was so important was how, in a matter of minutes, you saw a humanity and a respect and a graciousness from the ‘La La Land’ filmmakers and the ‘Moonlight’ filmmakers in way that I thought was very special.” Indeed, she characterized it as “a beautiful ending.”

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