Who could forget the infamous Oscars flub from last year’s awards ceremony, where Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced the wrong winner for Best Picture? No one, that’s who. The whole incident resulted from simple human error when PwC accountant Brian Cullinan handed the wrong envelope to the presenters, as you can read more about here. For 83 years, the accountants at PwC have been in charge of the Oscar results and not one mistake like that had happened. Now, they’re trying to make sure it never does again.
Each year, all of the envelopes containing the names of the winners are placed in a briefcase and carried by a PwC representative. Then, another PwC representative with copies of the envelopes carries a second briefcase, just in case one of the two is delayed. You’d think it would be very hard to screw that up. Literally all the person must do is hand the envelope to the presenters and just make sure it’s for the right category. Turns out, Cullinan was tweeting right before the mishap, so clearly his attention was not on the correct envelope (he handed over a copy of the envelope with the Best Actress winner, which was Emma Stone for La La Land instead). You had one job, man!
So this year, for the 90th Academy Awards and for all future Academy Awards, new rules have been created with regards to the proper handling of envelopes, since the delivery of envelopes to presenters is apparently a very difficult task. U.S. chairman and senior partner for PwC Tim Ryan told THR that the new rules focus on envelope rituals and that he will personally be involved in Oscars operations this year. According to Ryan, during the show, the celebrity presenter and a stage manager will each confirm that they have received the correct envelope. An additional PwC representative in charge of the ballots will sit in the control room during the broadcast with a list of winners, on top of committing them to memory as a form of “safety control,” said Ryan. He has also ensured that the three representatives will partake in the ceremony’s rehearsals prior to the show and practice what to do if something goes wrong. Someone ought to make sure that they take diligent notes on how to properly handle the envelopes, since it’s so very hard.
The biggest and most important rule, however, is forbidding the use of cellphones and access to social media during the show for PwC partners. Ryan said, “Our singular focus will be on the show and delivering the correct envelopes.” Whew, thank goodness. Trying to focus on writing a tweet and handing an envelope to a presenter are nigh-impossible tasks to complete simultaneously. Ryan added, “My nature, just as a person, is healthy paranoia. But I also know in my head that we haven’t left any step undone. We owe that to the academy. While I feel very, very good about all the work that’s been done and the attention to detail that’s in place, our job doesn’t end until that curtain closes.”
Two other PwC representatives, Kimberly Bourdon and Rick Rosas, have replaced Cullinan and his partner from last year. We can only imagine how nervous they must be following last year’s disaster. As long as they adhere to the no-cellphone rule and pay attention to something other than counting numbers (that’s what accountants do, right?) all should be fine this year. Film academy chief Dawn Hudson assures she doesn’t “think this error will ever happen again or would happen again. We put in a lot of protocols to make sure it won’t, but I don’t think it will anyway. I think everyone will be very focused on getting that right.” Let’s hope so, or so help us, they’ll get John Travolta to publicly announce the names of those who messed up, and nobody wants John Travolta reading their name out loud ever since that ridiculous flub at the 2014 Oscars.
The nominations for the 90th Oscars will be announced tomorrow, Jan. 23 and the winners will be announced during the ceremony on March 4. Good luck, Kimberly and Rick.