PWC Accountant Wanted to Make Appearance at Oscars (EXCLUSIVE)

Brian Cullinan

UPDATED: Unlike most accountants, PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ Brian Cullinan enjoyed the spotlight. He commonly tweeted selfies with celebrities and relished his trips down the red carpet at the Academy Awards.

Before he became famous for his involvement in handing over the wrong envelope on Sunday’s telecast, he’d been angling for a spot on the stage. Cullinan had pitched Oscar producers on doing a sketch involving him and his colleague Martha Ruiz, interacting with host Jimmy Kimmel, according to two sources with knowledge of the exchange. But the idea was shot down.

A representative from PwC denied that Cullinan wanted to perform a skit, but said that he met with the show’s producers to discuss a possible onstage appearance.

In past years, the Oscars accountants were sometimes introduced on TV, with their briefcases in tow, to explain their role in keeping the Oscar winners safe. Last year, Chris Rock parodied that tradition: He introduced three Asian-American kids as pint-sized accountants, which some viewers interpreted as offensive. The moment caught PwC executives by surprise, as they hadn’t been informed about the routine.

“It is standard protocol for PwC to have conversations with the show’s producers about the firm’s involvement in the show,” a representative from PwC told Variety in a statement. “After last year’s sketch when the firm was cast in a defamatory way in front of millions of people, Brian Cullinan spoke with the producers to ensure that the firm would not be cast in the same light. Brian did not want to perform a sketch during the show.”


best picture flub Brian Cullinan

New Photos Show PWC Accountant Tweeting, Mixing Envelopes Backstage at Oscars (EXCLUSIVE)

In recent days, there have been questions about what led to the embarrassing finale of Sunday’s Oscars. In the minutes prior to best-picture category, when Cullinan was supposed to be giving the best picture envelope to presenter Warren Beatty, he seemed distracted. He was taking photos on his phone of Emma Stone with her best-actress trophy that he tweeted out.

Beatty received the wrong envelope and his co-presenter Faye Dunaway accidentally named “La La Land”—instead of real winner “Moonlight”— as best picture. When the mistake was corrected three minutes later, it was because of a stagehand, not the PwC accountants, who are supposed to memorize all the winners and storm the stage in the unlikely occurrence of a mix-up.

PwC has apologized for the mistake. Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs told the Associated Press that Cullinan and Ruiz wouldn’t work on the Oscars again. “They have one job to do. One job to do! Obviously there was a distraction,” Boone Isaacs said.

It’s unclear if the Academy will continue to employ the accounting firm, which has an 83-year relationship with the nonprofit organization. Isaacs sent a letter to Academy members Thursday assuring, “Rest assured changes will be implemented to ensure this never happens again.”

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  1. Donna says:

    I happen to know that Brian is a wonderful person from a lovely family. He’s not a narcissistic jerk at all. It’s an extremely exciting position to be in and who knows how any of us would respond when caught up in the moment! Yes, he made a big mistake… But quess what? Life goes on! No lives were destroyed except for possibly Brians.Those of you who just love to talk trash about someone you don’t even know are sick! Don’t you have better things to do? Leave the guy alone!

  2. andy says:

    “Last year, Chris Rock parodied that tradition: He introduced three Asian-American kids as pint-sized accountants, which some viewers interpreted as offensive”
    still no apology from him.

  3. Alex Meyer says:

    This guy was extremely unprofessional, and I’m glad he’s been banned from all future Oscar ceremonies.

  4. Margo says:

    The people defending this narcissistic clown are probably his friends.

  5. Fabrizio Celestini says:

    Mr. Cullinan’s unprofessional and narcissistic behavior has spoiled one of the most important global events. Personally I believe that now the only job he should do in Los Angeles is to sell street food on Hollywood Boulevard.

  6. Dan says:

    So a guy is part of a major blunder that leads to unprecedented coverage (publicity) of the academy awards/moonlight/la la land. So now it’s ok for the media hyenas to move in a completely assassinate the guy’s character. That’s perfectly ok is it?

  7. xibit says:

    Hoe fo’ show.

  8. Steve says:

    If PriceWaterhouseCoopers screws this up how accurate is their accounting?

  9. Robin Hynes says:

    So how come Brian Cullinan made the blunder, and his co-worker got brought down with him? She didn’t hand out the wrong envelope! I guess we won’t see him on social media anymore!

    • Starr says:

      Apparently they had protocols in place in case this ever happened – they’re supposed to address the mistake immediately – so the co-worker failed to do this as well as Cullinan. (I think it took a good three or four minutes for anyone to rush the stage, and it was the stagehand no less. As soon as Dunaway announced LaLa Land, one or both of the accountants should have run out on stage with the correct envelope, per protocol).

  10. Robert Christopher says:

    He ‘enjoyed the spotlight’ What a bastard, he had it coming. Variety loathes these type of people, they are the sort of show-offs who’d never make it in that biz we call show……Hold on a second….

  11. Marco says:

    This mean-spirited witch-hunt is getting out of hand. These accountants didn’t commit a crime, and their mistake didn’t cost anyone their life. Get a grip people, and that includes Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who has helped facilitate this vindictive attack on Cullinan and Ruiz via her unforgiving rhetoric. This is only an awards show. Get your heads out of your backsides.

  12. bobbysue says:

    he been a groupie for decades….

  13. Dollface says:

    He has meetings with the Russians in his office in July and September and despite it being on record and other aides in the office, let’s make a witch hunt. The Russians interfeared with The Oscars. They have been trying to destroy it for decades. They hate Americans and Hollywood, so it was definitely the Russians. PwC should recuse itself from all bonds to the Academy once and for all. Liberals all demand it. LOL

    • Brian Cullinan, mixing playtime with being on-the-job, made serious errors in judgment.
      Martha Ruiz’s freezing up may not have been the result of an error in judgment but an inability to respond in the heat of the moment. Beyond the responsibility of any one individual, PwC is responsible for not implementing best practices, example: envelopes can be used for decorative purposes but the actual results could be put on the teleprompter controlled using some intelligently designed fault-tolerant scheme. Come on, let’s think outside the box here.

  14. says:

    This was a multi-million dollar production — not a cheap flea circus. It’s a big deal : the error reflects on Hollywood itself. ~~ Fire PWC now !

  15. Dee Lyter says:

    Best thing that could have happened to the Oscars. Viewership will probably be up next year.

  16. Brad Pursel says:

    Brian had one simple job to do, one for which PWC and partners like him were paid handsomely for. He clearly forgot that he was a member of the crew, not talent. He did not commit a crime, but as a professional services provider, he failed his client miserably. He fully embraced the spotlight, but that came with responsibility. Don’t shed a tear for Brian – any non-partner employee at PWC would have already been canned for far less of a mistake.

  17. Aloisia Schmid says:

    fire those entitlled star fucking egotists. it’s about time somebody at the top had to accept responsibility for his fuckups.

  18. Yshmael Martin Garcia III says:

    The presenters were given a loaded gun, but they ultimately pulled the trigger. Did ego cause Beatty not to wear glasses. Had he bothered to look at the front of the envelope he would have noticed the words Best Actress. Had he bothered to read the bottom of the card that clearly said Emma Stone and in small type Best Actress he could have prevented pulling the trigger on this fiasco. The Academy put too much faith in PWC and should have had a back up plan like “Read the envelope and the complete card to make sure you were given the correct category, before announcing it to the world” When you assume that PWC is perfect, you get great TV when you are proven wrong.

    • Alex says:

      Except Beatty, glasses or not, was the first one to realize something was wrong – hence his double take and hesitation to read the card and instead handing it to Dunaway, who, instead of actually thinking about what she was seeing just read the part of the card that was a movie title.

  19. In all the articles I’ve read since the fallout, I’m surprised no one has mentioned that this accountant was kind of involved in a skit the year Neil Patrick Harris hosted the Oscars. If you find the 2015 telecast on youtube go to the segment right after best supporting actor is announced, it’s shortly after the opening monologue. You will find Neil Patrick Harris do a bit where he makes his Oscar predictions and has a pwc briefcase in a glass case. It was a terrible, unfunny bit, but is now memorable since the accountant is mentioned by name by Neil Patrick Harris. This story certainly makes sense, I guess the accountant really wanted a speaking part in a skit.

  20. kari says:

    Variety come on – this is garbage! Stop reporting blame and these fake, made-up headlines. It was a mistake – there were a lot of people at fault. It got resolved. This man should not be fired and definitely not fired for some hearsay and conclusion that he wanted to hog the show. Wow. That is low.

    • Starr says:

      You’re right – I remember that skit. Mostly because it was cringe-worthy and unfunny. I knew the guy (the accountant) looked familiar.

  21. Cass says:

    An A-1 Douchebag.

  22. Starr says:

    How did the stagehand know that the wrong winner was announced? If one of the accountants told him, and he then ran onto the stage to address the mix-up, then wasn’t this proper protocol? (Although I concede it all happened too slowly).

  23. libby says:

    The Russians hacked the Oscars.

  24. The guy sounds like a real CPAhole.

  25. PriceWaterhouseetc should have immediately taken out full page ads in Variety and Hollywood Reporter, and they still should, apologizing to The Business. So many worked so hard to make this performance error free. Instead, they have been tarnished, and their own thrill has been diminished by one jerk of a guy who represented PW.

    I doubt it, but let’s see if PW will man up and run those ads thanking everyone for their work and apologizing to the core of their multithousand member firm for their error.

  26. Actor/Writer says:

    Why are you ripping this poor guy’s head off? He messed up an envelope and now you’re publicly shaming him. What about the owner of Variety and Deadline’s criminal record for attacking a woman?

  27. Phoeniche says:

    My god, can we please move on from this story?! A mistake was made, it was uncomfortable for a bit, and now it’s over. Give the guy a break. The reporting and concern over this is embarrassing.

    • kari says:

      Agreed – why the public shame? So unnecessary. This needs to be handled privately. They are just trying to save themselves when it’s not even that big of deal.

    • Cass says:

      You’re on an entertainment site comment board. Pretty sure you’re in a losing battle on that one bud.

      • Liza says:

        Even on an industry site, a story can be overplayed. The man let his ego and being star struck get the better of him, but enough of the public humiliation. Nobody died, move on to something less “sexy” but more important.

  28. Jiminy Critic says:

    Martha Ruiz should not but punished for this.

  29. Ron says:

    Well…Brian sure got his moment in the spotlight

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