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

best picture flub Brian Cullinan
Andrew Walker/Rex/Shutterstock

Variety has obtained exclusive photos of PricewaterhouseCoopers accountant Brian Cullinan — the man behind the infamous envelope mix-up — leading up to and during Sunday’s gaffe in which “La La Land” was erroneously named best picture over “Moonlight.”

PWC has already confirmed Cullinan, a top executive at the firm, as the person responsible for giving presenter Warren Beatty the incorrect envelope.

The newly uncovered photographs (see below) not only show Cullinan engaged on his phone shortly before the “La La Land” miscommunication, he’s also photographed mixing two red envelopes backstage alongside Beatty and best actor winner Casey Affleck, who had just exited the stage, which would dispute PWC’s official explanation that Cullinan grabbed the wrong envelope from a “backup pile,” and shows he was likely always in possession of both the best actress envelope (which was given to presenter Warren Beatty) and the best picture envelope, the night’s two final awards.

A spokesman for PricewaterhouseCoopers was not available for comment.

In the exclusive shot by Variety and Shutterstock photographer Andrew H. Walker, Cullinan can be seen on his mobile phone at 9:04 p.m. PST, according to the metadata on Walker’s camera (his Emma Stone tweet was posted at 9:05 p.m. and later deleted). Meanwhile Beatty and Dunaway had taken the stage at 9:03 p.m., putting the PWC executive on social media at the start of Beatty and Dunaway’s presentation.

“He feels very, very terrible and horrible. He is very upset about this mistake,” PWC chairman Tim Ryan told Variety on Monday. “While I am concerned I hope we will be judged on how quickly we reacted and owned up to the issue.”

The Academy has since apologized to the “La La Land” and “Moonlight” filmmakers, as well as Beatty and Dunaway, and continues to investigate the matter.

Update 12:45 p.m. PT: Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz will no longer serve as PWC’s accountants for the Academy Awards. The duo remain as partners at PricewaterhouseCoopers, according to a spokesman.

See the timeline below:

Andrew Walker/Rex/Shutterstock

8:53:23 p.m.

On stage: The best actress montage is playing.

Backstage: Warren Beatty (above) is hugging best actor winner Casey Affleck, who just came off stage. In Beatty’s hand is a white notecard with his best picture introduction on it. Brian Cullinan is standing to Beatty’s right. Cullinan is clearly carrying TWO envelopes in his hand — odds are very likely these are the last two categories of the night: best actress (which he would later give Beatty) and best picture, as Cullinan had already given his best actor envelope to presenter Brie Larson minutes before on stage right.

Andrew Walker/Rex/Shutterstock
 Above: A closer look at the above photo shows not one but two red envelopes in Cullinan’s hand, along with his cell phone.

36 Seconds Later…

Andrew Walker/Rex/Shutterstock

8:53:59 p.m.

On stage: The best actress montage continues to play.

Backstage: Beatty is watching the monitor backstage, with Cullinan right next to him.

9:03 p.m.

On stage: Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway take the Dolby stage to present the final prize.

Andrew Walker/Rex/Shutterstock

9:04:14 p.m.

On stage: Beatty and Dunaway introduce best picture.

Backstage: Emma Stone getting her photo taken backstage, including one by Brian Cullinan.

 

Andrew Walker/Rex/Shutterstock

9:04:41 p.m.

On stage: Best picture montage plays.

Back: Brian Cullinan prepares to tweet his photo of Emma Stone. Stone can be seen in the background.

 

Andrew Walker/Rex/Shutterstock

9:04:47 p.m.

On stage: Best picture montage continues to play.

Backstage: Brian Cullinan tweeting his photo of Emma Stone.

9:05 p.m.

Brian Cullinan’s tweet of Emma Stone is posted on Twitter.

 And the Oscar goes to…
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

9:08 p.m.

Onstage: Faye Dunaway incorrectly announces “La La Land” as best picture. Three and a half minutes later, Cullinan, center, emerges onstage and is handed the correct envelope by PWC’s Martha Ruiz (red dress).

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

The aftermath is now Hollywood history.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 252

Leave a Reply

252 Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Frederick Savage says:

    There were two sets of envelopes. A primary, which he handled and a backup secondary which she held in case of an emergency. The problem was that the secondary best actress envelope wound up in the primary set and the primary best picture wound up in the secondary backup set that Ms Ruiz held. So in the picture posted of him holding two envelopes…they were actually both best actress envelopes. Thats why the problem was solved when Ms Ruiz came over and handed him the best picture envelope both of which were in her pile.
    This screw up happened before they left the office.

    • Scott B says:

      I don’t think so, Frederick….When Emma Stone received the Best Actress award, she was also given the envelope to keep, and was in possession of the envelope when Warren and Faye announced the incorrect movie (I believe she was interviewed after the award’s ceremony and told the interviewer she had possession of the envelope and gave it to her assistant to hold onto). Brian (Pwc account) was in possession of the second (or backup envelope –if you want to call it) Best Actress envelope and the one of the Best Picture envelopes and simply gave Warren and Faye the wrong envelope. Both accountants had the correct envelopes when they “left the office.”

  2. Marie Coletta says:

    Sign of the times. Especially for the Hollywood crowd. Confusion about what’s up & what’s not! A note to them…Donald Trump is a good President & he was elected by the people of the USA.

  3. mj1 says:

    it is very clear what happened,,Donald Trump was /is angry with Hollywood and its agenda…he therefore got Russian agents to infiltrate the awards switch envelopes and cause the max embarrassment to the academy…they then made their getaway

  4. Epic Messup says:

    They Forgot they were just auditors.

  5. Big4auditgeek says:

    As a former Big 4 audit partner, I can say the problem here is with the process. Why are there 2 people with 2 separate sets of envelopes on opposite ends of the stage 100 feet away? How is that going to prevent a potential debacle like this from occurring (running on the stage if there is a mix-up is not really the answer, right)? To the Academy and PwC, the 2 people should be hip-to-hip on the same side of the stage, one reads the envelope and hands it to the other (“check”), the other reads the envelope and confirms (“check”) and they hand it to one of the presenters. Really, it’s common sense… Then who cares about font, typeface, size, color, etc. I can’t believe there has not been a similar snafu in the 80+ years that PwC has been servicing the awards.

    • John G says:

      No doubt an improved procedure may have helped avoid this mistake. It seems like the main problem was Brian Cullinan simply did not focus on his exclusive job. Instead, he was screwing around, basically partying, and not actually earning his firm’s money.

    • Alex says:

      There are multiple reasons why there are two people with two sets of envelopes:
      1) in case one of the two people responsible is delayed and arrives to the Oscars late,
      2) The side of the stage presenters will be entering from can change down to the very moment the presenter actually walks out (sometimes due to large numbers of people unexpectedly exiting to one side thus blocking a smooth entrance, etc.)
      3) Both people memorize every winner that way if an incorrect winner is announced there are two people who should know instantly there’s something wrong. Why two people? If one of the people is involved in a backstage issue with an upcoming category, the other person can be actively paying attention to the announcement at hand.

      It sounds like this year complacency got the best of them. Years of doing this without any serious issue led them to believe they had time and the flexibility to cavort a little backstage. Turns out they’re not quite the multi-taskers they thought they were.

  6. Dirk says:

    Additionally the Oscars will keep PWC both Ruiz and Cullinan keep the jobs there. Yes folks what happened at the Oscars all planned. No Oscar envelope in decades has not had the the category on both sides. Trust

  7. Dirk says:

    Folks, look, this was done on purpose! The envelope was very hard to read! The envelope only had the category on one side, this might be the only envelope in like the last 50 years or so of the history of the Oscars, it was done that way on purpose! In the past, the envelope was clearly marked on both sides in very large font. This was a set up from the start and what easy way to do it. Use two 70 plus actors to accomplish it! Yes, I think Dunaway and Beatty are great but this was a set up! It is not plausible that even someone that may have just tweeted, would not be able to read an envelope! The Oscars set this up to bolster to ratings and I just feel bad for both Lalaland and Moonlight that they had do both feel defeat and victory. As well as Beatty and Dunaway!

  8. Me Now says:

    Photographs can imagined as to the story you wish it to say.

    • Just Somebody says:

      How exactly was this supposed to “bolster ratings” if it didn’t happen until the very end of the telecast and nobody had any idea that it was going to happen before the fact? Your comment makes absolutely no sense.

  9. Dennis Fazio says:

    It looks like snapping and tweeting photos was all done AFTER he gave Warren Beatty the wrong envelope, so that was not a distraction for the error. Something else may have been.

    A big item that would have provided a safety backup is decent typography. If you look at the envelope and cards, you’ll see they were likely designed by the two accountants. Accountants don’t deal with design and legibility (have you seen their reports? ).

    Gold ink on dark red is one of the worst combinations for legibility. Making the winner’s name the same font size as the rest of the information is also deadly.

    Better typographic design would have made it easier to hand over the correct envelope, and failing that, for Warren and Faye to immediately see they had the wrong one even after opening the envelope.

  10. Lee Jenkinson says:

    It fascinates me (in a somewhat morbid way) how people will eagerly risk their lives and their reputations to text, Tweet, or use whatever other media posting method to look cool. Mr. Cullinan’s downfall will not deter the masses from stepping under buses,running down pedestrians, or simply driving off of a cliff in their zeal to get just one more selfie, or Tweet yet another banal post.

  11. David Benjamin says:

    This Oscars soap opera ain’t gonna be over ’til the SNL lady sings.

  12. Pinter Jugdish says:

    all right…ENOUGH already. I am so sick of hearing about this crap….

  13. BillK says:

    There are TWO sets of envelopes, one is considered a backup for the other.

    Instead of giving Beatty the Best Picture envelope, Cullinan handed Beatty the backup Best Actress envelope.

  14. marianaesmeriz says:

    I think this is becoming way too big. People make mistakes, it’s part of what makes us human! Ok, it was a bit unfortunate and embarrassing but it’s not like it is the end of the world! Except for the poor consultant guy, in some months no one will care about this and people involved will be telling it as something cool that happened. No need to threaten the guy or anything! It was just an honest mistake… I hope he will be forgiven and can go back to his job and most of all I hope he can forgive himself! Don’t worry man, all people who are threatening and mocking and criticizing you have made mistakes too! Just take it easy on yourself ;) it could have happened to anyone! And if anything I think this consultant should be put back on stage next year cause it will never happen to him again, as I am sure he will check everything 10000 before he hands any other envelope ;) stay strong dude!

  15. tmsmqwx says:

    So did the folks who had just announced Stone’s Best Actress Oscar put the note back in the envelope, walk backstage and hand it back to Cullinan for him to mistakenly hand it to Beaty? Shouldn’t he have noticed that the envelope he was handing to Beaty wasn’t sealed? Is not the envelope labeled on the outside with the award it’s for? Seems as if there would be a less haphazard system in place than that.

    • Just Somebody says:

      There were two sets of envelopes for every single award. Cullinan handed Beatty the duplicate envelope for the Best Actress Award (Ruiz handed the other one to DiCaprio prior to him announcing Stone as the winner).

  16. Giving out the right envelope at the Oscars is “mission critical” and should always have a backup and double check. There needs to be two accountants on each side of the stage double checking their work. I volunteer to do it for free.

  17. surayabay says:

    “I let PwC do my Income tax return this year and I got Warren Beatty’s refund check”!

  18. surayabay says:

    His text read: “Warren, no worries, let Faye read it and you blame it on “Drunk Uncle”!

  19. bbmaddox says:

    Why should his female counterpart be taken off oscars duty if he made the mistake? Women have to be twice as good to get half the credit.
    Thank you.

    • Emily Q. Outraged says:

      Your comment is very sexist. You are making this a gender issue when it is an issue of neither he nor she reacted appropriately. Is it okay with you if trans teens not get assaulted, or is that too much to ask? You are sexist and racist. Try to look at people as individuals and humans, not genders or races. Thank you.

    • They have the list memorized, and are supposed to pay attention and listen to make sure the right name is called, and respond immediately if a mistake is made.

  20. Oscar McOscarton says:

    You can see the silhouettes of Beatty and Dunaway in brians’s deleted tweet.

  21. Tom Smith says:

    The fact that there was a mistake at the Oscars is nothing new. ALL, I said ALL of these multi-million dollar actors and actresses are only shown on screen after many, many, many, many retakes to get it right. They say Brian Cullinan only had one job to do and that he should have gotten it right, the first time, no excuses. Shouldn’t that same statement hold true for all these Hollywood movie “stars”, I can’t find any lower, lower case letters, to use in reference to these so called “actors”. I’m just so fed up with all of these people who say they are so understanding,,, that we need so much more understanding of people’s situations in the world, and then when there is a problem with cupie doll award, that they “fire” someone for an honest mistake. If I were in Hollywood and considered to be an “actor” I would be so ashamed of what has happened and ask for the immediate reinstatement of Brian Cullinan and ask that he be there next year for the handling of the “envelopes”.

    • dannyR says:

      Most people are trying to find Cullinan’s and PwC culpability, but you… you need to be different… to follow the road less travelled, to be a maverick, yes…

      I used to be an adventurer like you… but then I took an arrow…

  22. Publius says:

    Once again, we see what a scourge cell phones have become, as even people in highly-placed positions at critical times overestimate their capacity to attend to their jobs while at the same time fiddling with their communicators. No, you are not bright enough to multitask like that. Stop playing with your phone. You have a job to do, and it requires your full and undivided attention. (PWC should lose the contract over this gaffe.)

    • That photo could have been taken after he handed the envelope to Beatty. It was his only tweet that night so its possible he only did it then because at that point his final envelope had been distributed. But, yes, people can be distracted.

  23. IOnstage: Faye Dunaway incorrectly announces “La La Land” as best picture. Three and a half minutes later, Cullinan, center, emerges onstage and is handed the correct envelope by PWC’s Martha Ruiz (red dress).

    Rulz did nothing wrong. Period.

    • mark s. says:

      huffington just did an interview with these two only 6 days ago where it was explicitly stated that an error onstage would immediately, as in no-delay – 2 seconds max, prompt a reaction from both individuals onstage to prevent ultra-embarrassing and soul crushing scenario that played out in the three and a half minutes that went by afterwords. they both should absolutely be fired and the academy should sue these pwc morons for this abysimal failure. also, like others have said, the root of this is the selfish and inconsiderate obsession the world has with inflating their self-centered egos on ridicilious social media. pathetic..

      • Wrong. From that Huffpost article: “We would make sure that the correct person was known very quickly,” Cullinan said. “Whether that entails stopping the show, us walking onstage, us signaling to the stage manager — that’s really a game-time decision, if something like that were to happen. Again, it’s so unlikely.”

        No where does it say anything about “no delay, – 2 seconds max”. It says they’d do exactly what ending up happening.

    • dannyR says:

      I think there was a reaction-time issue. She did nothing for too long.

  24. Ed says:

    The Academy Awards as Zapruder film.

  25. Davie says:

    Great forensics on the detail. This is fascinating. Mr. Cullinan will be feeling very upset about this, I don’t think you could imagine a more horrible situation. I hope that something positive comes out of this for him.

    • Yet he kept his job b/c he is a top executive at the firm. An intern would have probably done the task better and a middle-tier employee would have been immediately fired for what happened. It’s not an important story but it is a big one that to me mirrors the way our society values certain people over others.

  26. Anthony says:

    I don’t get it. It says above that Cullinan had 2 envelopes containing “…the last two categories of the night: best actress (which he would later give Beatty) and best picture…”
    Later, 3.5 minutes into the fiasco, he “…emerges onstage and is handed the correct envelope by PWC’s Martha Ruiz…”

    • There are two envelopes for each winner. He was supposed to give his to Beatty…but didn’t. She still had hers. There were two on stage during the debacle afterwards.

  27. Jimmy says:

    The Communist Party is now Hollywood.

  28. Jimmy says:

    Warren is stupid and didn’t have enough sense to see something was wrong. Then Mommie Dearest, with her ego and no hit since Network, chimed in.

    • He clearly sensed something was wrong…which is why he looked back into the envelope for another card. And kept looking at the card, and delayed, and seemed like he didn’t want to read the card…….and then didn’t read the card; he handing it to Dunaway. His only crime here was not to say “I don’t think this is the right card”….but since that has never happened…ever….he may have simply handed it to Dunaway for her to figure it out. “Mommie Dearest” likely….in her anticipation to read the winner quickly…saw the words La La Land that she recognized as a nominee……and blurted it out.

  29. A says:

    So, they look at an envelope for an award that just happened and says “Best Actress” and announce the name of the movie the best actress just won as the best movie . . . Fucking morons or has Dunaway’s excessive plastic surgery cauterized her brain?

  30. Susan says:

    The woman got fired and she didn’t even do anything wrong! Cullinan was in charge that night, and he’s the one who screwed up.

    • John G says:

      I agree that Martha Ruiz did nothing wrong here. Ruiz should not be suffering consequences for a mistake that was entirely Cullinan’s doing.

    • Emily Q. Outraged says:

      You are an apologist and a racist. And sexist. It was her job to react quickly. She failed. Your making this a gender issue makes you a racist xenophobe. Should I salute you like your beloved Herr Trump?

      • Trollfinder says:

        Troll, you’re doing a pretty bad job pretending to be “liberal”, because liberals don’t actually think like however you’ve just written. Bad job trying to make us look bad, LOL

      • John G says:

        No Emily Q, YOU are making gender an issue here. Ruiz did nothing wrong and should not suffer the consequences of Cullinan’s mistake.

  31. miguel de la o says:

    What a very weird blessing in disguise. Moonlight got far more press than if it had simply won Best Picture. The Lord givith and the Lord taketh. Brokeback givith and Moonlight taketh. It took 11 years. God works His wonders in a strange way..

  32. Sct says:

    Omg who cares. They got so much free publicity. The Meryl jinx.

  33. Drew Jackson says:

    If Brian Cullinan keeps one set of envelopes and Martha Ruiz keeps the other set, then how did he wind up with both “Best Actress” envelopes?

  34. Carl says:

    You mean they held the Oscar awards?!? Guess I just didn’t care enough to watch…but Trump’s speech was amazing!!!!

  35. Jay B. White says:

    Cullinan is guilty of aggravated dereliction of duty and should be asked to resign. The reputation of PwC is irreparably damaged. The level of professionalism required was not met. Case closed. People in lesser positions suffer decisive adverse consequences for lesser acts of incompetence. He deserves no leniency.

  36. Tiffany Turner says:

    Still don’t know why she got fired too. You can see Martha Ruiz’s back with next to Cullinan as he’s comparing envelopes. It’s like they had to double check that there was a mistake. I’d like to know who stopped the show and said there was a mistake? If it was Martha Ruiz’s, she did her job. She shouldn’t be fired. It’s hard to stop the Oscars, even with a mistake. Yes, it might have taken over 3 minutes, but a mistake needs to be processed and verified that there was one. SO, I’m curious why this poor woman got fired too when she clearly had done nothing wrong. She was on the other side of the stage.

    • Emily Q. Outraged says:

      You are clearly a homophobe and a racist. She was fired because she did not react quickly enough. You are sexist and bad.

      • Trollfinder says:

        Lol you are such a good troll Emily q. And have way too much time on your hands to think of this

    • Anthony says:

      @Tiffany Turner: I get the weird feeling that they are not telling everything! The article above left me even more confused! Emma Stone is seen holding her Oscar trophy, but I don’t see a red envelope in her hands! She was later acting all defensive about the situation. Cullinan is said to have been holding 2 envelopes: Best-actress and best-picture. He gives best actress envelope to Beatty by mistake….later (3.5 minutes into the fiasco) Martha hands Cullinan the right envelope (best-picture)….but didn’t he already have it in his hands?
      When La La Land people were giving their thankyou speeches, members of the academy rush in grabbing red envelopes out of everyone’s hands?!

      • J Burton says:

        Both of them had memorized the winners, so both knew immediately that a mistake had been made. Neither went on stage right away to correct it as required – they waited waaaaay too long to fix it, they should have been out there before the speeches started.

        Neither is being fired, they just won’t pull that sweet Oscar duty ever again.

    • jel82 says:

      Both Martha and Brian were supposed to have all the winners memorized. As soon as the wrong winner was announced she should have intervened.

  37. B Da Truth says:

    He was probably texting Putin who clearly was involved with this perhaps negotiating the sale of even more US Uranium to Russia. 6000 academy members and they couldn’t even tally the vote, but want to tell the rest of America how to count the votes.

    • Susan says:

      I agree. Ruiz shouldn’t have been fired. But you know how that goes…

      • Trollfinder says:

        Troll-y mctrollerson = Emily q (above)

      • Emily Q. Outraged says:

        Yes, she should be fired. It’s your hard-core right-wing, Trump-loving sexism that explains why you think the way you do. You should be ashamed of yourself for your xenophobic racism and sexism. So shameful.

      • peterblood71 says:

        Academy members have nothing to do with the final vote tally. If you paid even the most remote attention (obviously tough for someone like you) to the process you would realize this mistake was made because of the hired accounting firm of Price Cooper Waterhouse (who DID tally votes) and their incompetent accountants on stage handing our envelopes. Academy members were as horrified as anyone else and has never “told the rest of America how to count the votes.” Pretty lame statement on your part based on falsehoods and derision.

  38. LiberalLooney says:

    Only to the self-absorbed airheads that are Hollywood would this be a big deal.
    They achieved their lowest audience ratings in 9 years.
    Apparently they continue to be totally oblivious to the fact that 300,000,000 Americans simply don’t care.

    • Eli says:

      Or… maybe you are the one oblivious to the fact that this is a BILLION dollar business, thus this is very important to a lot of investors and the industry itself. How about that?

  39. Pasco says:

    Ironically if Cullinan was anything but a white man Hollywood would have been nothing but forgiving out of fear of being called racist. It made the event memorable.

  40. jedijones77 says:

    First the Razzie for Mommie Dearest, then becoming the only person to ever announce the wrong Best Picture at the Oscars. Faye is done and away indeed.

  41. JoAnn says:

    Anybody think Warren Beatty should have read the card, realized it was a mistake, said to the audience “I think I’ve been given the wrong card” and asked that the correct card be brought to him? Problem solved, no big deal. He’s being let off the hook too easily, especially letting Faye Dunaway make an incorrect announcement!

    • hgc10 says:

      Yes! Warren should have stopped in his tracks, and called out the mistake, and most importantly, kept that thing out of Faye’s hands.

  42. Lucky says:

    Dammit Twitter

  43. jedijones77 says:

    This snafu was the biggest failure of imagination on humanity’s part since 9/11. The Academy will never leave the cockpit doors unlocked again.

  44. Rudy Mario says:

    Matt Damon’s twin should be deported to England. Not sure about the gal. Is she guilty too?

    PWC should cease US operations.

  45. You had one job …

  46. trump and his cabinet paid that rascal to humiliate Hollywood

  47. Hillary Sanders says:

    No one outside of Hollywood cares.

  48. Peter Bird says:

    This guy probably tweets and talks on his cellphone while driving as well.

  49. Sonia says:

    Good glad this happened. Don’t have to listen to the media repeat the boring political speeches for a week in the news. Meryl crossed god. Jinx.

    • Sct says:

      To think that Meryl was graced by god with talent and looks to achieve 20 nominations for an Oscar and she throws him under the bus with an evil speech. Jinxed the Oscars ceremony.
      Allowed the devil to intercede and distract the card holder and now he’s been fired. As if the earlier crashing set hadn’t been warning enough to reset intentions.

  50. NKaufmann says:

    Great job, Variety! Now, the missing link is from the show’s producers. I think Cullinan didn’t realize the error until after the announcement and maybe even not then — maybe it was Ruiz who noticed it. He was walking around the stage like he had no responsibility here whatsoever; meanwhile, she was following him around glaring at him like WTF dude? Clearly this scenario had never been rehearsed, and they had specifically been asked about it in an interview.

More Film News from Variety

Loading