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:
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.
36 Seconds Later…
On stage: The best actress montage continues to play.
Backstage: Beatty is watching the monitor backstage, with Cullinan right next to him.
On stage: Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway take the Dolby stage to present the final prize.
On stage: Beatty and Dunaway introduce best picture.
Backstage: Emma Stone getting her photo taken backstage, including one by Brian Cullinan.
On stage: Best picture montage plays.
Back: Brian Cullinan prepares to tweet his photo of Emma Stone. Stone can be seen in the background.
On stage: Best picture montage continues to play.
Backstage: Brian Cullinan tweeting his photo of Emma Stone.
Brian Cullinan’s tweet of Emma Stone is posted on Twitter.
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).
The aftermath is now Hollywood history.