PWC Envelope Handler Was Tweeting Backstage Minutes Before Oscar Gaffe

Fred Berger, producer of "La La
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Brian Cullinan, one of the two PriceWaterhouseCoopers partners who handled the Oscar envelopes on Sunday night, was tweeting photos from backstage minutes before he handed Warren Beatty the wrong Best Picture envelope.

PricewaterhouseCooper is taking the blame for a fiasco that saw “La La Land” mistakenly named Best Picture at Sunday’s Academy Awards. The accounting firm has tabulated Oscars voters’ ballots since 1934. Cullinan has worked on the Oscars for four years. He handed presenters the wrong envelope, one that had the name of best actress winner Emma Stone instead of the producers of “Moonlight,” the film that ultimately took the top honor.


Brie Larson, left, being handed the best actor envelope by accountant Brian Cullinan backstage at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

Pricewaterhousecoopers Boss Explains the Biggest Flub in Oscar History

It turns out that the mistake may have been made because Cullinan, a managing partner at the firm and one of the accountants tasked with making sure the right names get read out on Oscar night, was busy tweeting about the show instead of carefully overseeing the envelopes, according to two knowledgeable insiders. Cullinan had been congratulating winners throughout the evening. After the wrong Best Picture winner was announced, he deleted the tweets from his Twitter account. Screengrabs reveal that Cullinan tweeted four times during the broadcast, at one point talking about the red carpet and the build-up to the broadcast, and in another instance lauding Viola Davis for her Best Supporting Actress victory speech. Three minutes before the fateful hand-off, Cullinan took a photo of Emma Stone clasping the gold statue she picked up for “La La Land.”

PWC’s Brian Cullinan later deleted this tweet of Emma Stone backstage. Twitter

“Best Actress Emma Stone backstage! #PWC,” Cullinan tweeted. Moments later, Beatty, who was presenting Best Picture, looked visibly puzzled as he opened the envelope, handing it to co-presenter Faye Dunaway to make sense of things. She then mistakenly read out “La La Land’s” name as the evening’s winner.

In an earlier interview, Tim Ryan, U.S. chairman and senior partner of PWC, told Variety that Cullinan pulled from the wrong pile. He had a pile of envelopes for people entering from one side of the stage, while Martha Ruiz, another PwC  partner, oversaw a separate pile for people entering from his side of the stage. Ryan said Cullinan simply pulled from wrong pile.

Ryan said he had spoken to Cullinan about the episode at length. “He feels very, very terrible and horrible. He is very upset about this mistake. And it is also my mistake, our mistake, and we all feel very bad,” Ryan said.

A spokesperson for PwC did not respond to a request for comment on Cullinan’s tweeting. The company did tweet an apology Monday night:

“PwC takes full responsibility for the series of mistakes and breaches of established protocols during last night’s Oscars. PwC partner Brian Cullinan mistakenly handed the back-up envelope for Actress in a Leading Role instead of the envelope for Best Picture to presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. Once the error occurred, protocols for correcting it were not followed quickly enough by Mr. Cullinan or his partner.

We are deeply sorry for the disappointment suffered by the cast and crew of ‘La La Land’ and ‘Moonlight.’ We sincerely apologize to Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Jimmy Kimmel, ABC and the Academy, none of whom was at fault for last night’s errors. We wish to extend our deepest gratitude to each of them for the graciousness they displayed during such a difficult moment.

For the past 83 years, the Academy has entrusted PwC with the integrity of the awards process during the ceremony, and last night we failed the Academy.”

James Rainey contributed to this report.

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  1. Tom Ham says:

    I wonder if anyone from Deloitte has called The Academy.

  2. susan says:

    Faye Dunaway should also apologize for being so quick to judge. Amazing how quick the apologies come when it is about the all powerful Hollywood elite! I would like to know if Ms.Dunaway showed ant remorse for what happened.

  3. Occultology says:

    Oh well…that’s Showbiz!

  4. Porter says:

    My football coach loved to insult us by asking if we knuckleheads could walk and chew gum at the same time. He had a point. If you are thinking about, I lost my train of thought…

  5. Laurel Lane says:

    Though it was embarrassing for all involved, you have to admit this is what will make this Oscar broadcast memorable. Otherwise, most of the show was just meh…

  6. JP says:

    Two problems: don’t have ancient people present awards. Beatty should have CLEARLY known he had the wrong envelope. He checked the cover!!! And…this was a HUGE HUGE HUGE mistake, and the accountants have all results memorized (especially Best Pic). Someone should have run out IMMEDIATELY and rectified the situation instead of leaving it to the dude who THOUGHT his film won. How embarrassing.

    • Phillip Ayling says:

      I don’t believe there is any reason to claim that Warren Beatty’s cognitive powers are any less than say, Seth Rogen or Matt Damon, just because of the age difference. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway knew that they were presenting the last award for the evening (Best Picture). I’m not sure what I would have done in their place, but having been at rehearsals for several of these shows, I don’t recall ever hearing presenters being instructed as to what the protocols are if you believe you have been handed incorrect information to read about your category.

  7. Glenn says:

    Even if there was no envelope mix up, tweeting while working is just unprofessional. I hire contractors, and if they are willfully distracted and inattentive, they don’t get paid. Given the circumstances, Cullinan’s dismissal from PWC is proportionate to the transgression.

    • Angela Lang says:

      You simply say “It appears I have the wrong envelope, this is for Best Actress. Can someone bring me the Best Picture envelope Please?” Warren Beatty was like a deer in headlights.

  8. Kenny says:

    It is a nice picture of Emma Stone though. Cut the man some slack.

  9. Christophe says:

    I don’t mind the tweeting but why don’t they discard back-up envelopes after each category is announced and why don’t they read the category’s name on the envelope before handing it out? Such simple steps that could avoid all this drama.

  10. Valentine says:

    Amazing, isn’t it ? These PWC people get an incredible amount of money for doing what everybody could do better…Why was this guy tweeting in the first place ? That wasn’t his job, was it?

  11. Sir Winston says:

    Clearly, PWC’s system is illogical. Have ONE stack. Then, no problems, for another 100 years or so.

    • simonmcfly says:

      Actually, they have 3. They have a stack on each side of the stage dependent upon where the presenter enters. This seems like an easy fix, since the presenters go through a rehearsal earlier during the day to determine from where they enter…therefore, the stage management should be able to tell PWC where each envelope from one stack should be, per your suggestion. The third set of envelopes, however, is a good idea…this is incase somehow the presenter says the wrong name/film and they can verify the wrong name/film by having this third envelope.

  12. JonA says:

    Put down the friggin phone and focus on what you’re doing!

  13. Ryan says:


  14. Till says:

    I don’t understand, Emma Stone told she kept her card all the time, but we can see on this photo and also when she’s on stage with the LaLaLand team that she didn’t have her card…

  15. That’s what the minions at WATERHOUSE are for, to do the silly Tweeting while the so-called important people handle the envelops.

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