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.”
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.”