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Accountants Who Mixed Up Oscar Envelopes Won’t Work on Show Again

Christopher Polk, Getty Images
Christopher Polk, Getty Images

The self-described Matt Damon lookalike best known for doling out the Oscar winners’ envelopes has reportedly been relieved of that position.

After an unprecedented screwup that led to Faye Dunaway mistakenly announcing La La Land the 2017 Best Picture winner — instead of the actual Best Picture winner, Moonlight — during the live February 26 telecast, the two PricewaterhouseCoopers accountants tasked with managing (two separate, duplicate) briefcases full of winner envelopes have been identified as partially to blame.

Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz have been banned from working on the Oscars going forward, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs told the Associated Press on March 1 (via THR). In a somewhat prescient photo above, Ryan Gosling can be seen stifling a laugh as Cullinan and Ruiz look on; Gosling would later react similarly the moment that shocked viewers and A-list onlookers at the end of the show.

A February 27 New York Times article unpacking the disaster cast Cullinan as a major culprit who was, perhaps, too distracted by the blinding star wattage he was surrounded by. “He was so at ease, he even found time to tweet from backstage about Emma Stone as the show neared its climax,” the Times wrote (Cullinan has since deleted that tweet, along with all of his star-studded tweets from Sunday evening).

According to various recaps of the bungle, Ruiz handed presenter Leonardo DiCaprio her copy of the Best Actress winner envelope just before he walked onstage to give Emma Stone the award. This means, of course, that Cullinan still had his copy of the Best Actress envelope; he then accidentally handed it to Warren Beatty when he should have handed him the Best Picture envelope. Beatty was understandably confused when he opened the envelope to see Stone’s name, but instead of calling attention to it, he passed the proverbial buck to Faye Dunaway — who announced the wrong winner.

To make matters worse, Cullinan and Ruiz failed to react quickly when Dunaway mistakenly announced La La Land, allowing a full two-plus painful minutes of errant acceptance speeches as producers and PwC unraveled the error.

“PwC sounded the alarm, but not right away,” Oscars stage manager Gary Natoli told the Times in a text message. “It wasn’t until just before I jumped onstage that it was confirmed by both Brian and Martha as the winner being incorrect.”

Even more embarrassing is how unconcerned Cullinan and Ruiz seemed in a chat with Huffington Post prior to the Oscars, which specifically asked the question, “What Would Happen If A Presenter Announced The Wrong Winner At The Oscars?”

“We would make sure that the correct person was known very quickly,” Cullinan told HuffPo. “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.”

The two will retain employment with PricewaterhouseCoopers, but probably shouldn’t check their mailboxes for an Oscars invite next year.

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