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And the Award For Worst Oscars Gaffe Goes To… PwC

pwc oscars 2018

In case you’ve been glued to the livestream of a giraffe not giving birth for the last two days, you may have missed the fuss surrounding PwC’s gaffe at the Academy Awards last night and subsequent fallout. The long and short of it is PwC handed Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway the wrong envelopes, and that Faye announced the wrong winner, going off what it said on the card she was given for best actress rather than best picture. How could this have gotten screwed up? And, most importantly, who is to blame?

Well, PwC mostly. As Keepers of the Envelope for more than eight decades, it’s their job to make sure things like this don’t happen. As such, they took to Twitter after the incident to apologize:

We sincerely apologize to Moonlight, La La Land, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture. The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred. We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.

The most embarrassing part of the many embarrassing parts here is that Co-Chief Envelope Keeper and Matt Damon Doppleganger Brian Cullinan was interviewed by the Huffington Post just last week and asked what would happen if a presenter announced the wrong winner at the Oscars. His response will no doubt haunt him for the rest of his days.

“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.”

Here he is last night clutching the right envelope in his sweaty palms just a week after saying the possibility he’d hand a presenter the wrong envelope was so unlikely:


Just moments before, he tweeted a pic celebrating Emma Stone’s best actress win. That tweet has since been deleted — presumably because he was getting roasted so hard — but wouldn’t you know, we salvaged it from the internet trash heap and archived it here.

This isn’t supposed to happen for innumerable reasons, not least of which the fact that PwC has been doing this for longer than any current partner has been alive. Add to that, they are supposed to have certain controls preventing such a monumental screw-up but as we know from their PCAOB inspection reports, shit happens.

Cullinan’s partner-in-crime Martha L. Ruiz told HuffPo last week that she and bootleg Matt Damon have this down to a science, making sure they have deployed multiple redundancies to prevent the kind of disaster that happened last night. “It’s him checking me and me checking him, and we do it multiple times against each other to make sure that when we leave and are ultimately handing the envelopes to someone, we’re very confident they’re getting the right envelopes and the contents in them are accurate,” Ruiz said.

Right. Except Ruiz and Cullinan flank the stage on both sides, with one of them handing an envelope to one presenter. But something happened in between Emma Stone coming off stage and Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty going on. Here’s the New York Times:

After Emma Stone accepted that honor, Ms. Dunaway and Mr. Beatty came out to present best picture award. But they were handed an envelope from the other side of the stage, where the other best actress envelope was still unopened.

And Mr. Cullinan, who handed Mr. Beatty the envelope, clearly picked the wrong one.

After Mr. Cullinan and Ms. Ruiz realized that the wrong winner had been announced, they notified the stage manager, which set in motion a chaotic scene watched by the celebrity crowd in attendance and tens of millions of viewers on television.

Once the producers of La La Land realized been punked, they did the sporting thing and announced Moonlight to be the winner of Best Picture. Everyone in the audience and around the world was stunned and now PwC is the middle of a PR crisis. This whole debacle is going to make dealing with financial crisis-era lawsuits look like paying off traffic tickets by comparison. This is Hollywood, people.

But you know, we could’ve seen this coming. Colin actually wondered out loud a whole four years ago what might happen if PwC were to flub the Best Picture envelope after some genius decided it would be funny to have Michelle Obama announce the winner live from the White House. That particular stunt turned out fine, but a regular ol’ hand-off in the Dolby Theater managed to get screwed-up royally.

[NYT, HuffPo]