Accountants in Oscar mistake are off the show

Posted at 8:29 PM, Mar 01, 2017

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The president of the film academy says the two accountants responsible for the best-picture flub at Sunday’s Academy Awards will never work the Oscars again. She also laments that the error overshadowed the show’s rich diversity of talent and storytelling.

Breaking her silence four days after the biggest blunder in the 89-year history of the Academy Awards, Cheryl Boone Isaacs praised the show’s producers and host Wednesday for “a most beautiful, beautiful, wonderful evening.”

“Then, of course, there was the last 90 seconds,” Boone Isaacs said. “And what angered me, I would say, in these last couple days is (the focus on) this 90 seconds and moving to the side the brilliance of the day.”

The academy president told The Associated Press that Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz, the PwC accountants who handled the winners’ envelopes at Sunday’s show, have been permanently removed from all film academy dealings. While Cullinan was responsible for handing over the errant envelope that led to “La La Land” mistakenly being announced as best picture rather than “Moonlight,” PwC said neither partner acted quickly enough to catch the error.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ relationship with PwC, which has been responsible for tallying and revealing Oscar winners for 83 years, remains under review, Boone Isaacs said.

Cullinan was distracted backstage, she said. He tweeted (and later deleted) a photo of Emma Stone in the wings with her new Oscar minutes before giving presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway the wrong envelope for best picture.

“They have one job to do. One job to do!” Boone Isaacs said. “Obviously there was a distraction.”

PwC released a statement late Sunday and another Monday taking “full responsibility for the series of mistakes and breaches of established protocols” during the Oscar show.

“Once the error occurred, protocols for correcting it were not followed through quickly enough by Mr. Cullinan or his partner,” the statement said. Both partners remain with the company, a PwC spokesman said Wednesday.

Protocols for handling the winners’ envelopes had been established by the accounting firm, Boone Isaacs said, “and they have worked for 83 years.”

“We are reviewing those protocols, of course,” she said. “Because it never happened before and we never are going to have it happen again. And we are setting new guidelines, new protocols and really re-examining every step to make sure this never ever, ever happens.”

Though the academy released a statement late Monday apologizing to the artists of “Moonlight” and “La La Land,” Boone Isaacs said she waited to say more until her team had a better understanding of what led to the error.

“You need to get some facts under your belt,” she said. “It needs to be not just an emotional response. It needs to have some sort of clarity. … We wanted to say something right away, but we also didn’t want to misspeak.”

She commended show producers Jennifer Todd and Michael De Luca, presenters Beatty and Dunaway and host Jimmy Kimmel for handling the unprecedented situation so gracefully.

“Warren, he took charge there,” Boone Isaacs said. “He took charge of a situation that he did not create.”

She also lauded “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz, who she said “went from a nominee to a winner to a presenter” in a matter of minutes.

Still holding the Oscar, he thought he’d won, Horowitz was the first to announce that “Moonlight” was the actual best picture recipient.

Though unexpected, having the casts of two films onstage at the end of the Oscar show revealed “the very best” of Hollywood, Boone Isaacs said: “And that is a camaraderie and respect for each other.”

“It’s important to remember that that is what this is all about,” she said.

Also on Wednesday, the academy addressed another embarrassment on Sunday’s show, apologizing to the Australian movie producer incorrectly shown during the in memoriam segment.

In a statement, the academy extended “our deepest apologies” to producer Jan Chapman, whose photo was mistakenly used in the tribute instead of Chapman’s colleague and friend, the late Janet Patterson. Chapman had said she was “devastated” by the error.

Boone Isaacs said she regrets that the best-picture flub has overshadowed the show and its diverse array of winners. After two years of “OscarsSoWhite,” with all white acting nominees, Sunday’s ceremony recognized several actors and writers of color, and named a tender film about a gay black boy best picture. It followed two years of extensive reform to improve inclusion within the academy.

“Going back to the brilliance of the show, as well as a year of conversation about Hollywood today and the evolution of Hollywood in so many different ways, and to culminate in such a beautiful evening,” she said. “It (attention on the flub) was beyond disappointing.”

And though she’s ready for public attention to shift back to the winning films rather than the errant envelope, Boone Isaacs appreciates that so many people care about the Academy Awards.

“The Oscars are truly special, to such a degree that everyone has an opinion about it, but I’m fine with that,” she said. “They have an opinion about how it should be, how it shouldn’t be, what we should do, who should win. … I love that we’re in the conversation. Let’s just make sure that, certainly this year, the conversation is about celebrating a fantastic year in the film business and a fantastic show.”