Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz were the beaming faces of accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers on Oscar night, carrying their twin briefcases full of sacred envelopes to the Hollywood event of the year. Their jobs are to stand on opposite sides of the stage and hand those envelopes to presenters. We know how that turned out.
Since Sunday night’s live TV fuck up in which the Best Picture award mistakenly went to La La Land before being correctly handed over to Moonlight, both Cullinan and Ruiz have been in trouble with not only the Academy and their firm, but with the general public. NBC News reports that both of them have been given security details by PwC after their photos of their homes and identifying information was published online. An official from PwC told them that their jobs, at least, are not in jeopardy, saying they “are not going anywhere.”
Cullinan and Ruiz may stay with the firm, but they’re probably never going to the Oscars again, given the details behind the incident that have since unfolded. The Wrap spoke with Academy Award stage manager Gary Natoli, who believes that though it was Cullinan who handed Warren Beatty the wrong envelope (likely distracted while tweeting a pic of Best Actress winner Emma Stone), they’re both to blame for the delayed reaction time. “I’m sure they’re very lovely people, but they just didn’t have the disposition for this,” Natoli said, “You need somebody who’s going to be confident and unafraid.”
Natoli said that Cullinan and he had even discussed what the protocol would be should a mistaken like this happen; Cullinan and Ruiz are both obligated to memorize the winners in case of an emergency, and Natoli told him firmly what his responsibility would be in that situation:
“I said, ‘If you know who the winner is, you don’t need to check with each other. You need to immediately go out and rectify the situation, ideally before the wrong winners get to the mic.’ And he said, ‘OK, good, that’s what we thought.’”
But that’s definitely not what happened as La La Land producers poured on stage:
Natoli said he immediately told the stage managers in the wings, “Get the accountants out there!” But he said both Cullinan and Ruiz hesitated. “John was trying to get Brian to go on stage, and he wouldn’t go,” he said. “And Martha wouldn’t go. We had to push them on stage, which was just shocking to me.”
Adding more complication to the matter was a new envelope design, which was apparently very difficult to read in comparison to previous years. But the length of time it took to clear it all up seems like a lack of nerve on the part of the PwC accountants. As Natoli pointed out to he Wrap, “We could have been off the air before it was fixed.”