There are going to be far fewer phones backstage at this year’s Oscars.
When Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty incorrectly announced that “La La Land” was the Best Picture winner at last year’s Academy Awards, only to be told after several very confusing moments that “Moonlight” was the actual winner, blame for the mix-up eventually was pinned on an accountant who was paying more attention to his phone than he was to handing out the envelopes naming the winners.
This year, PricewaterhouseCoopers — the accounting firm tasked with Oscars envelope security for 83 years — is instituting new rules to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.
For starters, the two PwC partners responsible for last year’s envelope fiasco — Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz — have not been invited back. Instead, Rick Rosas, who was previously in charge of the envelopes for 14 years, will return to the job. And Tim Ryan, PwC’s senior partner and U.S. chairman, will be on-site for the March 4 ceremonies to oversee the evening.
“My nature, just as a person, is healthy paranoia,” Ryan said.
Furthermore, all of the PwC staff members have been banned from using their phones or any forms of social media. It’s believed that last year Cullinan was distracted from his job when he took a picture of Emma Stone and posted it to his Twitter account about the same time he was handing off the envelope to Dunaway and Beatty. He didn’t realize that the envelope was for the wrong category, which is why, when Dunaway and Beatty opened it, they ended up announcing the wrong movie.
There also will be extra support staff on hand. Because the award presenters can enter the stage from either direction, typically one PwC partner has been stationed on each side to hand out the envelopes. This year, there will be a third PwC staffer in the show’s control room. Should another mix-up occur, this person will be charged with telling the producers immediately.
“As you’re well aware, it took a long time to respond last year when there was a mistake that we made,” Ryan said. “So we’re formally practicing the what-if’s.”
The envelopes are labeled by category, but rarely have the presenters bothered to look at those labels. That also is changing this year. Before they walk out on stage, the presenters will have to confirm to the stage manager that they have the correct envelope.
“I know in my head that we haven’t left any step undone,” Ryan said. “We owe that to the Academy. While I feel very, very good about all the work that’s been done and the attention to detail that’s in place, our job doesn’t end until that curtain closes.”