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One Possible Oscar Night Fix: Each Auditor Might Get Another Auditor

Deadline logo Deadline 2/28/2017 Michael Cieply
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As of mid-Tuesday, officials at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences were still reviewing Sunday night’s Oscar debacle, when La La Land was mistakenly announced as Best Picture instead of Moonlight, and they were still considering possible fixes. An Academy spokeswoman declined to discuss the next steps. But people briefed on the matter dropped some hints. One change, according to a person familiar with the discussions, would involve stationing two auditors — from PricewaterhouseCoopers or otherwise — at each stage entrance, rather than one on each side, as was done until now.

The extra auditor would act as a fail-safe, presumably keeping anyone from handing presenters the wrong envelope, as happened to Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway on Sunday. According to this person, the present two-auditor system — under which each holds a duplicate set of envelopes on each side of the stage — is designed not so much for safety as convenience: Presenters may enter from left or right, and the idea has been to have envelopes available on both sides.

Another person said Academy officials are looking hard at the Emma Stone tweet posted by PwC auditor Brian Cullinan just before Dunaway announced the wrong winner onstage. The review, which has been a nonstop process since Sunday night, should make clear whether there was indeed a policy violation, and, if so, what might be done about it.

Increasingly, Sunday’s last-minute breakdown looks like a compound fracture. An auditor handed off the wrong envelope. Beatty mulled it, then passed it to Dunaway, who proclaimed La La Land the winner without accounting for the announcement’s mention of best actress Stone. Those involved conferred while the announcement and mistaken thank-yous proceeded. No producer halted the process by stepping on-camera or having someone in the booth call a halt. The host, Jimmy Kimmel, was not immediately available to intervene; he was prepping a last-minute coda involving his faux nemesis Matt Damon. In the end, no one looked good.

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