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PricewaterhouseCoopers Boss Says Best Picture Envelope Pulled From Wrong Pile

Variety logo Variety 2/27/2017 James Rainey
© Provided by Variety

In his fourth year of handling envelopes for the winners of the Academy Awards, PricewaterhouseCoopers partner Brian Cullinan picked a bad time for a miscue — pulling the envelope for what was supposed to be the Best Picture winner from the wrong pile.

As a result, presenter Warren Beatty carried the wrong envelope to center stage Sunday night, meaning that his on-stage partner, Faye Dunaway, announced “La La Land” was the winner of the night’s top prize. “Moonlight” was actually the Best Picture winner.

Tim Ryan, the accounting firm’s U.S. chairman and senior partner, offered an explanation Monday of the unprecedented miscue, along with his profuse apologies to the Motion Picture Academy and to the filmmakers behind the two movies.

“We clearly made a mistake and once the mistake was made we corrected it and owned up to it,” said Ryan, attributing the foul-up to “human error.”

Ryan said he had spoken to Cullinan about the episode at length. “He feels very, very terrible and horrible. He is very upset about this mistake. And it is also my mistake, our mistake, and we all feel very bad,” Ryan said.

Cullinan was positioned stage left during the evening. His colleague, Martha Ruiz, stood in the wings, stage right. Each had a pile of envelopes for presenters entering from their side of the stage and then a pile of “backup” envelopes for the presenters entering from the other side of the stage at the Dolby Theater.

Cullinan pulled the Best Actress envelope that was in the “backup” pile and handed it to Warren Beatty. Beatty hesitated twice after opening the envelope, apparently confused when he saw both the name of Best Actress winner Emma Stone and “La La Land.” Not understanding Beatty’s hesitation, Dunaway said: “You’re impossible. C’mon.” Beatty then showed her the card and Dunaway announced: “La La Land.”

Ryan said that both Cullinan and Ruiz realized instantly that an error had been made. They immediately told the “production team” about the error. Ryan said he did not know why it took more than two minutes for the correction to be made, with “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz delivering the news to the world that “Moonlight” had made the error.

Watch the moment unfold below:

 Oscar winners and highlights

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