Oscars accountants 'froze' backstage, didn't notify anyone of flub

More details have emerged of how the Oscars Best Picture gaffe went down backstage, as the two accountants just "froze".

Gary Natoli, a veteran Oscars stage manager, told The Wrap of just how PwC accountants Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz dropped the ball when the blunder was unfolding on stage.

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"I'm sure they're very lovely people, but they just didn't have the disposition for this.

You need somebody who's going to be confident and unafraid."

Natoli said he that while La La Land was being incorrectly announced as the winner of the Academy Award, Ruiz did not try to get his attention in anyway to indicate something had gone wrong.

"I was in the wings stage left with Jimmy [Kimmel] when they announced La La Land. We watched for about 10 more seconds, and during that entire time Martha was no more than five feet away from us. When La La Land was announced, she did not try to get my attention, she did not say anything. And she's supposed to have memorised the winners," he said.

Warren Beatty and Brian Cullinan wait backstage at the Oscars. Photo / Splash News
Warren Beatty and Brian Cullinan wait backstage at the Oscars. Photo / Splash News

Natoli said he and Kimmel went right past Ruiz so the Oscars host could end the show with a pre-organised skit where he was going to sit next to Matt Damon.

At this point, his colleague John Eposito alerted him on a headset that Cullinan said he wasn't sure the right winner was announced. Esposito told Natoli that Cullinan "was very low-key too, no urgency," once they realised the wrong winner had been announced.

Natoli contacted another colleague on radio to get Ruiz to check her second envelope containing the Best Picture winner.

When it was finally revealed the second envelope named Moonlight the Best Picture winner, Natoli said he told stage managers in the wings to get both accountants on stage.

"John was trying to get Brian to go on stage, and he wouldn't go. And Martha wouldn't go. We had to push them on stage, which was just shocking to me," Natoli said.

Both PwC accountant have been banned from the Oscars after the debacle, which has thrown the accounting firm's reputation into disrepute. The firm has been managing the Oscars for 83 years.

Both Ruiz and Cullinan have gone to ground since the incident that shocked the world. They are now receiving death threats after the embarrassing blunder.

Natoli, a veteran Oscars stage manager, told The Wrap that he and Eposito, had discussed what would happen if a mistake occurred like this.

The hastily-deleted tweet from Brian Cullinan, reportedly sent 3 minutes before the Best Picture gaffe at the Oscars. Photo / Twitter
The hastily-deleted tweet from Brian Cullinan, reportedly sent 3 minutes before the Best Picture gaffe at the Oscars. Photo / Twitter

"We don't usually talk about that," Natoli explained. "But I guess Brian had done an interview where he was asked about it, so he came up to John and me and told us that in the interview, he said, 'Well, we would tell the stage managers and check with each other and react.' And then he said to us, 'Is that what we do?'"

"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.'"

Cullinan had given presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway the wrong envelope, after being distracted by tweeting a photo of Emma Stone, who had just won the Oscar for Best Actress in La La Land.

Before the ceremony, Cullinan told Huffington Post. "We would make sure that the correct person was known very quickly. Whether that entails stopping the show, us walking onstage, us signalling to the stage manager-that's really a game-time decision, if something like that were to happen."

- NZ Herald

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