Despite the best picture fiasco during last month’s 89th Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is retaining the services of accounting firm PwC for the 90th ceremony, the Academy’s board of governors decided Tuesday night. But new safeguards will be introduced to avoid a repeat at next year’s show.
On Tuesday evening, a majority of the Academy’s 54-person board of governors — including Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is in the final months of her presidency — gathered in the seventh floor boardroom of the organization’s Beverly Hills headquarters, with others teleconferencing in, for the board’s first in-person meeting since Oscar night, following a telephone conference call earlier in the month. It lasted far longer than the average gathering of its sort: some six hours.
Not surprisingly, the main topic of conversation was the Academy’s relationship with PwC, the accounting firm that the Academy has retained to oversee its awards voting since 1934, and more recently to handle its taxes and board of governors voting, as well. PwC’s U.S. chairman Tim Ryan addressed the board for a portion of the meeting, again apologizing for the “human error” of Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz, the PwC “balloting leaders” who handed off the wrong envelope and failed to correct the mistake in a timely manner, respectively.
Not all board members felt an apology was sufficient, with some growing heated about the indefensible nature of the blunder that has caused their organization so much embarrassment. Academy CEO Dawn Hudson informed the board that she had become aware, before the 2017 show, that Cullinan had used his smartphone and social media while working on past Oscars ceremonies, and had explicitly instructed him not to do so this year; he disobeyed her, ostensibly causing him to be distracted while performing his duties near the end of the ceremony.
It also was revealed that Cullinan, a Matt Damon look-alike who clearly relished the media spotlight since becoming a “balloting leader” in 2014, had thrown a party at his home the night before the Oscars and frequently boasted about knowing the winners — a far cry from the buttoned-up behavior that the Academy had come to expect from its accountants.
Still, the Academy has decided to bring back PwC, but with different accountants and protocols to safeguard against future embarrassments: a third balloting leader privy to the results will be seated in the control room to ensure a more rapid response to mistakes in the future; and all accountants will have to check their electronic devices before going anywhere near the Oscars stage. And, moving forward, the Academy will regularly review PwC’s procedures and protocols to ensure that something like the La La Land/Moonlight debacle never occurs again.
Earlier on Tuesday, in a sign that others involved in the infamous moment are beginning to move on with their lives, The Hollywood Reporter spotted Michael De Luca, who produced the telecast with Jennifer Todd, with Warren Beatty, who presented the evening’s final award with Faye Dunaway, at the Beverly Hills Hotel’s Polo Lounge. The two appeared to be on good terms as they left the restaurant together.
Best Picture Fail Overshadows Many Memorable Moments from Oscars 2017:
Read More from THR: