Photos of Cullinan backstage at the show indicate that he was on his phone and tweeting amid his duties of handing out envelopes to presenters, which led to “La La Land” being mistakenly announced the winner instead of the correct film, “Moonlight.” Cullinan had posted a photo of actress Emma Stone shortly after her Best Actress win on Twitter, which he later deleted.
Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ president, said both Cullinan and his colleague Martha Ruiz “have been permanently removed from all film academy dealings.”
Cullinan was confirmed by PwC as the person responsible for giving Warren Beatty — who presented the award with Faye Dunaway — the wrong envelope. PwC confirmed to The Huffington Post that both Ruiz and Cullinan will not be dealing with the Oscars any longer and are still partners at the firm.
In a statement, the firm apologized to the casts and crew of “Moonlight” and “La La Land,” as well as Dunaway and Beatty, taking full responsibility for the mixup. PwC has counted Oscar ballots for the past 83 years.
We spoke with photographer Andrew H. Walker, who shot the accountant mixing two red envelopes while backstage, to find out his perspective on the night’s happenings.
Walker said he observed Cullinan backstage, noting that he’d “talk with each presenter and prep them before walking out on stage.”
“My impression of him and the others was that they were very capable, qualified people,” he said. “I had photographed the rehearsals the day before, and I had been incredibly impressed that the producers and stagehands could put all the pieces together and make it look so seamless and easy.”
In one photo (seen below), Cullinan is on his cell phone. It was snapped at 9:04 p.m. PT, according to the metadata on the Walker’s camera. Cullinan sent out his since-deleted Emma Stone tweet at 9:05 p.m.
Walker said he didn’t realize what he’d photographed until Tuesday night when he was speaking with a colleague.
“I was taking photos of the event and focusing on the task at hand. Over the course of 12 hours of shooting, I took 4,500 pictures, so it’s hard to know what’s happening inside every single image. After the mishap on stage happened, I thought it had been Beatty’s mistake. I was still clueless about what had actually taken place.”
Cullinan reportedly “feels very, very terrible and horrible” and “is very upset about this mistake,” according to PWC chairman Tim Ryan, per Variety.
As for the team who actually won Best Picture, Walker said he saw the “Moonlight” team after they learned of their win while he was shooting backstage.
“The ‘Moonlight’ group came back looking shocked, elated, tearful and generally overwhelmed,” he said.