PwC roasted at 90th Oscars over 'envelopegate'

09 March 2018 4 min. read
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PwC was forced to relive their now infamous gaff from last year’s Academy Awards, as Hollywood’s elite joined forces to gleefully rib the long-time partner of the ceremony. The Big Four firm was at the centre of a controversy at the 2017 awards, when the Oscar for Best Picture was presented to the wrong film.

PwC is among the world's largest professional services firms, but even the Big Four firm is not immune to a Hollywood roasting. The firm was thoroughly mocked at the 90th Oscar awards this year, becoming the butt of many a joke for its envelope fiasco at last year’s ceremony.

The group is responsible for keeping the finalists at Oscars secret until they are announced by the hosts. However, last year the firm mixed up the award for the Best Picture. The award was initially handed to 'La La Land' by Hollywood stalwarts Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, instead of the correct recipient, 'Moonlight’.

PwC roasted at 90th Oscars over 'envelopegate'

This year, the duo, who are perhaps best known for their starring roles in classic New Hollywood picture ‘Bonnie and Clyde’, returned to present the same award, eventually giving the prize correctly to ‘The Shape of Water’, but not before the night’s host leveled a series of quips directed at PwC. Before the pair arrived on stage, master of ceremonies, Jimmy Kimmel introduced them, stating, "This is the home stretch. Nothing could possibly go wrong. What happened last year was so much Waterhouse under the bridge."  

Host Kimmel had already kicked off festivities with a monologue where he told attendees, "I do want to mention: This year, when you hear your name called, don't get up right away," before adding, "Last year about a week before the show, the producers asked me if I wanted to do some comedy with the accountants. After I said 'no', they did some comedy on their own.”

Kimmel said, PwC told him that this year their focus would be on the envelopes. To laughter, Kimmel, who also hosted last year’s event, said he responded, "I have to ask, what was your focus in the other 89 years?"

Long term engagement

Before the firm was hired to count the votes, and manage envelope distribution, the Academy collected its results internally, with people who often had a vested interest in the result. PwC was brought in following another result scandal in the 1930s – albeit a significantly less benevolent one.

There were rumors that Warner Brothers head honchos told the Academy members from their studio not to vote to nominate Bette Davis for Best Actress for her critically acclaimed role in Of Human Bondage, the film adaptation of the W. Somerset Maugham novel made by rival studio RKO. The star had been loaned to RKO by Warner Brothers, in what many interpreted to be a slight to the actress, with Warner Brothers wrongly anticipating the film to be a critical and financial bomb.

Davis later claimed in her memoir, ‘A Lonely Life’, “My bosses helped them by sending instructions to all their personnel to vote for somebody else. My failure to receive the award created such a scandal that gave me more publicity that if I had won it. Syndicated columnists spread the word ‘foul’ and the public stood behind me like an army. Not since that decision in 1934 was so cavalier a verdict allowed to take place.”

Rumors that producers had interfered threatened to derail many large Hollywood projects, as actors became more fired up in a period where creative labour was unionising – prompting the Academy to take action in the hope of averting a more empowered, collectivised workforce making larger wage demands. Price Waterhouse (which later became PricewaterhouseCoopers through a merger) was asked to step in the next year to count the votes, something they have done ever since.

The secret envelopes, which would go on to place PwC as the butt of a variety of jokes decades later, were added in 1941, after a reporter broke an embargo on the results. As normal service resumed this year, PwC's long-standing engagement at the Oscars looks set to continue well into the future.