'I feel horrible, absolutely horrible' - Irish-American PwC accountant takes responsibility for Oscars fiasco
A high-flying Irish-American accountant caused the chaos at the Oscars after handing Warren Beatty an envelope from the wrong pile, a boss at the firm responsible for the ballot has said.
The climax of the Academy Awards fell victim to "human error", leading to 'La La Land' being mistakenly named the winner of the top gong, according to Tim Ryan, US chairman and senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
The cream of Hollywood, along with millions of viewers around the world, were left squirming in their seats as the hit musical's producers handed over the statue to the real winners, the people behind 'Moonlight'.
Emma Stone, who was named best leading actress for her turn in 'La La Land', reportedly described it as "one of the most horrible moments of my life".
Mr Ryan told 'Variety' magazine that moments earlier Brian Cullinan, one of two PwC accountants responsible for the presenters' envelopes, gave Mr Beatty the wrong one as the Hollywood star took to the stage with Faye Dunaway.
"There's a stack for the back-ups and the ones that are not the back-ups and he took from the wrong stack," he said.
Mr Ryan told the magazine Mr Cullinan, chairman of PwC's US board, was left feeling "very, very terrible and horrible" and repeated the firm's apologies for the historic mix-up.
Irish-American Cullinan, who has full Irish citizenship and lives in Malibu with his wife of 29 years Andrea, has been in charge of the Oscars ballot for the past four years and has said that it is the "most fun" that an accountant can have.
The global accountancy company, which has held the coveted role of overseeing the ballot for 80 years, swiftly launched a post-mortem of the incident on Sunday night.
Mr Cullinan, standing stage left, and colleague Martha Ruiz, in the wings, each had a pile of envelopes for presenters entering from their side of the stage, Mr Ryan told 'Variety'. Only they knew of the contents inside the envelopes.
The accountants also had a "back-up" of envelopes for their colleague on the opposite side.
It was from this pile that Mr Cullinan mistakenly picked up the best actress envelope and handed it to Mr Beatty. Mr Cullinan and Ms Ruiz were forced to intervene on stage amid the confusion and chaos.
Ms Stone said: "(It was) One of the most horrible moments of my life. Wow! It was just so horrible."
'La La Land', which had a record-tying 14 nominations, ended with just six wins, including best actress for Stone and best director for Damien Chazelle, the youngest winner of the prize at 32.
'Moonlight', which follows the life of a black boy dealing with his sexuality, scooped three prizes - best picture, best adapted screenplay and best supporting actor for Mahershala Ali.
There was no joy for the Irish on the night, with Ruth Negga, nominated for best actress for 'Loving', and Consolata Boyle, who was nominated for a second time for her work on 'Florence Foster Jenkins', both missing out.