Accountants Play Starring Role at Sunday's Academy Awards

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Two people who play a big part in Sunday's Oscars ceremony already know they're going to feel out of place. “We're accountants," said Oscar-vote handler Rick Rosas. "We're the most anonymous people sitting in the Green Room. We're the most nondescript. We're clearly the two who don't fit in. And we're the only two who have a security detail."

Rosas and fellow PriceWaterhouseCoopers partner Brad Oltmanns have the enviable job of counting Oscar ballots, ensuring the accuracy of the numbers, and knowing long before anyone else who the big winners are.

"I've always said the keeping of the secret is actually one of the easiest parts of this," Rosas told Reuters.

But that's only part of the job. They're also protected by Los Angeles police officers, they field interviews, they hand out the secret envelopes to celebrity presenters, they hang out in a sea of stars backstage, and they may even appear on live television before 1 billion viewers.

About 6,000 directors, cinematographers and other film professionals in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have cast their votes by the Tuesday deadline. It takes Rosas and Oltmanns three days to manually tabulate the votes at a secret location. Finally, the results are sealed in two sets of duplicate envelopes.

The accountants are required to memorize the winners in all 24 categories, just in case something happens to the envelopes, and then they travel to the Academy Awards in separate, unmarked cars following separate routes.

"I memorize the names of the winners," Rosas said. "I'm pretty good at forgetting the rest. And the vote count ... it's one of those things I don't really want to remember."

Once inside the Kodak Theatre, they keep a straight face and hand the envelopes, sealed with red wax, over to the presenters. The partners used to come on stage to hand-deliver the envelopes - hence, "and the envelope please", - but this is now done offstage.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and previously Price Waterhouse, has had plenty of Oscar ballot experience.

"PricewaterhouseCoopers has created a process based on hand tabulations that has worked for more than seven decades. Just the way Rolls-Royce continues to build cars by hand, we continue to count by hand," said Oltmanns. "In the 72 years of counting and validating the Academy Awards ballots, there has never been a security breach. I am proud to be part of the tradition for years to come."

For some fun facts about Oscar balloting, go to the PwC web site.

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