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Envelope, please: Brad Oltmanns (left) and Rick Rosas, of PricewaterhouseCoopers, lead the balloting team at PWC, safeguarding the news everyone waits for on Oscar night.

When it comes time to tally the votes for Oscar night, the Academy knows which accountants it can count on.

Pocket protectors and calculators are the clichéd sartorial trappings of your garden-variety accountant. But for one night each year, Brad Oltmanns and Rick Rosas, partners at accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, go black-tie and carry briefcases containing some of the world’s most closely guarded secrets: the winners of the Academy Awards. On the eve of the 83rd annual ceremony (scheduled for Feb. 27 on ABC), American Way caught up with Oltmanns and Rosas to discuss the top-secret process of counting ballots, stuffing envelopes and attending the night of 1,000 stars.

American Way: For a brief window of time every year, the two of you are in possession of some precious intelligence. Do you prefer your martinis shaken or stirred?
Brad Oltmanns: Everybody’s accounting should be done with utmost precision and confidentiality. The Academy Awards are no different, principally speaking. It is very important to keep these secrets, and I think Rick and I are well suited for the job.
Rick Rosas: Plus, we don’t talk in our sleep.

AW: Have you received any wacky bribes in exchange for winners’ names?
RR: Part of the legacy of PWC having done this for 75 years is that we’ve established a pretty fair reputation for inscrutability.
BO: Our biggest fear is probably being accosted by the comedians. Jack Black once threatened to thrash us pretty good. Robin Williams has teased us a lot but has made no threats of bodily harm. It’s all in good fun.

AW: As for the actual accounting work, how is it done?
BO: We receive everyone’s votes in the mail, and then we dole out the work to a team of four PWC professionals — just a portion of it, so that no one is counting votes for an entire category by himself.
RR: Brad and I are the only ones who do the final tallying to determine winners in all 24 categories. We double- and triple-check our work.
BO: At the show itself, Rick is standing on one side of the stage. I’m standing on the other. We each have a complete set of “winner envelopes,” just in case anything unexpected were to happen.

AW: Have there ever been any panic button moments?
RR: There was an incident several years back when Sharon Stone’s envelope went missing. But that was before Brad and I were on the job.
BO: Most panic moments at the Academy Awards can be averted by giving presenters the envelopes at the very last second. That’s the best piece of wisdom I have.

AW: What would the penalties be if someone were to spill the beans?
RR: The first one is: We wouldn’t be doing interviews with you next year.

AW: After the show ends, what happens for you?
RR: We go to the Governor’s Ball. That’s the highlight of the night for us. We’re no longer on the clock at that point, and we can have a refreshment or two.
BO: And then Monday morning, it’s back to business as usual.
RR: Yep, you’re back to what you were before: a basic accountant.

Facts and Figures

  • Pricewaterhouse-Coopers receives up to 6,000 votes from members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for each category.
  • Bob Hope holds the record for most times hosting the Academy Awards, at 19 times.
  • The first Academy Awards ceremony was May 16, 1929, in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
  • The 25th Academy Awards, held in 1953, was the first to be televised.
  • Only three films in history have won Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Writing: It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
  • Titanic (1997) and All About Eve (1950) each received 14 nominations — more than any other movie.
  • Shirley Temple, who was 6 years old when she received a Special Award in 1934, remains the youngest winner in Oscar history.