The Oscar briefcase is treated like a red carpet celebrity. (Photo by Jailyn Marcel.)
The Oscars' biggest secrets are kept in this simple briefcase. Photo by Jailyn Marcel.)
Tom Cruise wishes he had the Academy Awards' briefcase's power.
The Oscar briefcase makes a tour that the Stanley Cup itself would envy. (Photo by Jailyn Marcel.)
It’s a small, powerful force in Hollywood that sucks up red carpet moments and insists on keeping things secretive.
Who is Tom Cruise?
We kid, of course. Cruise hasn’t been this relevant in years. We’re talking about the Oscar briefcase, a seemingly normal, humble bag that holds the movie world’s most coveted intel. As briefcases go, this one is pretty standard issue, with its gold-colored Oscar statue silhouette and its gold-lettered PwC — for PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm entrusted with counting the Oscar ballots — about the only things making it stand out.
Yet, this briefcase makes a tour around America that would make the Stanley Cup jealous. And it receives the type of special police protection that’s usually reserved for high-ranking dignitaries on Oscar night. It is all about what is inside its single flap, basic clap setup that makes it so valuable.
The identity of all the Academy Award winners are kept in these briefcases (there are two official Oscar briefcases, both holding winning envelopes for every category) — and two accountants know which movie stars will be celebrating days before the rest of the world. They’re sworn to secrecy of course — and treat that responsibility with the seriousness of a British Royal guard.
“People will ask who the winners are going to be,” Martha Ruiz, one of the two people in the world who know the identity of all the Oscar winners before Sunday night’s ceremony, tells PaperCity. “But they’re mostly joking. They know we’re not going to reveal anything.”
Still, it’s a heady time for the briefcases and the accountants. Ruiz and fellow PwC partner Brian Cullinan walk the red carpet with all the mega celebrities — and get asked for more selfies than Justin Bieber. Because of what’s attached to their wrist.
“Everyone wants a picture with the briefcase,” Ruiz says. “We don’t fool ourselves. We know it’s not about us,”
John Legend and Chrissy Teigen insisted that Ruiz pose with them one year. And you didn’t think the accountant’s life was glamorous?
“All the red carpet stuff is very different for us,” Ruiz says.
The Oscar briefcase is not just feted in Hollywood. It made a stop in Houston — hitting the Museum of Fine Arts, the new Marriott Marquis hotel, Killen’s Barbecue (the briefcase apparently appreciates good food too) and NRG Stadium. It even got up in the air on one of the Texas Medical Center’s Life Flight helicopters.
It’s good to be Oscar golden.
Once the ceremony begins, the briefcases (and their human handlers, Ruiz and Cullinan) retreat just off stage (with one stage left and one stage right, just in case something happens). The PwC partners hand each set of presenters the official envelopes with the card identifying the winner they tabulated days ago inside.
If someone accidentally (or purposefully) ever read off the wrong name, Ruiz and Cullinan would know and immediately step in — and inform someone off stage.
“There are procedures in place,” Ruiz tells PaperCity. “We’d tell the show producer and it’s his call on how to handle it. We wouldn’t go on stage ourselves.”
You’re not supposed to mess with Oscar. Not when the briefcases are lurking.