LOS ANGELES: After weeks of Oscar campaign ads, talk-show interviews and red-carpet events, members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have made up their minds. The next step is to count their votes.
Polling in this year’s Oscar race came to a close on Tuesday as the final ballots poured in, and a team of accountants prepared to tabulate the results behind closed doors at an undisclosed location.
The winners will be known only to the two men directing the process until the envelopes they deliver to the Oscar ceremony under police escort are opened and read aloud by celebrity presenters on live television at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on Sunday.
The runners-up, and details such as which races were close and who won by a landslide, are never divulged.
“That’s something that we keep to ourselves, take to the grave, if you will,” said Brad Oltmanns, who is conducting the tally with fellow PricewaterhouseCoopers executive Rick Rosas. The accounting firm has handled the Oscar voting for 73 years.
“I remember the winners from every year I’ve done it,” said Rosas, now in his sixth year of Oscar duty. “But as it relates to who came in second, third and fourth, I exercise some short-term memory loss there.”
Ballots were mailed to the more than 5,800 voting members of the academy on Jan. 31 and were due back at Pricewaterhouse in Los Angeles by 5 p.m. PST on Tuesday (0100 GMT on Wednesday). The firm does not reveal exactly how many votes come in other than to say it is a substantial majority.
Starting on Wednesday, Rosas and Oltmanns will sequester themselves with four assistants and the ballots for three days, working 14 to 15 hours daily to tally them all.
But the final count is done in such a way as to ensure that only Rosas and Oltmanns know the totals received by the winners in each of the 24 categories.
The secrecy continues up to the ceremony.
On Saturday, the day before the Oscars, the accountants will make two identical sets of envelopes stuffed with cards bearing the winners’ names, which are placed in a safe.
The morning of the show, each accountant picks up his set of envelopes and places them inside a black, leather case, which contrary to popular myth is not handcuffed to their wrists. Accompanied by police officers, the two are driven separately to the Kodak, each taking a different route as a precaution against Los Angeles’ notorious traffic.
Once at the Kodak, the accountants’ job is to maintain a poker face and keep the results to themselves until they hand the envelopes to the presenters as each category is announced.
“I take it very, very seriously,” Oltmanns said. “The evening of the show, I’m backstage looking at each envelope 15 or 20 times before it’s handed to the presenter to make sure that I’ve got the right envelope for the right presenter.”
But the pair insist they take no personal interest in the outcome of the Oscar races.
“I always like to say we’re not the ones picking them, thank God,” Rosas said. “We’re just counting them.”