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Unsung Oscar Heroes: PriceWaterhouse Coopers

Friday, 22 Feb 2008 | 3:14 PM ET
Hollywood
Hollywood

You'd think the Academy Awards were controlled by studio moguls or movie stars. But the guys really holding the cards -- literally -- are a couple of accountants.

Forget about George Clooney and Will Smith -- without Brad Oltmans and Rick Rosas, Price Waterhouse Coopers partners in the accounting firm's L.A. office, the show couldn't happen. They're responsible for calculating the results, and keeping them secret until the envelope is opened on stage.

Oltmans has been counting Oscar ballots for four years, Rick Rosas for seven. And in PWC's 74 years tallying votes for The Academy, they're only the 11th and 12th partners ever to run the counting process.

The ballots come in, some delivered by hand by celebs including Penelope Cruz.

At the Oscars with PWC
Behind the scenes with PriceWaterhouseCoopers at the Oscars, with CNBC's Julia Boorstin

This Wednesday through Friday, Brad, Rick and a select team of their top accountants remove themselves to an undisclosed location for three solid days of vote counting. And I mean old fashioned counting -- by hand. They finalize the tally Friday -- tonight -- and based on the way they split up the votes between other accountants, they're the only ones who know the final results. They keep mum through the weekend, not even telling their wives and kids who won.

Sunday morning, they're each picked up by a bodyguard -- an off-duty LAPD officer, who shadows them through the day, ensuring no one tries to steal the results. They walk the red carpet, their tuxes accessorized only by their Longchamps black leather briefcases, each stuffed with a set of the 24 envelopes. They each stand on either side of the stage, and they hand the appropriate envelope to the presenter before they walk out on stage.

It's a long night: four hours of standing on their feet and gripping the envelopes. Once their duties are finished and the last award is announced, they pick up their wives, who are sitting in the audience, along with a handful of other PWC accountants (PWC does work for the Academy year-round) and they head to the Governor's Ball to rub elbows with the stars.

It may be all business when they're on the job, but they're just as excited about the results as I am.

Brad makes a point to see every single movie that's been nominated. He says it makes the counting process more meaningful. But, he wouldn't say which movie he's rooting for -- he doesn't pick favorites. (Of course not, he's an even-handed accountant.)

One thing's for sure: the Oscar process is a far cry from the rest of the weeks of the year when they're doing tax planning. And while they usually sit glued to their computers and excel spreadsheets, here they're simply using pen and paper...

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.