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The Oscar ballots are in

Accountants will count them under tight security
/ Source: Reuters

Voting in the Oscar race officially ended Tuesday, as last-minute ballots poured into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and accountants locked themselves in a hotel to start counting.

Oscars, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Feb. 29, are the U.S. film industry’s top honors.

Rick Rosas, a partner in the entertainment and media tax practice of accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, which counts the ballots, said very few of the roughly 5,800 eligible Oscar voters fail to turn in their choices for 2003’s best movie, actor, actress, director and other categories.

“Every year, there is extremely strong interest,” Rosas said.

Oscar voting is one of Hollywood’s most closely kept secrets, and Rosas is pretty tight-lipped about the process.

None of the ballots are opened until after Tuesday’s 5 p.m PST (8 p.m ET) deadline.

Sequestered accountantsThe accountants then retreat inside a room at an undisclosed hotel in the Los Angeles area until all the votes are counted, which is expected by Friday afternoon.

Only Rosas and PricewaterhouseCoopers senior partner Greg Garrison know the winners, whose names are sealed in two sets of identical envelopes and given to each man in case something happens to the other — a kidnapping attempt by a movie star or talent agent perhaps.

And that’s no joke. They even have security.

“We are shadowed by one of LAPD’s finest,” Rosas said, referring to the Los Angeles Police Department.

On Oscar day, he and Garrison take separate routes to the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, where the Oscar ceremony is held, in case one is delayed — L.A. traffic being what it is.

Once there, they stand backstage and hand the star presenters the envelopes with the winner names just before celebrities walk onstage to announce the winners.

Rosas remembers two years ago, when Russell Crowe was nominated for best actor “A Beautiful Mind.” Crowe was announcing a winner for a different Oscar, and Rosas was assigned to hand him the envelope.

Crowe teased Rosas to tell him if he’d won, but Rosas retained that tight lip.

“I keep a pretty good poker face,” he said.

This year marks the 70th out of 76 Oscar ceremonies that PricewaterhouseCoopers or one of its predecessors counted ballots.

“In this town, which is not known for discretion, we’ve been able to keep the biggest secret in town,” he said. “That’s pretty amazing.”