Ben Affleck plays the title role in the thriller The Accountant. “Like, a CPA accountant?” asks a Treasury Department worker. “Not quite,” replies agent Ray King (J. K. Simmons) in what might be the understatement of the year.
Affleck is a pocket-protector-wearing forensic accountant who “risks his life cooking the books for some of the scariest people on the planet; drug cartels, arms brokers, money launderers, assassins.” An autistic math genius with a violent side, he survives his dangerous world through dual facilities for math and mayhem.
“He’s a very distinct and unusual character,” Affleck told Entertainment Weekly. “A little bit different than your average, everyday person in the way he processes information and social thinking, and the way he sees numbers and logic, and that he’s trapped a little bit in his own mind.”
Affleck joins a long list of actors who have looked for loopholes, legal, financial and otherwise, on the big screen.
The late, great Gene Wilder became a star playing bookkeeper Leo Bloom in The Producers. “I spend my life counting other people’s money. People I’m smarter than.” It’s Bloom who comes up with the get rich quick scheme to mount a terrible Broadway musical and make off with the investor’s cash when the show flops. His plan falls apart when Springtime for Hitler becomes a hit but his business partner still has good things to say. “You’re an accountant,” raves Max Bialystock. “You’re in a noble profession! The word ‘count’ is part of your title!”
Rick Moranis played Louis Tully, an accountant possessed by an ancient spirit in Ghostbusters. Before he goes all supernatural Louis throws a bash to celebrate his fourth anniversary as an auditor at his swanky Central Park West apartment. “I’m givin’ this whole thing as a promotional expense,” he says, “that’s why I invited clients instead of friends.” The scene was shot in one continuous take with Moranis making his way through the party, improvising perfectly nerdy CPA dialogue—“This is real smoked salmon from Nova Scotia, Canada, $24.95 a pound! It only cost me $14.12 after tax, though.”—throughout.
In The Untouchables Charles Martin Smith plays Oscar Wallace, the bespectacled book balancer who puts together the tax evasion case against notorious mobster Al Capone. The character was largely based on Frank Wilson, the IRS Criminal Investigator who spent years keeping tabs on Capone’s financial dealings before laying charges. A self-penned article on his exploits, He Trapped Capone, inspired the 1949 Glenn Ford film The Undercover Man.
Cher initially turned down the Oscar winning role of Loretta Castorini, the widowed accountant in Moonstruck who falls for a one-handed baker. Though exhausted from one of the busiest years of her career, she ultimately took the part, showing up on set just one day after wrapping The Witches of Eastwick. When Moonstruck was done she took a week off before shooting the courtroom drama Suspect. The singer-turned-actress later called making the film, “too silly, too much fun to be work,” and became only the second female performer, alongside Barbra Streisand, to have a #1 hit and an Oscar.
Bloom, Tully, Wallace and Castorini are reel life bookkeepers, but in real life several actors almost chose figures over fame. Bob Newhart worked the ledger books for United States Gypsum and Eddie Izzard studied accountancy at the University of Sheffield.