Movies

Will Real Accountants See ‘The Accountant’?: An Investigation

On Wednesday morning, I tweeted an innocuous observation about Ben Affleck’s new movie, The Accountant – in which Affleck plays an accountant who is an assassin on the side (it’s a little more complicated than that, but there’s the gist) – that there’s a montage of Ben Affleck doing accounting in the movie. It’s at this point that I started receiving tweets from actual accountants telling me that they couldn’t wait to see this movie. I hadn’t even thought of this before, but it makes sense because Hollywood certainly doesn’t make a lot of action movies about accountants.

This got me to thinking: are real life accountants looking forward to seeing The Accountant?

On Wednesday morning, I started cold calling accountants around the New York City area to ask this question. While doing this, I learned a couple of things. First, right now, it’s tax season. I was told this multiple times with annoyed huffs from very busy people. (I honestly just assumed this was a slow time for accountants, but apparently the tax deadline for people who filed extensions back in April is this week.) The second thing is kind of related: most normal people aren’t super into the idea of answering questions about a new Ben Affleck movie from a stranger on the telephone. (But, as it turns out, some are.)

Anyway, here’s how all this went:

The first company I called was Steinberg Shebairo LLP. A woman answered and I replied, “Hello, I’d like to speak to an accountant.” She asked what this was concerning. I answered truthfully and she laughed and quickly hung up on me.

Next was C York CPA. It yielded a similar result. When I explained what I was doing, the response from the receptionist was, “They’re not really taking calls… like this.” (I do like to think there was a specific warning against people calling about Ben Affleck or The Accountant.)

I then called Herman Yiu CPA. The conversation went like this:

“I’d like to speak to an accountant, please.”

“What is this regarding?”

“I’m doing a story on if real accountants want to see the new Ben Affleck movie, The Accountant.”

“I can ask someone.”

“Okay.”

[30 seconds pass.]

“Thank you for holding, sir. Yes, he has heard of it and is interested.”

“Oh, great. What’s his name?”

[Long pause] “John? John would be fine. We will just keep it very simple and ambiguous.”

At this point I started to get the idea that, yes, accountants did want to see The Accountant, but do not want to be on the record at all admitting that, like “John” here.

I then called Marcum LLP and got a company directory that asked for specific last names. I took a shot in the dark and it connected me to an accountant who did not want to be identified. When I asked him if he’s going to see The Accountant, he laughed and said, “I don’t plan on it, no.”

I spoke to Suzie at VB&T Certified Public Accountants and asked the same question and she answered, “No.”

I followed up, “An accountant who fights crime in his spare time isn’t of interest?”

She responded, “Well, we’re so busy with the tax deadline.” Again, it’s tax season. Maybe this isn’t the best release date if the movie is looking to get the accountant crowd, because they are all so busy.

I then spoke to Joann Fleming, a forensic accountant whose job is to investigate white-collar criminals. Well, let’s just say The Accountant hit the jackpot with her.

When I asked her if she’s excited about The Accountant, she answered, “Well, I do forensic accounting. I investigate white-collar crime. So, that’s kind of what I thought it was going to be.”

I then explained, “He does that. There’s a biotech company with missing money. But there are also assassins involved, so he does that, too.”

She responded, “Well, I have to tell you, I did taxes and accounting for 25 years and I sold that business to zero in and focus in on forensic work. And now when I tell people what I do, they say, ‘Oh, that sounds really interesting.’ So I think it is going to be really interesting. That’s my guess.”

“After this movie comes out, do you think people will be even more excited about your job?”

“Well, could be!”

“Like, don’t mess with her.”

“Remember the guy, when Leonardo DiCaprio played the forger?”

Catch Me If You Can.”

Catch Me If You Can! Yeah, that was a bump up for forensic accountants because they had to find the guy. He outsmarted everyone at the time. So, yeah, I think it’s going to be a boost for our industry.”

“Do you think you’ll see it then?”

“Usually when you see them and you’re inside the industry, there’s a lot of flaws. But that’s Hollywood, so that’s okay.”

“I think you will find flaws.”

“Someone who is a negative person would look at that and say, ‘Oh, that’s not accurate.’ It’s a story.”

“Well, probably a lot of the assassin stuff.”

“Yeah.”

“He’s also a savant with numbers and can do a lot of math in his head.”

“But that’s not what accountants are all about. People think you have to be really smart in math. Uh uh. It’s not about that. Okay, that’s the first thing that says, hmmm.”

In the end, Joann Fleming said she’d probably see it this weekend and this phone call might have inspired her to do so. (You’re welcome, Warner Bros.)

The last person I called was a man named Franz who works for Fairweather Tax Accountants in Brooklyn. I asked him if he’s going to see The Accountant. Franz responded very enthusiastically, “Oh, I’m definitely going to see it, yeah!” He plans to go this weekend.

When I asked why, Franz responded, “Just the fact the name is The Accountant and the advertisements show him with a machine gun! I think he’s probably going after his clients or something!”

Mike Ryan lives in New York City and has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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