Hollywood's top five accountants

By Eleanor O'Neill, CA Today

8 April 2016

With accountants set to hit our screens in two big Hollywood films this year, Eleanor O'Neill rounds up the top five most memorable movie accountants.

'Central Intelligence' will grace cinemas on 17 June and sees a tough-talking CIA agent (Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson) and mild-mannered accountant (Kevin Hart) team up for a 'top-secret case' after a high school reunion brings them together. The action comedy follows the duo as they face shootouts, double-crosses and espionage in an escalating ride of lethality and laughs.

Later in the year, Ben Affleck will star alongside Anna Kendrick as Christian Wolff, a maths genius and forensic accountant who specialises in creative bookkeeping for gangsters. After taking on a legitimate client in an effort to avoid arrest, Wolff uncovers discrepancies that add up to millions. 'The Accountant' will be released by Warner Bros on 14 October.

With these two distinctly different modern takes on the profession looming, we take a look back at the silver screen number crunchers who have given accountants everywhere an ephemeral claim to fame.

1. Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Shawshank Prison

Image courtesy: Flickr

Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is a white collar accountant, accused and found guilty of murdering his wife and her lover.

Inside the walls of the notorious Shawshank Prison, he finds his element in advising the guards on their tax returns and liberally editing the books for the crooked warden. While his work earns him protection and privileges behind bars, the stakes quickly escalate when a chance comes along to breathe free air again. Realising that Andy knows too much, the powers that be take extreme measures to keep him in Shawshank and escape soon becomes the only option.

In his own words: "On the outside, I was an honest man, straight as an arrow. I had to come to prison to be a crook."

Andy is a wholly compelling character. Intelligent and cultured, he adapts to his newfound and threatening situation but doesn't passively accept it.

2. Itzhak Stern, Schindler's List (1993)

Schindler Factory

Image courtesy: Flickr

This Oscar winning film tells the true story of how Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) became an unlikely humanitarian when faced with the horrific treatment of the Jewish population during WWII.

At the suggestion of his Jewish accountant, Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), businessman and Nazi party member Schindler enjoys the benefits of cheap Jewish labour in his military supplies factory. After witnessing the massacre of a Krakow ghetto, his perspective shifts and he joins Stern in turning his factory into a safe haven from the concentration camps. Bartering and betting his own fortune and reputation, Schindler bribes officials and Stern falsifies documentation to save and keep as many workers as possible.

So says Schindler: "My father was fond of saying you need three things in life - a good doctor, a forgiving priest, and a clever accountant. The first two, I've never had much use for."

Itzhak is a clever and unshakably moral man. He takes the first steps in helping his people regardless of the consequences for himself and is undoubtedly the brains behind the rescue operation.

3. Oscar Wallace, The Untouchables (1987)

Wine Barrels

Image courtesy: Shutterstock

In Prohibition-era Chicago, a Treasury agent leads a small group of men in a stand against the gangs running illegal booze.

Though everyone in the city knows the main culprit is the infamous Al Capone, corrupt officials and scare tactics ensure no tangible proof exists. Accountant Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith) comes up with the idea to prosecute the mob boss for tax evasion instead. For the plan to work, the Untouchables must track down the coded ledger detailing all of the criminal empire's income and the other, less moral, accountant responsible for it.

While Agent Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) takes the film's spotlight, it is Wallace who seems to be loosely based on Frank Wilson, the man credited with putting the real Capone behind bars.

"You know he's making over $3 million a year? But he's paid no taxes, nothing's in his name. If we can establish any payments to him, we can prosecute him for income tax evasion."

Oscar is a surprising hero. Introduced as something of a comic relief character, he comes into his own by not only devising the legal means to take down a gangster but by shooing a fair few of Capone's associates as well.

4. Leo Bloom, The Producers (1968/2005)

The Producers Sign

Image courtesy: Flickr

Two men set out to make the ultimate stage-show flop in a bid to fleece their investors.

Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel/Nathan Lane) is a down-an-out Broadway producer who has been reduced to romancing elderly ladies to fund his shows. When Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder/Matthew Broderick) arrives to audit his books and remarks upon a financial quirk of show business, the two hatch a plan to cash in. So begins the quest to produce the worst musical in history, 'Springtime for Hitler'.

"I spend my life counting other people's money. People I'm smarter than. Better than! I want... I want... I want everything I've ever seen in the movies!"

Leo is a timid character, going so far as to carry a baby blanket for comfort. He is the quintessential dreamer, unhappy with his lot in life but unwilling to do anything about it until strong-armed by someone else.

5. Louis Tully, Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters Car

Image courtesy: Flickr

A team of scientists, ridiculed for their occult studies, decide to take on the ghosts and ghouls of New York City.

Doctors Venkman (Bill Murray), Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Spengler (Harold Ramis) become the 'Ghostbusters', exterminators of the supernatural. They encounter Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), a woman scared out of her apartment by some spooky happenings, as their first client. When she and her neighbour, Louis Tully (Rick Moranis), are possessed by forces unlike the world has ever seen, only the Ghostbusters have the knowledge and guts to save both them and the city.

"I'm having a big party for all my clients, my fourth anniversary as an accountant, you know, and even though you do your own tax return, which you shouldn't do, I'd like you to stop by."

Louis is a bumbling, unfortunate man who clearly loves his job. Essentially a nice guy caught up in something unbelievable, his situation provides a lot of humour for the audience.

Have we missed any of your favourite silver screen accountants in this list? Let us know in the comments below.


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