A quick Q&A with Ben Affleck on his new role in The Accountant

2016-10-27 06:00
ben affleck

Cape Town – In The Accountant Ben Affleck takes off his superhero cape to play Christian Wolff.

Wolff is a math savant with more affinity for numbers than people. Behind the cover of a small-town CPA office, he works as a freelance accountant for some of the world’s most dangerous criminal organisations.

See the trailer here:

Affleck sat down for a quick Q&A about his new role. 

What was it about this project that drew you in and made you want to become involved?  

This movie surprised me in a way because it was so much smarter and more thoughtful and mature than I thought it was going to be when I read it. The screenplay was rich in detail, interesting in character depth, and complex in its evolution. Just the pure puzzle aspect of the story kept me guessing until the last page, and I thought it resolved itself in a really smart way.  

Going into it, I was expecting a regular action movie but this was elevated and complex. Thematically, it was exploring how, even in the best intentioned ways, the things people do to try to protect their kids can end up holding them back and causing them harm. My character’s father puts him through all this rigorous training as a kid as a way to toughen him up for a world that could hurt him, but that experience ultimately just pushes him away and damages him further. 

What resonated with you about the character of Christian Wolff?  

Christian is autistic, and what resonated were the ways that he was similar to everyone else, not necessarily the ways that he was different. Autism can mean a million different things; he’s just one character that exists on a spectrum of people who have what some might call disabilities and others call special abilities. And the special abilities that Christian has pose some real challenges for him in trying to get by in life. 

What’s interesting is that even though he grapples with the differences between himself and typically functioning people, deep down, he’s very much the same. He wants to be happy; he wants human contact; he wants love; he wants friendship. He has little things that bother him, like we all do; he has goals in his life that he wants to meet; and he wants to succeed. He just defines those things differently than some other people do.

ben affleck

What can you tell us about the journey Christian takes in the film, and the different pieces of the puzzle that lock into place around him? 

In the beginning, we don’t quite understand who he is and what he does, and – without giving too much away – over the course of the film, we come to recognise that he’s an extremely sophisticated guy who can do and has been doing a lot of extraordinary things. Morally, and certainly ethically, he exists in a sort of gray zone for an accountant. But he has his own moral code – he makes sure that everything he does is for what he believes is the right reason, if not necessarily falling on the right side of the U.S. tax law.  

He’s been carrying on this life where he’s something of an elaborate Robin Hood, in a way – working with some of the most dangerous people in the world and trying to do something worthwhile with the profits. That’s what he’s dedicated his life to, but then, in taking on one of these jobs, he meets someone he starts to care about, and that person becomes threatened because of her association with him. That spurs him to act in a way that he hasn’t before, relying on the high-end military training his father forced down his throat as a kid.

You’ve obviously trained for other roles, but for this you learned the Silat fighting style. What was that like?

That was really interesting. Silat is a martial arts technique that hasn’t been seen in too many movies before, so the fights in the movie felt really fresh and new, visually. And, unlike Batman, I couldn’t wear a mask [laughs], so I had to do more of the action myself than I did in that movie.  So, I spent a lot of time learning the choreography and rehearsing and practicing these elaborate fights months and months ahead of filming. It could be very difficult and trying, but when it worked right, it looked really, really elegant and beautiful, even though it was part of war.  

Did attaining the physicality of Christian also inform the character for you in any way?  

To a certain extent. I thought of him as a very sensitive instrument that could pick up on things more than typically functioning people with less acute sensory perception – like how animals hear things that we don’t and become stiff and precise with their movements. There’s an aspect of that that I wanted to introduce into this character, as well as just a mix of behaviours I’ve observed in people and things I picked up while visiting schools for people on the autism spectrum, which I borrowed for the movie.

Ben Affleck,Anna Kendrick

How was it working Anna Kendrick, who plays the other accountant we meet in the film, Dana Cummings? 

Anna is one of those people who just brings a tremendous energy, authenticity and honesty to every scene she’s in. She’s just very talented and very honest and real as an actress. She doesn’t seem to know how to play a false note, so she’s a great litmus test for whether or not a scene works. You can be having fun playing something, but when you’re around Anna, it becomes very obvious very quickly if it’s not quite the right thing. It definitely stands out.  

Even before this project, I admired Anna a lot and was really hoping for a chance to work with her. So, I was thrilled when she signed on – except that, you know, I was a little worried that I was going to end up in her Twitter feed (laughs).  

How about JK Simmons? What qualities do you think he bring to the role of Ray King, the Treasury agent on Christian’s trail?  

Our characters are on a collision course in this movie, so I didn’t have a huge amount of scenes with him. But it was a joy to be in the movie with him, and the few scenes that we did to get to do together were a lot of fun.  

His character is on this train headed directly for Christian, and that part of the movie had to be carried off with great aplomb. It could very easily have become something that felt trite or extraneous, but JK made it into something elegant and tragic. The way he played it was just beautiful and I was so glad that he was the one doing the heavy lifting with that part. When I watched the movie, I was just blown away by the gravitas of his performance.  

gene simmons

The film has such a great cast, with actors like Jon Lithgow, Jean Smart, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor and Cynthia Addai-Robinson.  

This movie is kind of like a jigsaw puzzle, both in the literal sense in terms of the role the jigsaw puzzle plays in the story; and in a metaphorical sense in that it’s a lot of actors playing out their performances in pieces that interlock with one another and come together to create the whole image. There was no getting by without everybody pulling their weight; if any one of them is missing or not right, the whole thing falls apart. And this cast … there was not a false note in it, so I really felt the pressure to make sure that my performance was up to snuff.

The film releases in cinemas on Friday, 28 October. 

(Photos: AP)

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