Are accountants accurately portrayed by Hollywood?

Are accountants accurately portrayed by Hollywood?

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I watched the brillant Untouchables yesterday. This triggered the point about portryal of accountants by Holloywood. It is very poor in comparision to other professions/

Most accountants in the movies are either pathetic (think Rick Moranis in Ghostbusters) or despicable (Ed Begley Jr. as the sleazeball accountant who crosses a vengeful Roseanne Barr in She-Devil).

Other professions like, firefighters, doctors, and lawyers  (Julia Roberts in the Oscar-winning Erin Brockovich), get their fair share of heroic roles. But when it comes to accountants we are pushed aside.

The only time an accountant is depicted as a hero is when they are using their sneaky accounting techniques to steal from other criminals.

What has Hollywood and Monthy Python (had) against accountants? Why are accountants not portrayed in a better light?

Replies (21)

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By cathygrimmer
28th Feb 2011 13:29

Accountant as hero?

I did write a short story once which had a tax inspector as the sleuth/'hero' - maybe I should write a screenplay with an accountant as the hero? When it's turned into a Hollywood blockbuster I shall invite all my AWeb friends to the London premiere!!


[email protected]


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By Steve Holloway
28th Feb 2011 13:38

Would love to come Kathy ....

but these bank accounts aren't going to reconcile themselves are they?!

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By Russell Eisen
28th Feb 2011 13:53

Local Hero

What about  Denis Lawson as Gordon Urquhart in Local Hero?

Although not a Hollywood blockbuster, he was still an accountant, and suggest he was portrayed in a good way!


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By justsotax
28th Feb 2011 14:44

Shawshank Redemption.....

whther you would class it as a positive role i am not sure....but certainly not pathetic or weak.....and a very good film. 

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the sea otter
By memyself-eye
28th Feb 2011 15:03

better light?

I'm quite happy to hide my light under a bushell - until that is I put on blue underpants (outside my trousers) and red cape.

Anyway, I found being a 'rock-god' so boring.....


Or is it red pants and blue cape?


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By pembo
28th Feb 2011 17:21

Sad isn't it ?

...trouble is not so much the new generation but the older ones I remember from the lecture rooms of 25 years + ago that was sadly all too accurate.. 

when you consider that we accountants have had a huge input through big 4 auditing techniques and REPOs and the like in bringing the worlds economy to its knees it is indeed shameful that we do not get more credit ...

Look at that great film "The Firm"...expect the mobs beancounters could have featured just as well but of course they choose Tom Cruise to play the lawyer...

Think Shawshank is a very good exception....Robbins character is excellent...I wouldn't worry too much about Ghostbusters and it really wouldn't have worked to have Kevin Costner as the accountant and vice versa now would it...?

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By cymraeg_draig
28th Feb 2011 18:49


Face it - accountancy just isn't sexy. 

Now standing in a court wearing a wig - that IS sexy :)


Accountants are, in some ways, their own worst enemy in that they tend to be "conservative" in their dress, and precise and correct in the way they act.  This is all very well, but it's hardly the stuff that films are made about.

Unfortunately the image of the city gent in a pin-stripe suite and bowler hat from 50 years ago has led to the urban myth that all accountants are boring 6 stone wimps.  As I mentioned before, there are a surprising number of accountants (& indeed other professionals) who spend their weekends racing motorcycles or cars. A lot also play Rugby (hardly the preserve of 6 stone wimps).

Of course the fact that the inaugural world Sudoku championships were won by an accountant dont exactly help to project an exciting image.

Perhaps the profession itself should do more to change its public image and become less stuffy.


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By Albert Camus
28th Feb 2011 19:17

Don't think I'm the typical and I am writing a book about my lif

I am writing a book about my life so who knows, maybe Daniel Craig will star in the block buster accountancy break through!

Highlights include:Orphaned at 16 Prize winning body builder3 Dan Karate teacher, with time spent in Japan Service in the parachute regiment Involved in (as in investigated or reported on) two national financial scandals with newspaper coverage of the issue and of me.Created own firm from scratch, and built it to a million pound business before having it taken off of me by the ICAEW and effectively given for free to a rivial for having a mental health breakdown and calling someone’s complaint "froth" in a letter whilst very ill.Being denyed any right of appeal by the ICAEW as it "would not allow them to get on with their business" by having to readdress my case.Bankruptcy and starting life again aged 37 as a shelf stacker.Albert Camus

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By FirstTab
28th Feb 2011 19:32

Thanks. An interesting response.

Albert I hope things improve for you. Please post on AW when your book is availabe for sale. I would love to read it. If at all possible please have an audio version. On average I listen to one audio book a week. I read one book every month or so. Even though I have the great Kindle.

One recommendation is here. A brillant book with Stephen Fry reading it is a bonus.

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By MarionMorrison
28th Feb 2011 19:35

Monty Python

Here's the Python take on Chartered Accountancy:

Amazing how young Cleese looks.

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By FirstTab
28th Feb 2011 20:19


I would love to read the screen play!

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By cymraeg_draig
28th Feb 2011 22:48

Fiction v non-fiction


Albert it will be interesting to see non-fiction written by an accountant, most accountants write works of fiction (only they call then balance sheets, not books).


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By pembo
01st Mar 2011 10:08

blimey Albert

my life seems positively dull by comparison....sounds like you deserve a break so if and when  the book takes off can we look forward to the Guy Ritchie blockbuster ...?... If so some people have kindly commented that I do possess a somewhat "brooding malevolence" and would relish the opportunity to play the ICAEW chief baddie ....

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John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
04th Mar 2011 10:39

That is some tale, Albert

As you develop your story, perhaps you could share it with us in the peaceful and supportive atmosphere of the book club.

Meanwhile, I'd like to thank FirstTab for reviving one of my favourite topics - and an inspiration many of the Born Dull?! threads we used to run. Due to some database jiggery-pokery our movie catalogue has disappeared into the server farm, but in 2009 Rob Lewis compiled a list of Accountants in the movies for us.

Mark Lee is an afficionado, and compiled another list on his Accountant jokes and fun blog in 2006.

While searching for that post, I found another from Mark that reminded me of Stranger Than Fiction, which was on TV over Christmas. I'm afraid this one pushes the old stereotype of an obsessive-compulsive IRS tax auditor to the max, only for automoton-like Will Ferrell's uptightness to be loosened up by his audit target, wacky Brooklyn baker Maggie Gyllenhaal. It sounds like the ultimate in Hollywood cornball, but I really enjoyed it.

Over to you...

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By stuart1696w
04th Mar 2011 11:03

Accountants v Media guys

The relationship between the media and accountants is based on trust and understanding. They don't understand us and we don't trust them.

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By Psyche
04th Mar 2011 11:35

Accountants who kick [***]

Hollywood seems to pick "accountant" when it just needs a shorthand for "the most boring job we could think of".

I have two additions to the list:

- Johnny Depp in Dead Man - a midwestern city boy travels to the Wild West for an accountancy job that's been filled by the time he gets there, and ends up in a heap o' trouble instead.

- James McAvoy in Wanted - entry-level accountancy clerk discovers he secretly possesses the power to bend bullets, AND pull Angelina Jolie.

Two handsome accountants who kicked [***]! Let's have more of these, please! :)


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By andypartridge
04th Mar 2011 12:06

Boardwalk Empire

Anyone watching the fabulous Boardwalk Empire directed by Scorcese?

One of the main characters is a most persistent IRS officer in the prohibition era.

It showed, perhaps a little too graphically, the officer whipping his bare back with his knotted belt while ogling a photograph of his young witness/suspect. I won't mention his unbuttoned trousers.

It did make me think how the scene perfectly represented the view some of us have of Revenue inspectors.

-- Kind regards Andy

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By Ermintrude
04th Mar 2011 17:15

Shallow Grave



1994 British black comedy film directed by Danny Boyle.  Christopher Eccleston being the hero, or anti-hero, accountant.  Sexy?, well, lets put it this way, I would!  And co-star Ewan McGregor, come to that.

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David Winch
By David Winch
04th Mar 2011 17:38


I was thinking of that famous description of John Major as "The man who ran away from the circus to become an accountant".


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By JeremyNewman
05th Mar 2011 13:07

The Tick

Early 2000s TV series about superheroes; the protagonist is Mothman, an accountant. It's just finished its first UK run on FX.

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Mark Lee headshot 2023
By Mark Lee
07th Mar 2011 13:56

"a handsome, dashing and funny KPMG accountant"

In 1996 I had my first call from the BBC. Apparently that morning there had been a full page feature in one of the broadsheets, as a result of a press release issued by one of the largest firms of accountants. It seems that they were sponsoring a new film in which they had insisted that the lead character would be a chartered accountant, rather than a solicitor.

Then, as now, films were more likely to feature sexy solicitors and luscious lawyers rather than the exciting and glamorous life of a chartered accountant.

The producer of Newsnight wanted to do a piece about the prospective film and whether there was any real prospect of chartered accountants being seen as anything other than boring.  

The film in question was: The Sea Change. Sean Chapman played a 'handsome, dashing and funny KPMG accountant named Rupert Granger.'

The above is an extract from a full summary of the story, which culminated in my first appearance on Newsnight, as posted on the accountant jokes and fun blog in 2008.


ps: Thanks for the name check and blog link John.

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