While Ben Affleck may technically be the star of the Accountant, we all know who the coolest cast member is! We still have very fond memories of JK from his time in Oz and Whiplash has turned him into a major star. Here is an Irish exclusive Q&A with the main man…
The Accountant is released in cinemas this Friday, 4th Nov.
When you were first approached about the project, what intrigued you about The Accountant and made you want to become involved?
J.K. SIMMONS: Well, I’ll give you the answer, and the true answer is that, initially, it was just the script. I thought the script was so interesting, so layered and so sort of genre-busting. That was definitely the first thing that appealed, and Ben [Affleck] was attached. I don’t think we’d ever met at all, but I was a fan of his.
I knew a little bit of [director] Gavin [O’Connor]’s work, and, really, the first thing I did before meeting with him was to re-watch his film, Warrior. Even though I knew what was happening, and knew what was going to happen, I could not sit down watching that movie. It was so compelling, not just on an action and fight level, but on a storytelling level. The relationship between the brothers and the humanity of it, I thought, was so brilliant.
Then, when we met for the first time in person, I found Gavin to be extraordinarily passionate. We had sort of crammed a lunch into the middle of the day, and I ended up staying longer than I had intended or was supposed to – just because he was such a fascinating guy. We talked about everything. We talked about The Accountant some, but we talked about a lot more, just about making movies and about life, about family and about love.
It was a just really great combination of factors, but having that meeting with Gavin absolutely convinced me that he was a guy I wanted to work with and a guy who could really make the most of this screenplay.
What was it like working with Gavin once you started shooting, and how did you find him as a director?
J.K.S: Ideal, really, because he was so thoroughly prepared. The more I learn, the more I talk to Ben, and having now seen the movie, it’s clear that he was thoroughly prepared throughout. He always knew what he wanted, but was open to being a collaborator. He uses the same metaphor that I use – that movie-making is a team sport.
He was, to me, the ideal combination of the general who knows every single moving part, but he was also down there in the trenches with the grunts – whether it’s actors or grips or anyone. He has not just a thorough knowledge of all the aspects of how to make the movie, but a real appreciation for each part.
What can you tell us about your character, Treasury agent Ray King, and where he fits in the puzzle that unfolds in this movie?
J.K.S: Well, he’s trying to solve the puzzle. I read this script, and the things that are surprising as it unfolds completely, one hundred percent, took me by surprise. I just saw the finished product for the first time, and Anna [Kendrick] was at the same screening with her boyfriend. He’s a cinematographer and obviously knows the business very well, and I was really pleased to hear him say that he did not see things coming – the puzzle elements of the story and the twists and turns of the plot.
I say all that just because I hope people will go see the movie and not try to learn too much about it before they go see it because so much of what makes the movie interesting is letting it unfold.
Cynthia Addai-Robinson plays the agent your character brings in to track down the Accountant, Marybeth Medina. What is their dynamic and what do you think Cynthia brings to the role?
J.K.S: Ray recruits Marybeth Medina, somewhat unethically, to be his heir. It’s easy to see him as a self-serving character in that, but I think he has the greater good in mind as well, ultimately. And I think our characters find interesting commonality, which, to me, is so important.
And Cynthia was great, first of all. She brought groundedness, and a real honesty and reality to the character. I probably should edit myself now, but I’ll go ahead and say this: One of the things that I said to Gavin when we talked was, ‘I don’t want some glamorous, gorgeous young babe to be playing Marybeth Medina.’ That part hadn’t been cast yet, and it was important to me that she just be real and believable as this character, who comes from a rough background. So, then, when I saw that he’d cast this beautiful actress, I was initially thinking, ‘Oh, man, really? That’s too bad.’ But, obviously, I wouldn’t be saying that if it didn’t have a happy ending [laughs]. My concern was that I didn’t want it to be a distraction from who the character is, but she’s serious enough and a good enough actress that it wasn’t, and that was interesting to see.
Cynthia is obviously much younger and less experienced than I, so there was that dynamic of the mentor and the protégé that sort of imitated our imitated life, and that added an interesting aspect to the relationship between our characters. In terms of the actual detective work that’s being done in the movie, Marybeth is doing ninety percent of it, and Ray is the guy pulling the strings. But he has also done his homework, researching and finding her as the right person for the job.
Lastly, I wanted to ask you about working with Ben Affleck, and the qualities you think he brings to the role of the title character, Christian Wolff?
J.K.S: I think he brings everything that the role required. He’s a serious and smart actor and filmmaker. Like so many scripts, this one had been bouncing around for a while, and could have easily gotten made with other directors and other actors, but I think, as is sometimes the case, it ended up in exactly the right hands with Gavin and Ben.
Ben really did his homework and then, throughout the movie, he found the specificity in his work – so much of which is spent alone, obviously by design – and in the way that Christian is able to, or not always able to, relate to other characters in his life. Gavin and Ben talked often about how there is no sense of, ‘This is how people with autism’ – or Asperger’s or anyone on the spectrum – ‘behaves.’ It’s as individual as people who are not on the spectrum. So, between Bill [Dubuque]’s script, Gavin’s direction and Ben’s research, they created a character who was specific and just real; it was unbelievable.
And, in the same way that Gavin is my ideal kind of director, Ben is my ideal kind of actor. He brings a real preparation, commitment and seriousness to the role, but doesn’t take himself too seriously. When you’re in between takes, just waiting for somebody to tweak a light or something, you can sit around and talk about your kids or just human stuff that you have in common. He’s just a good guy to hang out with, which is important when you’re hanging around for fifteen hours a day on a movie set.