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Does Hollywood Always Portray Accountants as ‘Pathetic’ or ‘Despicable’?

That’s the question put forth by a reader across the pond to the group and since the Academy Awards have come and gone with nothing more than the cliché PwC jokes, it seems worth discussing.

But first, the Brit with the beef:

I watched the brillant [sic] Untouchables yesterday. This triggered the point about portryal [sic] of accountants by Holloywood [sic]. It is very poor in comparision [sic] 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.

Well, for starters, comparing the work of firefighters and doctors to accountants makes as much sense as sending a team of interns into an audit committee meeting. If you’re looking for heroics, there are few opportunities for accountants in Hollywood; even a crook-turned-crime-fighter like Sam Antar would be a anti-hero at best. One exception would be Ben Kingsley as Itzhak Stern in Schindler’s List.

As for Morris in Ghostbusters, he scores with Annie Potts in Ghostbusters 2, so that hardly qualifies as pathetic. As for motive behind the unflattering portrayals, maybe enough people working in Hollywood have been ripped off by their own accountants that a slight vein of villainy is always written into their characters. The most recent muse being Ken Starr.

Despite that possibility, there are plenty of accountants in film that we like:

• Thandie Newton as Stella in RocknRolla

• Leo Bloom in The Producers (Wilder or Broderick, take your pick)

• Danny Glover as Henry Sherman in The Royal Tenenbaums

• It’s on the small screen but George Wendt as Norm Peterson on Cheers

Whether you see these characters as flattering or not, is your call but their awesomeness is not in question (I’m partial to Stella, frankly). We’re missing some, surely, so feel free to chime in with others.

No Mr. Wendt, Having Played an Accountant on TV Won’t Help Your Tax Problem

When who played one of the most treasured accountants in television history can’t manage to use his fictional expertise to get themselves out of a tax jam, you have to start asking yourself – what chance do any other future thespians that play accountants have?

Robert Snell over at Tax Watchdog reports that George Wendt owes the state of California $30,000 in taxes, citing public records.

Robert did his usual diligence asking for the celebrity’s point of view and he managed to get Norm’s agent, Arthur Toretzky who was less than thrilled with the inquiry. Here’s a portion of his response to Robert’s email:

Do you reporters get a charge out of writing this stuff? George is one of the nicest guys in the world and you want to embarrass him. I just don’t get it. How this wold [sic] has changed. Good luck with getting whatever information you need, and I hope this at least puts you in contention for a Pulitzer.

Not sure if Robert responded to Artie but on Tax Watchdog it’s pretty clear why this is important:

Every year, about $345 billion in federal taxes are either late or unpaid, according to the IRS, ripping open holes in budgets and shortchanging schools and public safety. That forces taxpayers to cough up more than their fair share, tax experts say.

Unless you don’t think that’s a big deal. Besides, if he had Ted Danson’s business manager maybe this wouldn’t have happened.