Training for a role is nothing new for Ben Affleck who went to extremes to look the part of Batman in this year’s Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice.
But for his role in his latest film The Accountant – which he took on right after playing Batman – Affleck learned the fighting style of silat, a martial arts widely practised in Malaysia and Indonesia.
In an interview transcript provided by Warner Bros, Affleck said he found silat 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, so I had to do more of the action myself than I did in that movie.
“I spent a lot of time learning the choreography and rehearsing and practising 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.”
The Accountant, directed by Gavin O’Connor, sees Affleck playing a Maths savant named Christian Wolff who prefers crunching numbers than talking to people.
Now, if you are thinking, why would an accountant need to know how to fight? Well, the thing is, Christian is a freelance accountant for some of the world’s most dangerous criminal organisations.
According to Affleck, there is more to mild-mannered Christian than just a numbers guy.
“The story speaks to the duality in all of us,” said Affleck. “On the one hand, he’s this effectively trained fighter and on the other, he’s a math savant. Those facets of his personality – seemingly at odds in him – were unlike anything I’ve ever done before and made it both exciting and challenging.”
When asked if attaining the physicality informed him of the character, the 44-year-old actor replied: “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.”
For the action scenes particularly, O’Connor wanted a certain type of style that would explain Christian’s childhood training and his need for order.
“I wanted to approach the action through character, with the thought being when Chris got into a situation that required violence, he would eliminate the threat as quickly and economically as possible. It’s math. It’s, ‘How do I make my move and get them off the chessboard?’.”
The director looked at a couple fight styles with stunt coordinators Sam Hargrave and Fernando Chien before deciding on silat.
“I’d never even heard of silat before, but it’s incredibly efficient, so it served our purpose in a very cinematic way. We honed in on that form and built the action around it.”
The Accountant also stars Anna Kendrick, JK Simmons, John Lithgow, Jean Smart, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor and Cynthia Addai-Robinson. It opens Oct 20.