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HomeAwardsContender - Mark Isham Totals Up His Collaboration on The Accountant

Contender – Mark Isham Totals Up His Collaboration on The Accountant


Ben Affleck in The Accountant (2016). Photo by Courtesy of Warner Bros Entertai - © 2015 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Ben Affleck in The Accountant (2016). Photo by Courtesy of Warner Bros Entertai – © 2015 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The working relationship between composer Mark Isham and director Gavin O’Connor began long before their current collaboration on The Accountant. “It started,” Isham recounted, “with Gavin interviewing me for his film Miracle.”

To paraphrase The Beatles, Isham “passed the audition,” and director and maestro have since done three other films since that 2004 release.

And yet, The Accountant, their current collaboration featuring Ben Affleck as a number-cruncher-cum-hitman, whose career mash-up is unlikelier than his autism, prompted a new style of partnership.

“Of all the pictures I’ve done before,” Isham said, “Gavin had some ideas. With Miracle, he already had a temp score, and on Pride and Glory he had some songs picked out. When I met with him on this film, he said ‘I haven’t the faintest idea…’ So, we started experimenting.”

That began, in the manner of Jackson Pollock’s approach to canvas, with “throwing everything and anything” against scenes. At least, in terms of music.

The search was for “the right balance of melody vs. rhythm vs. abstraction vs. simplicity,” to, in turn, “balance” Affleck’s character, along with everyone else in the film.

One of the keys to that balance came in the form of Affleck’s Christian Wolff character: “This idea of numeric patterns tying together — whether it’s fully electronic, or any 80-piece orchestra with a choir.” The recurring mathematical patterns became “a basic concept underlying this score, the linking factor bringing all these cues together, even though they’re very diverse.”

Isham also spoke of Wolff as being the reason the score had to be different than a more “traditional” action/thriller soundtrack — because the scenes were constructed differently. Instead of a 10 minute shoot ‘em up, for example, there might just be a two minute shoot em up, full of accountant-like expedience: “There’s not a single gratuitous action moment here,” Isham emphasized, since Wolff only springs into action “when somebody he cares about is threatened.” And then, even when wiping out adversaries, he’s “the most efficient mathematically minded guy in the universe.”

At that point, then, the character’s compulsion, his “propulsion is that he must finish a cycle of action. And the music had to represent that. One of the times I scored a scene I did this big Iron Man thing, though I wasn’t being ruthlessly efficient.” When he asked the director if he’d “stripped it down enough,” Gavin told him “not by a long shot…”

So Isham stripped it down even more, trying to get the score to reflect the same nuts and bolts, or perhaps ones and zeros, that Wolff lives by. And if Affleck’s main character is somewhat communication-challenged on the verbal side, neither composer nor director had such a problem: “Gavin and I have a great ability to communicate with each other” he said, “We’re not unwilling to say when we don’t understand something.”

Or, each other.

And after their fourth collaboration, this coming on a thriller about a man who is generally misunderstood by the world around him, it is likely both O’Connor and Isham will have many more opportunities for more fruitful “misunderstandings” of their own.

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