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Drive Angry – How William Fichtner gets driven by freaky characters

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Drive Angry - William Fichtner
Drive Angry - The Accountant (William Fichtner) © 2010 Summit Entertainment

William Fichtner has appeared in a wide range of films in the course of his career including Date Night, The Amateurs, Blades of Glory, Crash, The Longest Yard, Armageddon and Strange Days. His notable TV stints have included roles on Prison Break, The West Wing and Invasion.

In his new movie Drive Angry he stars as The Accountant, an enigmatic killer who has been sent by the Devil to retrieve John Milton (Nicolas Cage) and deliver him back to hell.

What was it about Drive Angry that fascinated you?

Drive Angry - Katy Mixon, William Fichtner and Jack McGee
Norma Jean (Katy Mixon), The Accountant (William Fichtner) and Fat Lou (Jack McGee) © 2010 Summit Entertainment

It was the coolest, most exciting, most original read, driven by wide, freaky characters. But all the characters have an emotional reason for being there.

With a great script like this, everything you need is right there in front of you, so you can just have fun filling it out,

How do you do research on a role like this?

There’s really no reference point for my character. There is not an archetype for this guy. You just have to use your imagination to figure out how to fill in the blanks.

There were so many pieces that went into putting the character together. For example, The Accountant knows how to move in a way that’s not human. He can step out of a moving car and just keep walking gracefully.

All I could do was find one piece at a time and do it really simply, until it added up to the character you see in a movie.

What was it like working with the movie’s director, Patrick Lussier?

Drive Angry - William Fichtner
The Accountant (William Fichtner) and Piper (Amber Heard) © 2010 Summit Entertainment

Patrick has such a strong vision. There’s a grittiness to this world. It crackles with dark energy. Add 3D and it’s really thrilling. It’s sexy. It’s cool. It’s really raw.

Patrick has an unbelievable amount of positive energy at every given moment, every day and is such a joy to be around and a joy to talk to and to be directed by. Like all good directors, he has enough confidence to let you run if you want to. And when I have that combination of trust and faith then I can try anything.

If The Accountant isn’t Satan, who is he?

When people are bad they go to hell, it’s my responsibility to make sure that they stay there. I have a great job, I’m sure that I have some A/C where most probably don’t. Once in awhile, someone gets out, it’s rare but it happens, and Nic Cage’s character, Milton, driven by what he sees happening on earth figures out a way. And then The Accountant is in play.

This is really when his job is most interesting I would imagine. I figured that because Nic died and went to hell and came back in a human form, The Accountant probably lived on earth at some point and he gets to go back. So I thought, when’s the last time he saw a woman? When’s the last time he saw or drove a car? Listen to music? It’s nice to come back.

So I had fun, it was anything but hell.

You gave The Accountant movements that seemed otherworldly, what went into developing that and did you talk with Nic about what he was doing so that you would make the characters different?

Drive Angry - William Fichtner and Nicolas Cage
The Accountant (William Fichtner) and Milton (Nicolas Cage) © 2010 Summit Entertainment

Not really, no, because when I met Nic we had already started shooting the film.  The Accountant has a rhythm unlike anyone else really, except for Milton because he’s back, but I have a feeling The Accountant’s been down there a little bit longer than Milton.

I just showed up on set, the first day I worked with Nic he was doing his thing, and I was doing mine and it was really cool to be around him.

You get to drive a hydrogen tanker in this, what was that like?

The tanker was cool. They set aside over three hours one day to drive the hydrogen tanker. I’m like, ‘Really, over three hours?’

They said, ‘It’s 15 gears, airbrakes,’ and we were at the State fairgrounds with this one long road about a half mile long, and by the time I got close to the end of it I was in ninth gear doing about sixty, and Johnny Martin, our stunt coordinator was like, ‘You drive this better than me, let’s go to lunch.’

A week later we shot the scene with the tanker and that was fun, really cool. It was a very technical piece of filmmaking, not only just driving on the road but then in the soundstage late at night.

They literally put the hydrogen tanker and the police car on little casters and a lot of guys crouched down,  and they’d push them together and then they’d pull them apart and we had to get it just right where I would step out [gracefully and effortlessly] without them pulling the car away until I got my balance.

It took three or four hours and then finally we got the one take that [worked perfectly].