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Five times actuaries have been portrayed in the movies

When we think of blockbuster movies, many of us may think of superheroes, maverick cops or angry dinosaurs. But in fact there are plenty of examples of Hollywood being prepared to take on the risk of portraying an actuary.

So here are five times actuaries have been portrayed on the big screen, blogs Charlotte Forsyth.

The Actuary magazine opened up this discussion in the November 2018 edition, and the article sparked a big discussion on our social media channels about the fictional portrayals of actuaries on screen. I was hoping to do an Oscars style awards approach but the Best Actress category would’ve been hard – because we couldn’t find a female actuarial character in our search. On a very insightful Wikipedia page entitled List of fictional actuaries, there is a mention of a character called Minerva Dobbs in a book called Bet Me by Jennifer Cruise. Even in the realm of animated actuaries, which seems to be a grand total of one, the character Jaguar in Zootopia is also male. So, with this in mind, I present awards for the most interesting actuarial portrayals in film.

About Schmidt (2002)

Perhaps the most famous of on screen actuaries, Warren Schmidt is portrayed by Jack Nicholson; the film mostly covers Schmidt's retirement from an insurance company, and his adventures after retirement. It is not the most uplifting portrayal, with Schmidt explaining at one point to a Tanzanian orphan named Ndugu he writes to that, as a former actuary, he can calculate with great probability how many years a man will live, and he gives himself a 73 percent chance of being dead in nine.

Zootopia (2016)

Perhaps helping to boost the awareness of the profession to young children, the character Jaguar is a young tiger that aspires to be an actuary in the 7th highest grossing animated film of all time. Jaguar exclaims whilst wearing a suit, "I don't have to be a lonely hunter anymore. Today I can hunt for tax exemptions; I'm gonna be an actuary!" This is probably the least stereotypical portrayals of actuaries on the list, and the only character aimed at children, so perhaps will lead the way to more diverse and interesting on screen characters.

Fight Club (1999)

Edward Norton plays the protagonist, who briefly describes that his job entails the assessment of risk associated with car accidents for an insurance company; though not explicitly stated, he performs the job of an underwriter who uses actuarially derived premiums to benchmark quotes.

Boyhood (2014)

Mason Evans, Sr. (played by Ethan Hawke) mentions at a baseball game that he recently passed his second actuarial exam, and later discusses his job at an insurance firm. This could be a reference to Ethan Hawke's father, who was an insurance actuary himself.

Along Came Polly (2004)

Reuben Feffer (played by Ben Stiller) is a risk assessment expert, and though not explicitly stated, performs the job of an underwriter. Throughout the film his character is particularly risk averse and this speech to Jennifer Anniston’s character is no different:

‘I know that I have a .013% chance of being hit by a car on my way home. Or a one in 46,000 chance of falling through a subway grate. So I try to manage that risk by avoiding danger and having a plan and knowing what my next move is. And I guess you don't exactly live your life that way. Yeah... which is great, but I'm not gonna ever be a dirty dancer, and I don't eat food with my hands, and I really like you, but I just don't think this is gonna work out.’

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