Claimant argued his reputation suffered as result of being associated with mafia in 2016 film
Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick promoting The Accountant in 2016. Photograph: The Guardian
Sam Jones in Madrid – The Guardian
A judge in Spain has ordered Warner Bros to pay €25,000 in damages to a Moroccan businessman after his photograph appeared alongside images of the Gambino crime family in a 2016 thriller that starred Ben Affleck as a forensic accountant with a prodigious gift for maths.
The claimant, who had originally sought €250,000 from the studio, argued that his moral standing and business had suffered as a result of being associated with the mafia in the film The Accountant.
The man, whose name is redacted in the judgment, lives in Valencia, eastern Spain, and had claimed he was entitled to a share of its takings at the Spanish box office.
He said he had been alerted to his inadvertent appearance in the film by his son.
In its judgment, the Valencia court noted that the claimant’s face is visible for barely a second in a film that lasts 115 minutes. It also acknowledged Warner Bros’s submission that the photo had been taken from a genuine FBI arrest warrant issued for the claimant relating to an alleged computer fraud in 2004.
However, the court ruled that the man’s photograph had been used in the film “without any kind of consent, be it tacit or explicit” and that it had appeared under a label reading: “Suspected Gambino family associates”.
The juxtaposition, it added, constituted a breach of the claimant’s own image and injured his reputation.
The judge awarded the man €25,000 in damages but rejected his claim for loss of earnings on the grounds that it had not been established that he had suffered financially as a result of his image being used in the film.
He also noted that the claimant’s photograph had been distributed online as part of the investigation into the alleged fraud – and that he had spent time in prison in Spain.
Nevertheless, the judge said the claimant had never consented to his picture being used in the film.
“Bear in mind that even if we’re dealing with a work of cinematic fiction, the claimant is not a professional actor who would lose nothing by playing a criminal character, but instead a person beyond the world of art and thus someone very affected by how he is represented and how his image is used,” the judge said in his ruling.
“It’s also well known that many actors and actresses are reluctant to play criminal or villainous characters.”
He went on to quote a line from Bette Davis’s autobiography in which she recalled how fiercely her bosses – at Warners – had opposed her decision to play the callous and manipulative Mildred in the 1934 adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s novel Of Human Bondage: “My employers believed I would hang myself playing such an unpleasant heroine. I had become such a nuisance over this issue I think they identified me with the character and felt we deserved each other!”