Fictional actuaries

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Fictional actuaries and the appearance of actuaries in works of fiction has been the subject of a number of articles in actuarial journals.

Actuaries in film[edit]

  • Double Indemnity (1944) a Billy Wilder film, with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck, was possibly the first to feature an actuary. The plot revolves around a murder that seeks to gain advantage from a particular aspect of an insurance policy. An insurance investigator (Edward G. Robinson) knows the actuarial statistics and becomes suspicious.
  • Are You With It? (1948) is musical comedy featuring Donald O'Connor as an actuary who is forced to join a carnival after misplacing a decimal point on a statistical table.
  • Sweet Charity (1969) is a film that documents the romantic life of an actuary, played by John McMartin with Shirley MacLaine as his love interest.
  • The Billion Dollar Bubble (1976) - the Equity Funding scandal retold in the form of a movie starring James Woods.
  • Class Action (1991) - featured Gene Hackman and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as father and daughter lawyers on opposite sides of a massive class action lawsuit. Actuarial analysis plays a key role in the outcome.
  • Escape Clause (1996) - Andrew McCarthy plays Richard Ramsay in an actuarial thriller. To quote "The makers of this direct-to-video release thought the world was ready for a thriller about an insurance actuary. They thought wrong."[1]
  • Fight Club (1999) - Edward Norton plays the protagonist, who briefly describes in a scene aboard an airplane, that his job entails the assessment of risk associated with car accidents for an insurance company. Even though not explicitly stated, he performs the job of an underwriter who uses actuarially derived premiums to benchmark quotes.
  • Thirteen Conversations About One Thing (2001) starring Matthew McConaughey - The lives of a lawyer, an actuary, a housecleaner, a professor, and the people around them intersect as they ponder order and happiness in the face of life's cold unpredictability.
  • About Schmidt (2002) - Warren Schmidt is portrayed by Jack Nicholson. The movie mostly covers Schmidt's retirement from an insurance company, and his adventures after his retirement.
  • Along Came Polly (2004) - Reuben Feffer (Ben Stiller) is a risk assessment expert, and though not explicitly stated, performs the job of an underwriter.
  • Stranger than Fiction (2006) - Harold Crick (Will Ferrell), a socially isolated IRS auditor, mentions that he was once engaged to an auditor who left him for an actuary.
  • In Tron, the character Ram (Dan Shor) is an actuarial program.
  • Saw VI (2009) - William Easton is a health insurance executive who describes actuarial mathematics in a conversation with John Kramer.
  • Boyhood (film) (2014) - Mason Evans, Sr (Ethan Hawke) mentions at a baseball game that he recently passed his second actuarial exam, and later discusses his job at an insurance firm.

Actuaries in theater[edit]

  • I Love You Because (2006) - In this musical, one of the major characters, Diana Bingley (an actuary), suggests some formula-based "dating rules" to her friend Marcy in the key number "The Actuary Song."

Actuaries on television[edit]

  • The Collector (2004) had an episode titled "The Actuary". In this episode, an actuary uses the Devil's powers to predict the exact lifespan, whereabouts and circumstances of others to help mobsters rub out the competition. [2]
  • Gilmore Girls (2000) in the episode "Star-Crossed Lovers and Other Strangers," Lorelai's mom sets her up on a date with an actuary called Chase Bradford, played by Paul Cassell.
  • In Kim Possible: A Sitch in Time, Ron's father's job is not an obstacle to the family moving to Norway (and, in the future, the moon). Quote: "I'm an actuary. I can work anywhere people attach a dollar value to human life."
  • Numb3rs (2005), in the episode titled "Sacrifice," Professor Charlie Eppes refers to actuarial science.
  • NYPD Blue recurring character, Dr. Jennifer Devlin (character John Clark's blond bipolar love interest), stated that her father is an actuary.
  • "Probability" is a Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode featuring Mark Linn-Baker as Wally Stevens, an insurance investigator whose work is often described in the context of performing actuarial calculations.
  • Profiler (1996–1999) had an episode about a disturbed actuary. The episode was titled "Perfect Helen". It is in Volume 2 of Season 3 on DVD.
  • The Robinsons is a sitcom about a reinsurance actuary, Ed Robinson (played by Martin Freeman), who realises that reinsurance is not his passion and decides to rethink his life [3]
  • In the third episode of The Shield (2002) called "The Spread", the police interrogate a rapist who claims to be an actuary.
  • The Wild Wild West (1968) - had an episode titled The Night of the Avaricious Actuary[4]
  • Ghost Whisperer (Season 4) in the episode "Thrilled to death", an actuary who is terminally ill dies and his ghost haunts his neighbour.
  • Elementary (Season 1) in the episode "A Landmark Story", F. Murray Abraham portrays 'The Actuary', a hitman whose M.O. is to kill individuals in ways that make the death look like an accident or even a peaceful passing.
  • Hot in Cleveland (Season 2) in the episode "How I Met My Mother", Joy meets her biological son, Owen, who explains his role as an actuary by way of "it's an insurance thing". He returns in the Season 4 opener and Joy admits that she stills has no idea what an actuary is.
  • Super Fun Night one of Kimmie's best friends (Helen-Alice) plays an actuary.

Actuaries in literature[edit]

  • Hunted Down is a short story by Charles Dickens with an actuary, Mr. Meltham of the Inestimable Life Assurance Company, as its hero.[1]
  • The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman portrays actuaries as prophets who predict the future, and are organized into various guilds. These Hodgman actuaries have various ethics, such as not predicting the date of one's own death.
  • The comic series, Batman, featured a villain named the Actuary: (Detective Comics #683-4 (March–April 1995)): A mathematical genius who applies formulae to aid the Penguin in committing crimes.
  • In Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie, the main character, Minerva Dobbs, is a thirty-something actuary looking for love.
  • Un Certain Monsieur Blot by Pierre Daninos. Mr. Blot is an actuary, who wins a competition as the most average man in France. The book includes the acerbic observation that “there were two kinds of actuaries – those who were still doing actuarial work and those who had found something better to do.”
  • The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic are part of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld fantasy series and feature Twoflower, the "actuary and world’s first tourist."
  • The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov is often considered one of the greatest science fiction works of all time[citation needed] and features "psycho-historians," a sort of hidden priesthood that manipulates politics and economics on a galactic scale to accomplish the goals of peace and prosperity. Part of the theory is that on a planetary scale, people are not predictable but on a galactic scale, the law of large numbers (i.e., the Central Limit Theorem) is valid and therefore, the reactions of the galactic civilization, as a whole, are predictable. Given the characteristics of psycho-historians, they are very much like actuaries.
  • Industrial Magic, by Kelley Armstrong, introduces a character called Reuben Aldrich as the head of the actuarial department at a supernatural organisation, and suggests he is also a necromancer.
  • The Infinite Shoeblack by Norman MacOwan. The hero (played by Leslie Banks) was a poverty stricken student of the Faculty of Actuaries innocently residing in an Edinburgh brothel. [5]
  • Mrs. Warren's Profession - "I shall set up in chambers in the City and work at actuarial calculations and conveyancing.’ So says Vivie, the daughter of the eponymous heroine of George Bernard Shaw’s play.[6]
  • Preferred Risk, by Frederik Pohl and Lester del Rey (under the pseudonym Edson McCann), describes a dystopian future dominated by the insurance industry; in Pohl's own words, "the one novel I wrote with Lester del Rey, which was called Preferred Risk, took a year out of my life. It's a terrible book. If you come across it, don't read it." [7]
  • In The Good Soldier Švejk, Lieutenant Pelikán is "a mathematician in an insurance firm".

Actuaries in manga[edit]

  • "Homunculus", by Hideo Yamamoto, features Susumu Nakoshi as the story's protagonist. He was an actuary before he told people he was going on an extended vacation. Instead, he lived in an old car parked between an affluent hotel and a homeless reside. He resigns later in the story, and his reason for throwing his job away is still unknown.
  • "Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service" featured a malevolent actuary who uses statistics to determine scenarios that will most likely result in the death of particular individuals.


  • The Society of Actuaries holds a speculative actuarial fiction contest [8]
  • The documentary Wordplay - which explores the world of crossword makers and aficionados - makes reference to actuaries as one of three occupations which are particularly adept at crossword solving.

See also[edit]


  1. ^

External links[edit]