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One step from stardom

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At right, Lebanon's Jake Presley, 13, who has captured several major Taekwondo titles, will be seen in "The Accountant," opening in theaters nationwide on Friday. Presley is seen here on the set, from left, with his young friend, Seth Lee, "Accountant" star Ben Affleck and the film's director, Gavin O'Connor. Submitted
Jake Presley, who won the Warrior Cup at the 2014 AKA Grand Nationals, stands beside a few of his trophies. When not practicing martial arts, he enjoys playing football, basketball, soccer and video games with his friends.
In their den, from left, siblings Jake, 13, Averi, 8, Cole, 18, and Reid Presley, 20, enjoy watching television. All four are proficient in Taekwondo. Their parents are co-owners of Success Martial Arts Center in Lebanon.
From left, brothers Reid, Jake and Cole Presley displayed their martial-arts skills last November in several episodes of AMC's "Into the Badlands." Reid and Cole are students at Cumberland University, while Jake is home-schooled. Jake appears in the film, "The Accountant," playing Ben Affleck's character's brother as a youth. Ken Beck / The Wilson Post
Jake Presley was in Hollywood Monday at the TCL Chinese Theatre for the premiere of "The Accountant." Submitted
Jake Presley was in Hollywood Monday at the TCL Chinese Theatre for the premiere of "The Accountant." Submitted

Lebanon teen shows his chops in 'The Accountant"

Lebanon's Jake Presley, 13, has won more than 30 world and national Taekwondo titles during his short career, but he may get his biggest kick Friday night.

That's when he pops up on the silver screen in the new Ben Affleck thriller, "The Accountant,"

Seth Lee portrays Affleck's character as a youngster. Presley portrays a younger version of another major character and appears in four scenes.

"He is very protective of his brother, and the scenes I do with Seth are very emotional," said Presley, a home-schooled eighth-grader. "I have not seen the movie yet, but I have heard from Seth that it is very good. We're in one big fight scene and one small one."

The teenage stuntman-actor worked on the set of "The Accountant" in Atlanta for a month in the spring of 2015.

While he didn't get cozy with any of the top names, he reported, "I saw a bunch of big stars like Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons and Jon Bernthal, who plays in 'Daredevil' [TV series] and as the main bad guy in 'The Walking Dead.' He and I talked about my family and his family and martial arts and about our roles in the film. It was very cool."

As for Affleck, Presley said, "I met him when we were taking pictures and stuff. We talked a little bit about our roles and about the movie.

"The main thing, when you meet these stars, some of them don't have that star appearance, but when you meet Ben Affleck, he still has that star presence."

Taekwondo skills real

Born in Memphis, Presley has lived in Lebanon the past eight years with his parents, older brothers Reid and Cole, and younger sister, Averi. Due to their expertise as martial-arts athletes, all three brothers appeared on TV last November in three episodes of AMC's "Into the Badlands."

"The Accountant" opens in theaters Friday

Plot: Oscar-winner Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff, a math savant with more affinity for numbers than people. Behind the cover of a small town CPA office, he works as a freelance accountant for some or the world's most dangerous criminal organizations. With the Treasure Department's Crime enforcement Division, run by Ray King (J.K. Simmons), starting to close in, Wolff takes on a legitimate client: a state-of-the-art robotics company where an accounting clerk (Anna Kendrick) has discovered a discrepancy involving millions of dollars. As Wolff uncooks the books and gets closer to the truth, it is the body count that starts to rise. The film features Jon Bernthal, Jean Smart, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow.

The Presleys practice Taekwondo, a Korean martial art that emphasizes high kicks, jumping and spinning kicks and fast kicking techniques. Jake is particularly proficient with the bo, a weapon that resembles a pool cue.

In 2014, Jake captured the Warrior Cup at the 2014 AKA Grand National in Chicago. He has won more than 30 titles including the Diamond Nationals in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Ireland Open in Dublin, and the U.S. Open in Orlando, Florida.

Presley said he came to the attention of the film's producers via a promoter of a martial-arts tournament in Atlanta.

"He suggested a bunch of people, and I was one of those who tried out for the part. At first I did an audition on film, and then they brought in people for a couple of the roles," he recalled. "At first I did it with the director and script writer, and then I came back in with the person playing my brother, and we did it together.
"I was really nervous, but when I got in there it was a little easier. I read with Seth Lee, a friend I knew from competition, and that made it a little easier."

Trying to fill his brothers' shoes

Presley said he worked before the cameras about two weeks. He spent a week doing stunt choreography before filming for 10 days with seven of those days spent performing stunt scenes.

He believes he won the role due to his martial-arts skills as he admits, "I was new to acting at that point."

As for his athletic skills, confesses he was simply trying to fill his brothers' shoes and said, "I started [Taekwondo] about when I started to walk. I started to do kicks and punches because my brothers were doing it, and I wanted to jump right into the action."

Jake made the film before he and his brothers worked on "Into the Badlands," doing stunt work and fight choreography for five days on location in New Orleans and met stars Daniel Woo and Aramis Knight.

The TV show is a genre-bending martial-arts series very loosely based on the classic Chinese tale, "Journey to the West." Set centuries from now, it takes place in a land controlled by feudal barons and tells the story of a great warrior and a young boy who embark on a journey across a dangerous land to find enlightenment.

Reid, 20, said of the experience, "It was better than fun. Cole knocked me in the dirt a couple of times."

Cole, 18, said, "We would run the same scene over and over again so they could get it at from all angles. Reid and I fought in the pit, which was a mixture of dirt and mulch. We had guidelines but created the fight scene."

None of the three had lines on the show, but Jake, wise for his age, when asked which of his two brothers was the better actor, answered, "Both were amazing."

No star treatment

Jake remains fairly tight-lipped about his new turn as an actor.

"Most of my friends," he said, after the airing of "Badlands," "told me, 'I didn't know you were on a TV show.' Most of them were surprised. I didn't tell many people."

As for other interests, he says he enjoys, "Mainly hanging out with my friends. We play sports like football, basketball and soccer and video games."

While "The Accountant" hits screens Friday night, Jake and his mom and dad will have already walked the red carpet for the world premiere that took place Monday night in Hollywood.

"I am pretty sure I will be walking the red carpet. I have a new suit that I'm going to wear; bought about week ago," said Lebanon's modest Karate Kid.

Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at kbtag2@gmail.com.

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Tags: 
"The Accountant", acting, Ben Affleck, entertainment, feature, fight, Hollywood, Jake Pressly, Ken Beck, movie, style, taekwondo
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