One of my pet peeves is actors who simply cannot do accents; it frequently ruins my viewing pleasure (I cannot sit through more than five minutes of House for that very reason). On the other hand, some actors can pull off an accent with great skill. So, who do we like/dislike? Let’s see some examples of dire attempts at an accent, and applaud those happy few – the flawless efforts.
Accentuate the Negative:
Ewan McGregor’s Godawful Oirish accent in Angels and Demons.
Jonathan Pryce’s feeble American in Glengarry Glen Ross.
Mel Gibson’s pisspoor Scottish brogue in Braveheart.
Hugh Laurie’s loud – but total shit – American accent in House.
And, of course, Dick Van Dyke’s cringeworthy Cockney in Mary Poppins.
Accentuate the Positive:
Anjelica Huston’s solid Irish in The Dead.
Kate Beckinsale’s perfect American in The Last Days of Disco.
Idris Elba’s subtle American (as Stringer Bell) in The Wire (so good, I was shocked to learn he is English).
Dominic West’s impressive Boston-flavoured accent in The Wire.
Er, John Wayne in The Long Voyage Home.
Any more to add?
I’m always amazed to hear Nichole Kidman speak in her real voice. Her American accents must be pretty good, because I sometimes forget that she’s from down under.
I disagree on Laurie, his accent is really good especially when you know what he actually sounds like! :D
The Brits and Australians have been enjoying the challenge a lot this decade, doing American accents in films and on TV. Rachel Griffiths on Six Feet Under and Radha Mitchell in High Art are two that come to mind, among many good ones.
I’ve never had a problem with Laurie, but I haven’t watched that much House, either.
Mel Gibson used to slip back into an Aussie accent pretty regularly in his earlier roles (Lethal Weapon, for instance).
Clive Owen’s American accent in Sin City was a bit strained.
On the flip side, Christian Bale and Gary Oldman are usually spot-on.
Well, Josh – I just think it is way too overstated and broad. And I love Laurie in Blackadder, so it’s nothing personal about the actor himself. On Kidman: yes, her American accent is good, but her Oirish in Far and Away is terrible.
Neil: I just never really saw it that way and I’ve sort of enjoyed his accent [as well as the cynicism]. It just seems a bit extreme compared to Van Dyke’s ‘accent’. ;) I really think American’s cannot do Brit at all and in some older films they just don’t even try. lol
No one loves the Wire and Dominic West’s portrayal of McNulty more than I do and yet you can hear his real accent creeping through quite a bit in the early seasons if you pay close attention. I would substitute Aiden Gillen as Carcetti. His American accent seems pretty flawless to my ears. Idris Elba is astonishing.
Accents do annoy me, but strangely when say a British actor does American, it never bothers me. I always feel they get it pretty spot on.
Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. He kind of gives up on it in most scenes.
And actually, he’s quite apologetic about it in the audio commentary. I couldn’t help but feel for the guy.
Kevin Costner in anything. JFK comes to mind, as does Thirteen Day.
The absolute worst accent I think I’ve ever come across in a film is James Coburn’s ‘Australian’ accent in The Great Escape. Also, being Scottish I’m here to assure all you Americans that there has never been any Hollywood actor who has pulled off even a passable Scottish accent.
Conversely, Sean Connery has the BEST accent ever.
It’s funny though – he just sounds Scottish in everything. I mean he was supposed to be Irish in The Untouchables but he was just Scottish. This makes me think of the ridiculous situation they ended up with in Highlander; Christopher Lambert – a Frenchman – was playing a Scot, while Sean Connery – an actual Scot – was playing an Egyptian! What goes on in those Hollywood heads?!
I have yet to come across a single accent that sounded particularly wrong to me. For some reason my ears just don’t work that way – I struggle to notice if someone is singing off key as well…
Bale in Public Enemies – baaad
Melanie Griffith’s “Southern” accent in BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES. Not only is it unconvincing, it is also EXTREMELY inconsistent.
Of course, almost NOTHING was good about that movie…
William Burchett: ‘I struggle to notice if someone is singing off key as well’
I’m the exact opposite, I can always tell and it drives me nuts. ;)
@Rumplesink: Yes! I’d forgotten about Coburn. The odd thing is that there really wasn’t any reason that his character had to be Australian in the first place…
Western actors trying to speak Chinese mostly produce horrid results.
Don Cheadle in Ocean’s 11.
I mean, come on, dude.
Also, re: The Wire
It’s really a trip hearing the actors speak in their natural voices, especially West. I forget if it was him, Elba, or someone else, but they had trained themselves to do a pitch-perfect Baltimore accent, according to one of the commentaries — and then got told to change it, because accurate though it was, people watching the footage and unfamiliar with Baltimore thought the character was supposed to be retarded.
Gael Garcia Bernal doing an argentinian accent on The Motorcycle diaries was dreadful…
I’ve never had a problem with Laurie’s American accent. Yeah, he slips very occasionally, but never terribly so.
OK, the worst fake accent in movies. There’s this girl in Cukor’s film of THE WOMEN, she’s wandering around this enormous beauty parlor/health club thing announcing to the entire bloody universe that she’s looking for her grandmother, keeping up this inane load of crap chatter in the WORST SOUTHERN ACCENT imaginable, it is like she has never heard a real southern accent in her life, and she’s such a shitty actress that it is like she’s never heard anyone actually communicate in her life either, and mercifully she’s only on for a couple of minutes. She can only have been someone’s particular little fuck slave to have gotten that job.
Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (and his accent might actually be the least offensive part of his performance).
Why was Bernal’s Argentine accent bad? He seems quite adept at accents and he’s played an Argentine more than one (in El Pasado too).
>.She can only have been someone’s particular little fuck slave to have gotten that job.<,
Well, at least we know she wasn’t Cukor’s …
@Ari, it was bad mainly because it was inconsistent, in some scenes was great and others not so much, especially when you were able to see/hear the difference in speech with the other actor who was argentinian. i haven’t seen El pasado but ill look for it.
True Blood. Almost everyone on that show changes their accent.
Inauthentic-sounding accents don’t really bother me much.
I think a lot of Australian actors are responsible for very phony American accents, especially our males like Eric Bana (horrible Southern accent in Black Hawk Down comes to mind) and Guy Pearce.
Nicole Kidman is quite decent, but best of all is the amazing Cate Blanchett who’s capable of flawless foreign accents of any persuasion.
I think a lot of American actors trying to sound Australian end up doing British accents – we must sound similar, which is absurd to us of course!!
Since both Nicole Kidman and Mel Gibson were both born in the U.S., they get a pass for both American and Australian accents.
Eric Bana is just a bad actor, I don’t care what his accent is.
I did enjoy Emma Thompson’s accent in Primary Colors.