Accents are easy, right? YouTube a couple of vids, do two weeks of vocal training, then hope you get within 100 miles of the right country.
Chris Pine hasn’t done too badly with his Scottish accent in new movie Outlaw King, as Scots have pointed out since the trailer went live, but sometimes, it is sadly not the case.
In some circumstances, too much money has been spent on production to politely ask an actor to rein it in, meaning these atrocious accents were immortalised on film forever.
Here are some of the worst offenders to our ears.
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
Actor: Nicolas Cage
Accent: Italian by way of Borat.
Cage is a trier, bless him, but his attempt at an Italian accent goes round the houses until it gets lost in Eastern Europe. When spoken properly, the Italian accent rolls off the tongue, but Cage’s comic-book cadence seems like it’s coming from his nose.
Pro tip: this movie is much more enjoyable if you close your eyes and imagine the leader character is being played by ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ judge Bruno Tonioli. But then that’s true of most movies.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Actor: Keanu Reeves
Despite his reputation for being more wooden than Pinocchio, Keanu is blessed with a few acting abilities – but an ability to do accents is not one of them. Still young and fresh-faced when he was hired to play vampire hunter Jonathan Harker in Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Reeves dived right in: act now, worry about the British accent later.
Unfortunately, Keanu’s stab at prim and proper sounded like a Downton Abbey reject.
Actor: Don Cheadle
Accent: The holy grail: Cockney.
Unless you’re willing to train for years with professional Cockneys, don’t go there. Just don’t even bother. Didn’t you see what happened to Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins? That was a heartbreaker. Don Cheadle went one better in Ocean’s Eleven as Basher, a crook who strangles the English language like a serial killer.
“Arhh leaahhve it ahhht!” Cheadle cries, confident that as just one of a large and starry ensemble cast, his contribution to the movie would likely not register. Dead wrong, Don. This is anything but “triffic”.
Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio
Some accents sound like they’re easy to pull off but before you realise it you’ve wandered into caricature. So it is with the Afrikaans accent: you might think it’s as simple as swapping out vowels at random – e.g. “Look et me, I’m a bleddy Sarth Efrican!” – but chances are before long you’ll end up on the offensive end of the spectrum.
Leonardo DiCaprio can do many things but accurately portray a man from Zimbabwe is not one of them, although to be fair, no one could deliver the line “In America, it’s ‘bling bling’ but out here it’s ‘bling bang’!” without being met with gales of laughter.
Breakfast At Tiffany’s
Actor: Mickey Rooney
Accent: Japanese. Or, to put it less politely, a massively racist interpretation of Japanese.
Rooney’s portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi is the one black mark against Blake Edwards’ otherwise peerless romance Breakfast At Tiffany’s’ Every time you start to enjoy the sultry performance by Audrey Hepburn or fall in love with the Henry Mancini score, there’s Mickey Rooney in yellowface, confusing his ‘L’s with his ‘R’s in a highly dubious fashion. “Miss Gorightry” indeed.
Actor: Anne Hathaway
To be fair to Ms Hathaway, she has shown previously good form with British accents, but the elusive Yorkshire brogue proved beyond her considerable talents.
Emma Morley, the northern lass and star of weepie romance One Day, couldn’t have felt less authentic at the hands of Hathaway, whose vocals gamely trot around the British Isles, unwilling to set up camp anywhere north of Middlesbrough. Be warned, Hollywood bigshots: this is proof there’s no such thing as one single ‘British’ accent. There’s bloomin’ loads of us.
PS I Love You
Presumably the producer of PS I Love You’assumed that because Gerard Butler was Scottish, he’d easily be able to whip out an Irish accent. Same thing, right? Wrong. Oh so wrong. Because when you’re the owner of the most iconic Scottish accent this side of Sean Connery, you can’t just hop over the Irish Channel and expect nobody to notice.
You can actively see Butler struggled to perform even single lines competently in this clip because his accent is so clunky and hideous. The producer clearly learned his or her mistake, because no one ever hired Gerard Butler to do anything ever again.
Actors: Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery (tie)
We can’t decide who’s the worst offender in this movie: Christoph Lambert, a Frenchman, attempting a Scottish accent, or Sean Connery, a Scotsman, (barely) attempting a Spanish accent.
Spin the globe and put your finger on it and you’ll probably hear hints of the native tongue in Lambert’s performance, although to his credit, it was only his second film shot in the English language. Connery, however, has no excuse: when your character is called ‘Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez’ you can’t just pretend your Edinburgh accent will do.
The Jazz Singer
Actor: Laurence Olivier
Accent: Jewish. Or ‘Super Jewish’.
Screen legend Olivier came a cropper in Neil Diamond’s massively misguided coming of age story, playing the stuck-in-his-ways father of wannabe entertainer Yussel. As Cantor Rabinovitch, luvvie Laurence turned the Semitics up to 11, a seriously parodiable level that took Judaism to the moon and back, culminating in the oft-mocked line: “I. HAFF. NO. SON!”
Larry should be glad, however, that he was not the worst thing in a movie famous for several bad things.
Actor: Jodie Foster
Accent: Who knows? It might as well be from Outer Space. There’s a heavy British twang in the accent for Jodie’s character, Delacourt, but that’s because it’s a pre-requisite for a villain. As for the rest, there are hints of German vowel efficiency and French linguistic flair, but the end result is a sort of pan-European cross-breed that you couldn’t pin down on a map.
There’s an argument to say that pan-European is exactly what director Neill Blomkamp was going for, given the futuristic socio-political slant he took, but damn if it didn’t make one of Hollywood’s finest actresses ten times harder to listen to.
Actor: Sean Connery
Why, Sean? You played an English spy as a Scot, you played a Russian submarine captain as a Scot. But for some reason, the Bond legend thought that he’d give an Irish brogue (via Chicago) a whirl for this brilliant 1987 gangster pic.
At least he did initially. As the film progresses, it’s like he realises that despite being a fantastic actor in a great role, he was wrong to test his accent comfort zone and slips back into his Edinburgh twang.
The Academy didn’t mind – he won an Oscar for his performance.
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Actor: Kevin Costner
Costner is a great movie star, but he’s as American as the Stars and Stripes. The legend goes that he originally intended to portray Robin with an English accent but it was nixed when director Kevin Reynolds heard the results.
If you watch the film, the actor clearly doesn’t want to let go of his initial plan and at first, there’s a British tinge to his delivery. Obviously, his director’s directive was eventually acknowledged and by the end, you may as well be watching Robin of Yosemite Forest.
Actor: Halle Berry
Debate rages amongst comic book fans over whether Ororo Munroe – aka Storm – should even have an African accent, as despite being the daughter of a Kenyan princess, she was actually brought up in Cairo and Harlem.
Berry does seem to attempt some kind of generic African accent, even if it dips into West Indian, but she doesn’t really commit to it. By the end, it’s gone – and by the time X2 came around three years later, it was ditched altogether.
X-Men: First Class
Actor: Michael Fassbender
Accent: His own, but apparently less Irish.
There’s no doubt he’s one of the best actors working today, but although he’s of German-Irish origin, Fassbender’s accent as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto definitely errs more and more towards the latter as the mutant prequel progresses.
The star himself has a – sort of – explanation for what he was trying to do, telling IGN, “I’m kind of using my own accent and taking out as much Irish-ness as I can…Because he’s not English and he didn’t really have any sort of history in England. But I think he is well-educated… so I’m just trying to play a more neutral version of my own accent.”
Actor: Jason Statham
Accent: Who bloody knows!
Frankly, it’s been impossible to tell what kind of accent the Stath has been going forever since Snatch. As the eponymous hero here, it’s like he’s making some kind of political statement and suggesting America never truly got their independence from the British – at least if his Yank accent is anything to go by.
It probably is more difficult to deliver lines in a different dialect while kicking people in the face, which is why Jase stops trying. The filmmakers, the film company, hell everybody realised that it wasn’t worth bothering for the sequels and so the Transporter underwent an accent retcon for the remainder of the franchise.