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aaslatten
03-01-2009, 08:25 PM
Is it just my imagination, or do English actors (e.g., Hugh Laurie, Kate Winslet, John Mahoney) do a much better job in general of emulating an American accent than the other way around? If so, why is that?

Acsenray
03-01-2009, 08:56 PM
I suspect that British people grow up with many more accents around them and make a habit of mimicking other accents. Also, I believe that the British theatre/movie industry places more emphasis on traditional skills, like accents.

By the way, I don't think Mahoney counts. He joined the U.S. military as a teen-ager and purposely changed his accent in order to blend in. I've heard him say in an interview that he's completely lost his original accent.

Wendell Wagner
03-01-2009, 09:07 PM
That's clearly true. After all, British actors are almost certain to have watched more American movies and TV shows than American actors have watched British movies and TV shows, so they have more practice in listening to (and probably imitating) American accents than American actors have in listening to (and probably imitating) British accents. Furthermore, British actors have more motivation to learn American accents than Americans have to learn British accents. Brits are quite likely to have a chance to audition for American movies and TV shows, since there are so many of them, while Americans are not nearly as likely to have a chance to audition for British movies and TV shows, since there aren't anywhere near as many of them.

Incidentally, about twenty years ago, the ability of all English-speaking actors to speak English-language accents from other countries than their own got dramatically better, in my opinion. I don't know why this happened, but it may be that acting schools and acting teachers got serious about teaching actors how to do accents. The country that gained the most from this is Australia, I think. That's why Australian actors are all over American and British movies and TV shows now. After all, an American actor can make a pretty good living without ever learning to do accents. A British actor can make a reasonable one without learning to do accents. On the other hand, the Australian industry isn't that large, so Australian actors are apparently told, "You will learn to do American and British accents or you will never have much of a career."

Voyager
03-01-2009, 09:50 PM
We've been watching the Wire, and Dominic West, who plays McNulty is an excellent case. I would have never guessed from watching the show that his is English - when he speaks in his real voice in the extra videos it is quite a shock.

astorian
03-01-2009, 10:32 PM
I think the big question is, WHO benefits more from mastering the other side's accents: Americans or Brits (and Scotsmen and Irishmen and Australians).

An Irish actor like Jason O'Mara has great incentive to learn to speak with a convincing American accent: a job on an American TV series pays a HELL of a lot more than any job he could get in Ireland.

Aussie actors like Anthony LaPaglia and Simon Baker make waaaay more money on American TV than they could Down Under. And "House" pays English Hugh Laurie waaaay more than he could ever make doing Bertie and Jeeves" back home.

Now bear in mind, if an American actor is playing an Englishman or an Irishman on an American sitcom, he doesn't HAVE to perfect a foreign accent. He only has to speak well enough to fool American audiences. John Hillerman didn't REALLY sound English on "Magnum P.I.," after all- he sounded more like a snobby upper-class American than like a Brit. But his accent was plenty good enough to fool Americans, and that's all that mattered.

But if Hugh Laurie or Anthony LaPaglia's accents weren't perfectly convincing to American audiences, they'd never be able to work here. If even a trace of a foreign accent slipped through, they couldn't play their parts effectively.

To give you some perspective... when British/Irish/Scottish/Aussie actors work in America, they tend to do American accents flawlessly. BUT... if you ever watch a BBC TV production, one made for consumption by a British audience, you'll regularly see British actors doing comically bad "American" accents. If those British actors thought they had to be good enough to fool Americans, they might work harder... but if they're appearing in programs watched primarily in the U.K., they figure "My Yank accent isn't that great, but it's plenty good enough for THIS gig."

I guarantee that if London were the film capital of the English speaking world, instead of Hollywood, you'd see American actors working their tails off to master British accents.

vivalostwages
03-01-2009, 10:37 PM
Watching the gag reel for "The Riches," I was amazed at the way Minnie Driver could speak with a Deep South American accent and then go right back into her native accent, and then back to the American one with no hesitation.

lissener
03-01-2009, 10:58 PM
We've been watching the Wire, and Dominic West, who plays McNulty is an excellent case. I would have never guessed from watching the show that his is English - when he speaks in his real voice in the extra videos it is quite a shock.

Huh. The single main reason I can't watch that show is how West's accent keeps squeaking through and reminding me that this is NOT real.

GorillaMan
03-02-2009, 03:17 AM
To give you some perspective... when British/Irish/Scottish/Aussie actors work in America, they tend to do American accents flawlessly. BUT... if you ever watch a BBC TV production, one made for consumption by a British audience, you'll regularly see British actors doing comically bad "American" accents.
This is true, but don't underestimate the huge importance for British actors of being able to produce correct British accents (plural) for the domestic market, be it on screen or stage, and the ability to reproduce the accurately is an essential part of stage school training.

minlokwat
03-02-2009, 07:04 AM
The perennial example is Dick Van Dyke's over-the-top attempt at something British sounding in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Our London tour guide cited it a few years ago so evidently they're still talking about it.

What might eventually overtake him though might be Kevin Costner's and Christian Bale's turn at 'something British sounding' in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The best part of course is that they simply abandon their attempt mid-way through the picture. I can imagine the director saying: "Alright, just stop it, stop it. This is completely not working. Go back to your regular voices." At which time someone must have proposed: "Shouldn't we go back and redub all those scenes again?" to which I'm sure the director just shrugged his shoulders with a "meh."

Bijou Drains
03-02-2009, 07:18 AM
Bale's mother is British and his father is from South Africa. He grew up partly in England. Is his normal accent American, not British?

minlokwat
03-02-2009, 07:25 AM
What might eventually overtake him though might be Kevin Costner's and Christian Bale's turn at 'something British sounding' in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The best part of course is that they simply abandon their attempt mid-way through the picture. I can imagine the director saying: "Alright, just stop it, stop it. This is completely not working. Go back to your regular voices." At which time someone must have proposed: "Shouldn't we go back and redub all those scenes again?" to which I'm sure the director just shrugged his shoulders with a "meh."
Dadgummit. I meant Christian Slater not Bale.

Bale does an excellent 'American' best demonstrated in American Psycho wherein he during one famous scene he conjures up an excellent Jim Carrey impersonation.

Baron Greenback
03-02-2009, 07:25 AM
The perennial example is Dick Van Dyke's over-the-top attempt at something British sounding in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Our London tour guide cited it a few years ago so evidently they're still talking about it.



It's usually his tour-de-force attempt in Mary Poppins that is cited! :D

SaharaTea
03-02-2009, 08:16 AM
Huh. The single main reason I can't watch that show is how West's accent keeps squeaking through and reminding me that this is NOT real.
I hear it too. Same with the Irish actor who plays Carcetti. It can be a bit distracting, but it hasn't lessened my enjoyment of their characters.

jayjay
03-02-2009, 08:22 AM
Mark Addy's another one who managed to twist his English accent into a recognizable Chicago one on Still Standing. I saw the show before I saw The Full Monty and my jaw just about dropped when I heard Addy talk in the movie.

Lightray
03-02-2009, 08:55 AM
When the first season of "Life" was premiering, I read an interview with Damian Lewis' costar, where she was amazed that he was worried his west coast accent wouldn't be up to snuff.

She, an American, hadn't been aware that there was a west coast American accent.

An Gadaí
03-02-2009, 09:50 AM
And "House" pays English Hugh Laurie waaaay more than he could ever make doing Bertie and Jeeves" back home.


Jeeves and Wooster (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeeves_and_Wooster) you mean I presume. FWIW I don't think Laurie's House accent is all that good. It's a bit off to my ears.

Bijou Drains
03-02-2009, 10:05 AM
When Damian Lewis did Band of Brothers I was surprised he was British. That's a great show BTW, watch it if you can.

koeeoaddi
03-02-2009, 10:19 AM
You haven't been listening to audiobooks, then, have you? Nothing I like better than being read to by someone with a lovely English/Irish/Scottish/Australian accent. I've listened to boatloads of these things and they're great, but if the book has an American character, it can be downright painful, pardner. ::spits chaw::

Flat, shrill, braying Midwestern or faux Texan, most of them, and I can't help thinking, gah! is that what we sound like to you? The most recent one I listened to was The Quiet American and the title character is from Boston but judging from the narrator's voice, he just stepped off a West Texas cattle drive.

kunilou
03-02-2009, 11:30 AM
There are American actors who are great mimics, it's just that we don't recognize what they're mimicing.

I recall an interview with Jean Stapleton where she discussed working on a Baltimore accent for a role, then discovering there were two different Baltimore accents, and having to decide which one fit her character better. I wager the average viewer couldn't tell the difference between either of the Baltimore accents, or, for that matter, a southside Philadephia accent.

Ditto with koeeoaddi's description of a "flat, shrill braying Midwestern" accent. There are dozens of different Midwestern accents - and even if I can't describe the difference between a Minnesota and a Wisconsin accent, or a Wisconsin vs. Chicago accent, I know they don't sound the same.

Now bear in mind, if an American actor is playing an Englishman or an Irishman on an American sitcom, he doesn't HAVE to perfect a foreign accent. He only has to speak well enough to fool American audiences. John Hillerman didn't REALLY sound English on "Magnum P.I.," after all- he sounded more like a snobby upper-class American than like a Brit. But his accent was plenty good enough to fool Americans, and that's all that mattered.

That would be the classic "Mid-Atlantic" accent that used to be affected by stage actors. Not exactly any type of American, not exactly any type of British, but certainly "snobby upper-class."

velvetjones
03-02-2009, 11:44 AM
Mark Addy's another one who managed to twist his English accent into a recognizable Chicago one on Still Standing. I saw the show before I saw The Full Monty and my jaw just about dropped when I heard Addy talk in the movie.

He's the guy I was thinking about as an example of someone who wasn't quite pulling it off. Every now and then the brit thing slips through and blows the character for me. Maybe it's just me.

jjimm
03-02-2009, 11:50 AM
Speaking as a former British actor, I'll give the opinion that we Brits are almost universally bad at doing American accents. Shockingly so, and whenever I hear plays on the radio with these travesties, I have to switch off. The passable ones mentioned in the OP are very rare beasts, and also probably better at it because they're pretty talented, and in Hollywood already.

On the flipside, there are few Americans who capture the English accent either. Gwyneth Paltrow, Meryl Streep, and Connie Booth (debatable) are the only ones I can think of.

BTW, maybe this is a different thread, but what's up with people not hearing the difference between English and Irish accents? They're so amazingly different - in particular the rhotic/non-rhotic "R" sounds. Or do people just go "native English speaker but not American" and just panic, throwing out Australian, (unidentified) British, or Irish as possibilities?

johnspartan
03-02-2009, 11:57 AM
I find it interesting that when I hear British or Aussie stand-ups "sounding American" as part of a routine, so often they seem to be putting on either Southern or Texan. It's not as if you'll here "ya'll" or "pardner" in Philadelphia.

cochrane
03-02-2009, 12:17 PM
"Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" was my first exposure to Bob Hoskins. I was not aware that he was British until I read it in the newspaper. I thought he played a convincing American as Eddie Valiant. He did another good turn as Eddie Mannix in "Hollywoodland".

The Superhero
03-02-2009, 01:23 PM
Aussie actors like Anthony LaPaglia and Simon Baker make waaaay more money on American TV than they could Down Under. And "House" pays English Hugh Laurie waaaay more than he could ever make doing Bertie and Jeeves" back home.

But if Hugh Laurie or Anthony LaPaglia's accents weren't perfectly convincing to American audiences, they'd never be able to work here. If even a trace of a foreign accent slipped through, they couldn't play their parts effectively.


LaPaglia's pretty good. His "Without a Trace" co-star and fellow Aussie Poppy Montgomery does a LOUSY American accent. Bad enough that she can't manage a generic "American," her character is supposedly from Kenosha, Wisconsin. Not everybody from the upper Midwest sounds like the characters in "Fargo," of course...but to not have the slightest trace of Wiyuscahnsin-isms in her voice just makes it absurd.

SuaSponte
03-02-2009, 03:41 PM
Slightly off-topic, but I've always wondered why English singers (in general) don't have English accents when they sing. I remember as a young'n hearing Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, etc., being interviewed and thinking, "man, they sound absolutely nothing like they do on their albums."

Sua

JKellyMap
03-02-2009, 04:04 PM
Slightly off-topic, but I've always wondered why English singers (in general) don't have English accents when they sing. I remember as a young'n hearing Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, etc., being interviewed and thinking, "man, they sound absolutely nothing like they do on their albums."

Sua

Most '60's British Invasion groups were big fans of American music, specifically blues and related rock'n'roll. So, part of the answer is, they tried to sing somewhat like their Americam heroes. (The Stones were more into the black originals like Muddy Waters, while the Beatles were more into white artists like Carl Perkins).

Another part of the answer is that a lot of what makes up any accent -- much intonation, etc. -- is masked or lost when singing. This would make those, or any, groups' singing accents somewhat closer, then, to a generic "English" rather than belonging to any particular accent.

Acsenray
03-02-2009, 04:04 PM
Isn't that part of the famous Beatles Come to America interview?

"It sells more records."

Annie-Xmas
03-02-2009, 04:08 PM
I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Anthony Hopkins. He has turned his Welsh accent into a very cultured American one.

Thudlow Boink
03-02-2009, 04:20 PM
Is it just my imagination, or do English actors (e.g., Hugh Laurie, Kate Winslet, John Mahoney) do a much better job in general of emulating an American accent than the other way around? If so, why is that?What do you mean by "in general"? The ones you mention aren't randomly-chosen English actors. They're actors who have gotten major, prominent roles playing Americans. Presumably, if they didn't do a very good job of emulating an American accent, the job would have gone to someone else.

Which accents are easiest, or most difficult, to "do," for non-natives?

JKellyMap
03-02-2009, 04:27 PM
Which accents are easiest, or most difficult, to "do," for non-natives?

The ones most different from your own accent!
Unless I misunderstand your question, this seems to be analogous to the common myth that some languages are inherently harder to learn than others*. The question only makes sense if you know the speaker's native language (or if they've learned a language that's closer to the one in question).

(*Someone might nitpick that some languages, mainly non-written ones with a few thousand speakers, truly are harder to master in an absolute sense. Or, that pidgins -- which are actually rare, mainly historical, and not full languages anyway (unless they become creoles) -- are truly simpler in an absolute sense. But, in general, it's still true -- each language has own set of complications, and all are about the same "difficulty".)

JKellyMap
03-02-2009, 04:54 PM
To add to the previous post...

If you mean "Which accents are most difficult for a typical American?", then I would guess probably an accent for a dialect which pushes the boundary of the definition of "English" -- such as certain Scots dialects, and certain Caribbean ones.

SciFiSam
03-02-2009, 05:15 PM
It's not accent that makes you sit up and notice 'he's not from round here:' it's the whole dialect. Americans written as Brits are more likely to be speaking American but with a British accent than vice-versa, because of the writers. 'I could care less if y'all stay on the sidewalk' sounds American even when said in crisp British RP.

There are some American actors who do British accents well these days too. I agree with Wendell Wagner that voice coaches seem to be getting more work these days. Spike and Wesley from Buffy are almost perfect - and, with the former, there are easy fanwank reason to explain his occasional lapses, though he even did well being posh English in addition to mockney English. (Angel's 'Oirish' accent was absolutely fucking awful, though. I've rarely heard an American play Irish well. Perhaps there aren't as many good voice coaches). There was an English actor on staff, of course - I've often wondered if he had a lot of input.

I think the big question is, WHO benefits more from mastering the other side's accents: Americans or Brits (and Scotsmen and Irishmen and Australians).

An Irish actor like Jason O'Mara has great incentive to learn to speak with a convincing American accent: a job on an American TV series pays a HELL of a lot more than any job he could get in Ireland.

Aussie actors like Anthony LaPaglia and Simon Baker make waaaay more money on American TV than they could Down Under. And "House" pays English Hugh Laurie waaaay more than he could ever make doing Bertie and Jeeves" back home.

Agreed (presuming you're joking about Bertie and Jeeves). People go where the money is.

Many of these actors are also not speaking in their native accents even when working in England (and lots of Irish actors learn to speak in British accents, too), though I suppose the same might be true for the US.

Now bear in mind, if an American actor is playing an Englishman or an Irishman on an American sitcom, he doesn't HAVE to perfect a foreign accent. He only has to speak well enough to fool American audiences. John Hillerman didn't REALLY sound English on "Magnum P.I.," after all- he sounded more like a snobby upper-class American than like a Brit. But his accent was plenty good enough to fool Americans, and that's all that mattered.

I had no idea he was meant to be English!

The terrible American accents you sometimes hear in British productions are often meant to be 'comically awful,' I think. They're also low-budget, so won't have a voice coach on set, or be hiring people who've had such training, or be able to pay enough to get people who are good at different accents without tons of training. Of course, that's sometimes true for American shows as well.

What do you mean by "in general"? The ones you mention aren't randomly-chosen English actors. They're actors who have gotten major, prominent roles playing Americans. Presumably, if they didn't do a very good job of emulating an American accent, the job would have gone to someone else.

Which accents are easiest, or most difficult, to "do," for non-natives?

Hugh Laurie wasn't exactly a big name when he started on House, though.

I'd say that the hardest accents to do right are those that you have little access to, in the media and so on. Difficult to practise an accent at home if all you have is one movie and an audiobook with a single character whose accent's also probably put on.

JKellyMap
03-02-2009, 05:24 PM
Good points, ScifiSam.

You mention that you didn't know that John Hillerman's character on Magnum, PI was "meant to be English". I had the opposite experience with David Ogden Stiers' character on MASH. Despite the constant references to his Boston home, I assumed the character was meant to be English (maybe moved to Boston later in life). Perhaps Stiers (whose real accent is neither Boston nor British) tried to do Boston, and "overshot" almost to British "territory" -- or did his character sound completely non-British to a real English person, and perhaps there are some from Boston who talk just that way? (George Plimpton and Bill Buckley had some of that accent, but I still think Stiers' character's accent sounded more British than those two ever did.)

Acsenray
03-02-2009, 05:35 PM
There was an English actor on staff, of course - I've often wondered if he had a lot of input.

James Marsters has said in interviews that his "Spike" accent is based on Anthony Head's natural accent.

Many of these actors are also not speaking in their native accents even when working in England

It has been said on this very board that Jane Leeves -- an actual English person -- used the same blatantly fake accent across multiple roles.

I had the opposite experience with David Ogden Stiers' character on MASH. Despite the constant references to his Boston home, I assumed the character was meant to be English (maybe moved to Boston later in life). Perhaps Stiers (whose real accent is neither Boston nor British) tried to do Boston, and "overshot" almost to British "territory" -- or did his character sound completely non-British to a real English person, and perhaps there are some from Boston who talk just that way? (George Plimpton and Bill Buckley had some of that accent, but I still think Stiers' character's accent sounded more British than those two ever did.)

I think he's meant to be a Boston "Brahmin." I suspect it's not an accent that most people encounter much these days. I'm no expert on that accent, but my understanding is that Stiers did a good job with that accent.

aaslatten
03-02-2009, 05:46 PM
What do you mean by "in general"? The ones you mention aren't randomly-chosen English actors. They're actors who have gotten major, prominent roles playing Americans. Presumably, if they didn't do a very good job of emulating an American accent, the job would have gone to someone else.


Well, of course these aren't randomly chosen actors. They're actors that came to mind when I thought of this question. It wasn't meant to be a scientific statement. I was just wondering why it's so easy to think of British actors doing nearly flawless American accents and just as easy to think of American actors doing atrocious British accents.

The replies so far have done a lot to explain this phenomenon in various ways.

Small Hen
03-02-2009, 06:14 PM
I've heard some pretty pathetic American accents out of Brits. Remember the fat "Americans" in "In Brouge"? Their accents were so Irish, I didn't know they were supposed to be Americans until they were identified as such.

SciFiSam
03-02-2009, 09:46 PM
You mention that you didn't know that John Hillerman's character on Magnum, PI was "meant to be English". I had the opposite experience with David Ogden Stiers' character on MASH. Despite the constant references to his Boston home, I assumed the character was meant to be English (maybe moved to Boston later in life). Perhaps Stiers (whose real accent is neither Boston nor British) tried to do Boston, and "overshot" almost to British "territory" -- or did his character sound completely non-British to a real English person, and perhaps there are some from Boston who talk just that way? (George Plimpton and Bill Buckley had some of that accent, but I still think Stiers' character's accent sounded more British than those two ever did.)

Apologies - I have no clue about Mash characters, having not seen it since I was tiny. It took me a long time to realise why the Boston accent sounds English to Americans, because, to me, it sounds really American.

James Marsters has said in interviews that his "Spike" accent is based on Anthony Head's natural accent.

Good old coffee man. :)

It has been said on this very board that Jane Leeves -- an actual English person -- used the same blatantly fake accent across multiple roles.

My GF's from that area and was surprised Jane Leeves wasn't (she's actually from very near me, just outside London originally). I don't think it's blatantly fake. However, the accent you hear her speak with on TV, when she's being Jane Leeves, might well not be the accent she grew up with in Ilford, unless she was from a very well-to-do family. Ilford people do not, on the whole, speak RP.

Indistinguishable
03-02-2009, 10:51 PM
I've heard some pretty pathetic American accents out of Brits. Remember the fat "Americans" in "In Brouge"? Their accents were so Irish, I didn't know they were supposed to be Americans until they were identified as such.
Another example: Pretty much any time the Pythons attempted to do North American accents, it came out terribly, to the point that, in my experience, many Americans don't even realize that's what they're doing. A particular giveaway would be overcompensation for their native non-rhoticity ("suspendies and a brar... just like my dear mamar" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zey8567bcg), "Item six on the agender" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2QJvc_SxFQ)).

Indistinguishable
03-02-2009, 10:57 PM
Another great example (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3v0I4OQi7CQ).

Of course, Terry Gilliam could do a flawless American accent... :)

SciFiSam
03-03-2009, 12:17 AM
I'm surprised that anyone thought that, in those parody sketches, the Pythons were really trying to be anything other than English people acting North American stereotypes.

You can't seriously watch the lumberjack song and think Palin was trying to be Canadian, can you? :D

I've seen similar in American shows, where they weren't just doing British accents badly, they were doing it on purpose. That's signficantly different to what the OP was talking about.

Voyager
03-03-2009, 12:22 AM
Huh. The single main reason I can't watch that show is how West's accent keeps squeaking through and reminding me that this is NOT real.

Really? He doesn't have a Baltimore accent, that's for sure, but I never detected a trace of a British one - and I've watched the first four seasons quite close together. He actually sounds more like cultured New York.

Voyager
03-03-2009, 12:24 AM
I hear it too. Same with the Irish actor who plays Carcetti. It can be a bit distracting, but it hasn't lessened my enjoyment of their characters.

That I did get. On the other hand, lots of people with Italian names have been here for well over 100 years - they may have grown up nowhere near people with Italian accents.

Loach
03-03-2009, 12:38 AM
He's the guy I was thinking about as an example of someone who wasn't quite pulling it off. Every now and then the brit thing slips through and blows the character for me. Maybe it's just me.

It's not just you. To me it sounds like he is hardly trying to do an American accent. I think it is horrible. Sometimes I think I am more sensitive to this than most people. I could hear cracks in Hugh Laurie's accent (he has improved over the years). Minnie Driver's southern accent is awful (she may have improved, I didn't keep watching). Anthony Lapaglia's New York accent has gaps (I think his brother's accent is better). As examples of those I find flawless: Damian Lewis in Band of Brothers would not sound out of place in Pennsylvania. I would never know that Jamie Bamber was British. I was surprised to find that the woman who plays Sofia on CSI is British. Eamonn Walker's accent is flawless (Said on Oz).

ShibbOleth
03-03-2009, 01:21 AM
The problem is that most non-American actors playing Americans don't really sound like they're from anywhere. They most often do this vaguely neutral, I don't know where you're from, but you're not from around here, or anywhere else I've lived - and I've lived in most places or heard most American accents.

The most annoying example of this was the film "Black Hawk Down", which had a number of non-American actors playing Americans. It really spoiled the movie for me and I couldn't understand why they didn't just go with cheaper unknowns than bring in Ewan McGregor, Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Matthew Marsden, Ewen Bremner, Kim Coates*, Hugh Dancy, Ioan Gruffudd, Jason Isaacs, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Ian Virgo**, Tom Hardy, Treva Etienne, Pavel Vokoun to play American roles.

Maybe Ridley Scott has a thing for non-American boys? Sure, a lot of those guys are also unknown, but seems the way he chose to do it he should have just changed the plot to having a British helicopter go down in Somalia.

*Kim Coates is Canadian, and to be fair, Canadians generally do a fantastic job of sounding like their from the USA.
** Ian Virgo is technically American, but moved to Wales when he was six years old and studied theater in the UK.

ShibbOleth
03-03-2009, 01:28 AM
I've heard some pretty pathetic American accents out of Brits. Remember the fat "Americans" in "In Brouge"? Their accents were so Irish, I didn't know they were supposed to be Americans until they were identified as such.

The only one identifiable from IMDB is Welsh, not Irish. I only saw the film once, so don't really recall what they sounded like.

Raygun99
03-03-2009, 01:30 AM
Josh Hartnett is from Minnesota.

Loach
03-03-2009, 01:36 AM
The problem is that most non-American actors playing Americans don't really sound like they're from anywhere. They most often do this vaguely neutral, I don't know where you're from, but you're not from around here, or anywhere else I've lived - and I've lived in most places or heard most American accents.

I've noticed a lot of Brits adopt a husky, pillow-talky tone when doing an American accent. Maybe its easier that way. Example, Lennie James from Jericho. Very few can do a regional accent. Most try to do Newscaster American.

ShibbOleth
03-03-2009, 09:22 AM
Josh Hartnett is from Minnesota.

Are you trying to tell me that Minnesota is part of the United States now? When did this happen? Why wasn't I informed -- I saw Fargo, I know that Minnesota is a province of Southern Ontario -- what do you mean that Fargo isn't in Minnesota?

MovieMogul
03-03-2009, 01:33 PM
Maybe Ridley Scott has a thing for non-American boys? Wouldn't surprise me--Scott is non-American himself.

Flander
03-03-2009, 06:43 PM
Speaking of The Wire, Idris Elba who plays Stringer Bell is certainly from across the pond. Freaked me out when I heard him speak naturally.

Not a foreign accent, but Robert Knepper (the Russian in Hitman and T-Bag from Prison Break) has a fantastically articulate American speaking voice.

joebuck20
03-03-2009, 07:30 PM
We've been watching the Wire, and Dominic West, who plays McNulty is an excellent case. I would have never guessed from watching the show that his is English - when he speaks in his real voice in the extra videos it is quite a shock.

I especially liked the throwaway gag in season 2, where he went undercover as a john, and had to do a really bad English accent, saying stuff like "Crikey."

RedRosesForMe
03-03-2009, 07:34 PM
Very few can do a regional accent. Most try to do Newscaster American.

Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I live somewhere where the natives do speak Newscaster American. Unless a regional accent is necessary for the storyline, wouldn't it be easier to do a neutral accent?

tumbleddown
03-04-2009, 08:00 AM
LaPaglia's pretty good. His "Without a Trace" co-star and fellow Aussie Poppy Montgomery does a LOUSY American accent.
And their English co-star Marianne Jean-Bapstiste does a fairly passable New York-by-way-of-somewhere, but then, a lot of New Yorkers are there by way of somewhere. She sounds very much like my aunt who lived in Queens for 50 years, but came from Bermuda.

Rufus Sewell and Tim Roth are two more who have the American version of RP (newscaster non-accent) down pretty well.

Really Not All That Bright
03-04-2009, 09:22 AM
I think this is a casting issue more than an acting one. There are tons of American actors who do convincing British accents, and tons of British actors who do convincing American accents.

However, the sort of producers/directors who hire British actors to play American characters just seem to be more concerned with getting accents right.

I mean, I can't imagine Brian Cox doing a Jerry Bruckheimer movie.

astorian
03-04-2009, 09:26 AM
I mean, I can't imagine Brian Cox doing a Jerry Bruckheimer movie.



Why not?

A LOT of very good British actors will play the villain in some bad action movie, because it pays so much they can then afford to go back to the West End and do the kind of work that actually INTERESTS them.

Is Brian Cox in a Jerry Bruckheimer movie much more of a stretch than Jeremy Irons or Alan Rickman in the "Die Hard" series?

Really Not All That Bright
03-04-2009, 09:38 AM
Is Brian Cox in a Jerry Bruckheimer movie much more of a stretch than Jeremy Irons or Alan Rickman in the "Die Hard" series?
I didn't even know Alan Rickman was British. Point taken, though; I suppose Alec Guiness was the ultimate (original?) expression of "doing a movie you hate to make enough money to go do something artsy".

Alessan
03-04-2009, 10:51 AM
I mean, I can't imagine Brian Cox doing a Jerry Bruckheimer movie.

Heavens, no! Brian Cox only acts in serious movies alongside master thespians like Steven Segal (http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0116421/).

jayjay
03-04-2009, 10:55 AM
master thespians like Steven Segal (http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0116421/).

Oh, look! You misspelled "masturbatory"!

Nava
03-04-2009, 10:59 AM
It's not accent that makes you sit up and notice 'he's not from round here:' it's the whole dialect.

I just finished a book by a British author; half of the characters are British, half American, the story takes place in both countries. Among the people she thanks are the American expat (and her family still living in the US) who helped her with Americanisms.

And who did a lousy job. The book is "ok while not earth-shattering," but the American vocabulary is completely off.

It all looked to me like the author never thought of sending a whole copy of the book over to be reviewed, she just asked about specific details. So you get Floridians speaking of "kerb" and an American cop spelling out "Drug Enforcement Agency," to mention two I can remember right now. Sure, hunny, and Winnie the Pooh was a kangaroo...

AK84
08-29-2011, 07:16 AM
Kate Winslet dose a good American accent? I suppose, but the my American friends have always thought that she sounded slightly off.

Broomstick
08-29-2011, 07:55 AM
The perennial example is Dick Van Dyke's over-the-top attempt at something British sounding in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Our London tour guide cited it a few years ago so evidently they're still talking about it.
Actually, it was a condition of Van Dyke's participation in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang that he NOT attempt a British accent. Clearly, neither you nor the tour guide have seen it recently.

It's Mary Poppins where Van Dyke does the horribly bad English accent.

Fiddle Peghead
08-29-2011, 08:47 AM
Actually, it was a condition of Van Dyke's participation in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang that he NOT attempt a British accent. Clearly, neither you nor the tour guide have seen it recently.

It's Mary Poppins where Van Dyke does the horribly bad English accent.

Right you ahr, Guvnah!

TV time
08-29-2011, 09:59 AM
Now bear in mind, if an American actor is playing an Englishman or an Irishman on an American sitcom, he doesn't HAVE to perfect a foreign accent. He only has to speak well enough to fool American audiences. John Hillerman didn't REALLY sound English on "Magnum P.I.," after all- he sounded more like a snobby upper-class American than like a Brit. But his accent was plenty good enough to fool Americans, and that's all that mattered.I should point out that Hillerman was from the Panhandle of Texas where the thickest of the Texas accents are from. When he was growing up, American English was a foreign language.

One of the great ironies of his acting career was that he worked very hard to lose his Texas twang, working with languages coaches and language tapes..And when he got his big break, it was...you got it, doing a thick Western accent in Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles."

kunilou
08-29-2011, 10:21 AM
Actually, it was a condition of Van Dyke's participation in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang that he NOT attempt a British accent. Clearly, neither you nor the tour guide have seen it recently.

It's Mary Poppins where Van Dyke does the horribly bad English accent.

I heard an interview over the weekend where Van Dyke pointed out that when he did Mary Poppins, they assigned him a dialogue coach named Pat O'Malley, who didn't know anything more about authentic Cockney than Van Dyke did.

Diogenes the Cynic
08-29-2011, 10:25 AM
We've been watching the Wire, and Dominic West, who plays McNulty is an excellent case. I would have never guessed from watching the show that his is English - when he speaks in his real voice in the extra videos it is quite a shock.
There's an amusing episode in which McNulty is going undercover at a bordello to try to bust a sex trafficking organization, and they decide they want to him to pose as British. So McNulty starts trying to do an awful British accent. It's very meta, a Brit actor playing an American faking a lousy Brit accent. That's got to be a tricky thing to do and still sound believable, but West pulls it off.

AK84
08-29-2011, 10:39 AM
I think Hugh Laurie did something similar in House.

JoelUpchurch
08-29-2011, 10:51 AM
from Boston who talk just that way? (George Plimpton and Bill Buckley had some of that accent, but I still think Stiers' character's accent sounded more British than those two ever did.)

I don't think Buckley's accent was fake. His father will an oilman down in Mexico and he got tired of his children jabbering in Spanish around the dinner table. He didn't receive and formal instruction in English until he was 7 in London and he attended high school at the Catholic preparatory school Beaumont College in England.

C3
08-29-2011, 12:13 PM
The actors playing Americans on MI-5 (Spooks) have atrociously bad accents, but the worst is Genevieve O'Reilly, who plays Sarah Caufield, the CIA agent in love (or at least pretending to be) with Lucas North. She's Irish and seems to be trying to do some sort of New York accent, with a little Boston and Atlanta thrown in.

An Gadaí
08-29-2011, 01:13 PM
The actors playing Americans on MI-5 (Spooks) have atrociously bad accents, but the worst is Genevieve O'Reilly, who plays Sarah Caufield, the CIA agent in love (or at least pretending to be) with Lucas North. She's Irish and seems to be trying to do some sort of New York accent, with a little Boston and Atlanta thrown in.

That is the WORST accent I've ever heard!!! Hilarious.

AllShookDown
08-29-2011, 07:23 PM
I hear it too. Same with the Irish actor who plays Carcetti. It can be a bit distracting, but it hasn't lessened my enjoyment of their characters.

I saw Aidan Gillen (Carcetti) on DVD in a British series called Identity. I've also seen his Wire episodes quite recently. In Identity it seemed like he kept going back & forth from an Irish accent to an American accent. And it was more American than Irish to my ears.

An Gadaí
08-29-2011, 07:55 PM
I saw Aidan Gillen (Carcetti) on DVD in a British series called Identity. I've also seen his Wire episodes quite recently. In Identity it seemed like he kept going back & forth from an Irish accent to an American accent. And it was more American than Irish to my ears.

He's a nice chap, but he's sometimes a pretty terrible actor. I thought he was good in the Carcetti role but despite his accent.

Little Nemo
08-29-2011, 08:14 PM
The country that gained the most from this is Australia, I think. That's why Australian actors are all over American and British movies and TV shows now. After all, an American actor can make a pretty good living without ever learning to do accents. A British actor can make a reasonable one without learning to do accents. On the other hand, the Australian industry isn't that large, so Australian actors are apparently told, "You will learn to do American and British accents or you will never have much of a career."Something I just found out recently. I was watching a documentary about Australian filmmaking and I learned that there was a long period when there literally was no Australian film industry. There was a period of over ten years when there was not a single film produced in Australia. The only movies made in the country were a handful of American and British films that were shot in Australian locations but they had to bring in their entire crews because there were no local crews.

SecretaryofEvil
08-29-2011, 10:41 PM
To give you some perspective... when British/Irish/Scottish/Aussie actors work in America, they tend to do American accents flawlessly. BUT... if you ever watch a BBC TV production, one made for consumption by a British audience, you'll regularly see British actors doing comically bad "American" accents. If those British actors thought they had to be good enough to fool Americans, they might work harder... but if they're appearing in programs watched primarily in the U.K., they figure "My Yank accent isn't that great, but it's plenty good enough for THIS gig."



I'm so used to English speaking people from other parts of the world doing spot on American accents that it's rather jarring when I encounter a poorly done one. An example that always sticks with me is from an old British production of Sherlock Holmes. There was a character who was supposed to be a gangster from Chicago. He was played by an Irishman doing a terrible attempt at a "cowboy" accent. What made it even funnier is that it seems perfectly plausible that a gangster from 1890s Chicago might have an Irish accent anyway.

SecretaryofEvil
08-29-2011, 11:01 PM
The actors playing Americans on MI-5 (Spooks) have atrociously bad accents, but the worst is Genevieve O'Reilly, who plays Sarah Caufield, the CIA agent in love (or at least pretending to be) with Lucas North. She's Irish and seems to be trying to do some sort of New York accent, with a little Boston and Atlanta thrown in.

That is the WORST accent I've ever heard!!! Hilarious.

I specifically looked up a video clip of the show to see her speak. Her accent is so bad it's something special. There's some New York (sort of like a stereotypical Jewish Long Island accent), some generic imitation Southern, some non-regional diction (newscaster American), and plenty of Irish in there too. I've never heard someone use four radically different accents in one sentence before.

Here's a clip.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkjbwH1uP5E&feature=related

amanset
08-30-2011, 01:49 AM
I specifically looked up a video clip of the show to see her speak. Her accent is so bad it's something special. There's some New York (sort of like a stereotypical Jewish Long Island accent), some generic imitation Southern, some non-regional diction (newscaster American), and plenty of Irish in there too. I've never heard someone use four radically different accents in one sentence before.

Here's a clip.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkjbwH1uP5E&feature=related

Coming from a different angle, as a Brit listening to that it sounds like she keeps forgetting to put on her accent, remembers halfway through a sentence and instantly jumps to the other side of the Atlantic.

Little Nemo
08-30-2011, 02:06 AM
Coming from a different angle, as a Brit listening to that it sounds like she keeps forgetting to put on her accent, remembers halfway through a sentence and instantly jumps to the other side of the Atlantic.It sounds to me like she's trying to do Julia Roberts' accent. Which is probably a poor idea because Roberts is a native Georgian who's lived in New York City and Southern California - she does not have a typical American accent. She can carry it off because it's her natural accent but anyone trying to imitate her is just going to sound confused.

Wendell Wagner
08-30-2011, 02:08 AM
I'm not so surprised by the bad American accent in the old British production of Sherlock Holmes, assuming that this was from forty years ago or so. There really was less care about accents back then, as I've said. The sloppiness of the accent of the character Sarah Caulfield though is inexcusable though. These days it's expected that the accents are correct. The actress, the casting director, and the dialect coach should have all been fired.

SecretaryofEvil
08-30-2011, 04:52 AM
Coming from a different angle, as a Brit listening to that it sounds like she keeps forgetting to put on her accent, remembers halfway through a sentence and instantly jumps to the other side of the Atlantic.

It's fascinating that what would sound like big differences to Americans can blend together for Brits.

For some perspective on what her accent sounds like from an American point of view, imagine she was an American imitating a posh BBC received pronunciation accent, but kept slipping back into her American accent. Then imagine she switched to a thick Scottish accent every other sentence. Then imagine she pronounced about half a dozen words with a Cockney accent so exaggerated it would be inappropriate for anyone not playing a chimney sweep in a production based on a Dickens work.

Raguleader
08-30-2011, 06:06 AM
As others have mentioned, when Brits do American accents, much of the time it works as long as you don't think about where the character is from. The US is a big place, with lots of different accents and lots of people who don't talk like you.

Sometimes I'll watch a show, and something will just be pinging in the back of my head as "not right" with a particular character, something I can never put my finger on. Oftentimes they'll turn out to be British (such as Jamie Bamber playing Apollo in Battlestar Galactica, though at the time, I just assumed that what was pinging that sense in my brain was that the character was a bit of a prick in the miniseries.)

Now, if I *know* an actor is not American, I will be more "tuned in" for anything that may sound "off" to me, which, as mentioned above, could include any given real American accent if I'm not familiar with it, so even actors who are pulling off flawless accents might still sound weird to me if I know they're from Wales or Scotland. John Barrowman, for instance.

ETA: For the record, I really wish Hugh Laurie would stop using that goofy fake English accent in movies. *ducks and runs*

SecretaryofEvil
08-30-2011, 06:41 AM
I just thought of another example. I thought Gabriel Byrne gave a good performance in The Usual Suspects, but I did notice his accent slipping several times.

An Gadaí
08-30-2011, 06:44 AM
Now, if I *know* an actor is not American, I will be more "tuned in" for anything that may sound "off" to me, which, as mentioned above, could include any given real American accent if I'm not familiar with it, so even actors who are pulling off flawless accents might still sound weird to me if I know they're from Wales or Scotland. John Barrowman, for instance.


But Barrowman partially grew up in the US, he moved there aged 9 and stayed until at least college age. His accent is flawless because it's his actual accent.

Linus Roache's accent in Law and Order is a bit ropey but adequate. I think it's still easy to tell he's British and not American though.

Raguleader
08-30-2011, 07:13 AM
But Barrowman partially grew up in the US, he moved there aged 9 and stayed until at least college age. His accent is flawless because it's his actual accent.

Linus Roache's accent in Law and Order is a bit ropey but adequate. I think it's still easy to tell he's British and not American though.

As I said. :D

Also, in one of the two episodes of Torchwood I saw, he say "Estrogen" all weird, like it had an extra E at the beginning.

WotNot
08-30-2011, 07:21 AM
As I said. :D

Also, in one of the two episodes of Torchwood I saw, he say "Estrogen" all weird, like it had an extra E at the beginning.

No, no – he said "Oestrogen". With the extra O.

SciFiSam
08-30-2011, 07:55 AM
Now, if I *know* an actor is not American, I will be more "tuned in" for anything that may sound "off" to me, which, as mentioned above, could include any given real American accent if I'm not familiar with it, so even actors who are pulling off flawless accents might still sound weird to me if I know they're from Wales or Scotland. John Barrowman, for instance.

I've seen him mentioned before. Does he really not sound American, or is it just you being hypertuned to what you expect to be a foreign accent? I mean, he is American. I know you said 'As I said,' but an Gadai was saying the opposite to you, so I don't really understand what you meant.

Nava
08-30-2011, 10:07 AM
I've seen him mentioned before. Does he really not sound American, or is it just you being hypertuned to what you expect to be a foreign accent? I mean, he is American. I know you said 'As I said,' but an Gadai was saying the opposite to you, so I don't really understand what you meant.

IANARaguleader, but he does say that actor's accent is "flawless" (An Gadaí explains why) - it sounds to me like what pings him as "strange" is, exactly, that flawlessness. IOW, he is expecting a flawed accent but the flaws aren't there. It's like the people who, either knowing I'm from Spain or having seen my name, have filed me under "Hispanic" before we actually meet and get confused when my accent doesn't match their mental image of a Hispanic accent. Reality has this strange custom of not giving a shit about people's preconceptions.


(I do have a Spanish accent, which gets stronger if I'm tired or haven't spoken English in a while, but I'm from Northern Spain - actresses from Northern Spain used to get roles in the US playing Italians, for a while. We don't sound like Antonio Banderas, we don't sound like Cantinflas)

Raguleader
08-30-2011, 10:19 AM
Wow, I think that's the first time I've been the subject of an IANA disclaimer. :D

What I meant was, if I am aware that the actor in question isn't from the US, I will be listening for anything in the accent that doesn't sound "right" to me. They might be putting out a completely flawless North Carolinan accent for all I know, but since I've never been to North Carolina, anything different about that accent from accents I am more familiar with will ping my "Fake accent!" detector. If I had no reason to believe that the guy was from outside the US, I wouldn't be listening for any weirdnesses and I wouldn't notice.

Really, the Estrogen line is the only thing I can think of that ever sounded weird with Barrowman, so I figured he had a really good American accent but a word or two slipped through due to some particular dialoect-based pronunciation quirk of the word. I mostly just picked him as an example for fun.

Now, one Brit who has a *really* good American accent, even when I know he isn't American: Christian Bale.

Diogenes the Cynic
08-30-2011, 11:03 AM
Ryan Kwanten, who plays Jason on True Blood, is an Australian actor who does a very good American southern accent. Coming from the South myself (actually from Shreveport, La, which is a frequent setting of the show), I can usually pick up on fake southern accents immediately (as I think most southerners can), but I never twigged that Kwanten was faking it for the first couple of seasons, and was surprised when I did learn he was Australian. Even most non-southern Americans don't fake a southern accent very convincingly.

Heath Ledger is another Aussie who could do very convincing regional American accents.

amanset
09-07-2011, 07:58 AM
Ryan Kwanten, who plays Jason on True Blood, is an Australian actor who does a very good American southern accent. Coming from the South myself (actually from Shreveport, La, which is a frequent setting of the show), I can usually pick up on fake southern accents immediately (as I think most southerners can), but I never twigged that Kwanten was faking it for the first couple of seasons, and was surprised when I did learn he was Australian. Even most non-southern Americans don't fake a southern accent very convincingly.

Heath Ledger is another Aussie who could do very convincing regional American accents.

I hadn't the slightest inkling that Jason was an Aussie. Colour me surprised and impressed.

Laggard
09-07-2011, 11:35 AM
I thought Kelly Macdonald in No County For Old Men did a fantastic job with a very specific accent.

And I remember some Brits commenting on how Michael and Christopher in Spinal Tap did an amazing job with a very specific London accent. Don't recall exactly but it may have been east-end.

The Other Waldo Pepper
09-07-2011, 11:43 AM
Linus Roache's accent in Law and Order is a bit ropey but adequate. I think it's still easy to tell he's British and not American though.

For what it's worth, the accent always struck me as fine; it just always seemed like he was doing a half-assed Sam Waterston impression, which cracked me up.

well he's back
09-07-2011, 12:04 PM
Just needed a place to state how amazed I am at how Alan Cumming's Scottish accent totally disappears while he plays Eli Gold on The Good Wife.

C3
09-07-2011, 01:47 PM
Just needed a place to state how amazed I am at how Alan Cumming's Scottish accent totally disappears while he plays Eli Gold on The Good Wife.
He did a good Minnesota accent in Sweet Land, too (at least to my ears).

irishgirl
09-07-2011, 02:33 PM
I'm popping in to say that I have yet to hear a good Northern Irish accent done by an American.

I don't mean "He's supposed to be from EAST Belfast, not WEST Belfast" bad, I mean "Has this person ever heard an actual person from Northern Ireland speak?" bad.

Brad Pitt (what actually managed an OK Traveller accent in Snatch) was woeful as an IRA terrorist from Belfast in The Devil's Own.

Tommy Lee Jones, Mickey Rourke, Richard Gere all being notably bad as well.

I think something that people forget about British and Irish actors is that the big drama schools (RADA etc) in the UK, which still produce a lot of the big TV and film actors, have classes by very good dialect and accent coaches- an experience American actors may not have had.

Cayuga
09-07-2011, 07:37 PM
Kate Winslet dose a good American accent? I suppose, but the my American friends have always thought that she sounded slightly off.

I grew up where Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind took place. I can tell you that her accent was dead-on perfect.

An Gadaí
09-07-2011, 10:34 PM
Brad Pitt (what actually managed an OK Traveller accent in Snatch) was woeful as an IRA terrorist from Belfast in The Devil's Own.


This is one I hear a lot but IIRC his TDO accent was at the very least passable. I'll have to check a youtube clip to see if my memory is deceiving me. His accent was definitely Norn Ironish and not oi tee toi tee toi Oirish anyway. :)

Canyon Surfer
09-08-2011, 07:34 AM
I can think of two examples of excellent English accents from American actors.

Dustin Hoffman does a wonderful, over-the-top accent in Hook playing the evil pirate himself.

But the best one has to be from Angelina Jolie in the Tomb Raider films. Her accent in the role of Lady Croft is perfect as being that of a member of the British aristocracy. She is a countess after all (Croft that is, not Jolie). She had to learn to speak with an English accent specifically for that film.

Acsenray
09-08-2011, 08:31 AM
But the best one has to be from Angelina Jolie in the Tomb Raider films. Her accent in the role of Lady Croft is perfect as being that of a member of the British aristocracy. She is a countess after all (Croft that is, not Jolie). She had to learn to speak with an English accent specifically for that film.

Renee Zellweger's accent for Bridget Jones wasn't perfect, but seemed pretty good from my American point of view.

Enderw24
09-08-2011, 10:01 AM
I think the main reason Brits and Aussies are better at it is because all they have to do is lose the accent completely and, BAM! They're speaking American. Am I right or am I right? I'm right, right?

Acsenray
09-08-2011, 10:04 AM
I think the main reason Brits and Aussies are better at it is because all they have to do is lose the accent completely and, BAM! They're speaking American. Am I right or am I right? I'm right, right?

At least one person agrees with you. (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=619668)

The Other Waldo Pepper
09-08-2011, 10:11 AM
Renee Zellweger's accent for Bridget Jones wasn't perfect, but seemed pretty good from my American point of view.

IIRC, she got into character by having a job-placement company put her "undercover" for weeks in a London publishing company -- where she only ever spoke with a British accent that locals apparently accepted without question.

Biffer_Spice
09-08-2011, 10:19 AM
I thought Kelly Macdonald in No County For Old Men did a fantastic job with a very specific accent.

And I remember some Brits commenting on how Michael and Christopher in Spinal Tap did an amazing job with a very specific London accent. Don't recall exactly but it may have been east-end.

what i came in to post. it was some time after i first saw that when i found out that christopher guest wasn't english! his accent was so good i just assumed he was. absolutely perfect accent. michael mckean was very good too. shearer not as good as the other two, to be honest.

jayjay
09-08-2011, 10:48 AM
what i came in to post. it was some time after i first saw that when i found out that christopher guest wasn't english!

He's English enough that he's actually a baron (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Guest)! He just didn't grow up in the UK. His father was a UN diplomat (and nobleman, the 4th Lord Haden-Guest (Christopher is the 5th Lord Haden-Guest)) and his mother was American.

SciFiSam
09-08-2011, 06:10 PM
Chiwetel Ejiofor is another Brit that seems to do American accents very well, and pretty frequently too.

Biffer_Spice
09-09-2011, 04:16 AM
He's English enough that he's actually a baron (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Guest)! He just didn't grow up in the UK. His father was a UN diplomat (and nobleman, the 4th Lord Haden-Guest (Christopher is the 5th Lord Haden-Guest)) and his mother was American.

yes, but his actual accent is american. still sounds weird to hear him talk normally. i feel THAT's him putting it on, and that really he's just nigel tufnel.

what a film :)

Troy McClure SF
09-09-2011, 03:45 PM
"Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" was my first exposure to Bob Hoskins. I was not aware that he was British until I read it in the newspaper. I thought he played a convincing American as Eddie Valiant.

Same here, with Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine. I'd noticed one or two words sounding a little funny but never thought anything of it.

Also, Sons of Anarchy fans: Did you know Jax is British (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2b5_2elFjg)?

Candyman74
09-09-2011, 04:00 PM
This one seems an obvious one to me.

1. Yes, as a generality there is a tendency for Brits to be better at US accents than vice versa. This is because:
a) An American accent is more profitable than a British accent; America has five times the population and more than five times the movie output.
b) RADA is fairly old-skool in terms of tuition, and specific skills like accents feature more heavily than American equivalents (thus anecdotal, but I've heard it from Stephen Fry personally when discussing Hugh Laurie at a signing and I believe him).

irishgirl
09-09-2011, 04:00 PM
What about Rose Byrne (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0126284/)?

I think her American accent is pretty good.
Pretty odd hearing her Aussie voice on Project Runway, but then I remember her in Heartbreak High.

Slow Moving Vehicle
09-09-2011, 10:32 PM
Now, if I *know* an actor is not American, I will be more "tuned in" for anything that may sound "off" to me, which, as mentioned above, could include any given real American accent if I'm not familiar with it, so even actors who are pulling off flawless accents might still sound weird to me if I know they're from Wales or Scotland. John Barrowman, for instance.


As noted upthread, John Barrowman's American accent is flawless because he grew up in Illinois. What's jarring about him - and I've heard it in other British actors protraying Americans - is the use of British vocabulary. One episode of Doctor Who was set in 1930's New York, and featured a British actor playing a boy from Tennessee. He had a passable generic Southern accent, but he blew it in one scene by talking about "the lift".

Coming from the South myself (actually from Shreveport, La, which is a frequent setting of the show), I can usually pick up on fake southern accents immediately (as I think most southerners can)....

Using "y'all" as a singular is a dead giveaway.

Renee Zellweger's accent for Bridget Jones wasn't perfect, but seemed pretty good from my American point of view.


When they were doing the publicity for Bridget Jones' Diary, one of Renee Zellweger's co-stars - Colin Firth, I think - wondered why she kept on putting on an American accent.

Cayuga
09-11-2011, 09:42 AM
Using "y'all" as a singular is a dead giveaway.


People always say that, and yet I frequently hear actual Southerners do it.

Raguleader
09-11-2011, 04:51 PM
People always say that, and yet I frequently hear actual Southerners do it.

Except that "Y'all" isn't singular. It's Collective Singular. ("All Y'all" is the plural, of course.)

The only time a Texan or a Southerner should use "Y'all" to address a single person is if they are talking to the Queen of England. :D

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