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-   -   Are there any American actors who have accurately imitated a British accent? (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=876982)

Lamoral 06-10-2019 10:43 PM

Are there any American actors who have accurately imitated a British accent?
 
I know there are British actors who can sound American - like Christian Bale, for instance. Is the reverse true? Are there any Americans, either in the current day or in past times, who have successfully done British accents?

I don't just mean who have done British accents, I mean who have actually done it to such a degree that a native British English speaker would not be able to tell that they're faking the accent.

terentii 06-11-2019 12:22 AM

I have, in A Midsummer Night's Dream. For four consecutive nights, I fooled audiences full of Brits. They were shocked (yes, shocked!) when they heard me speak in my normal voice: "What, are you American?!?"

JpnDude 06-11-2019 12:34 AM

Watch dialect coach Erik Singer critique actors' accents in this YouTube series from Wired.

Dale Sams 06-11-2019 01:05 AM

I quite liked Forrest Whitaker in The Crying Game

GuanoLad 06-11-2019 01:51 AM

I seem to recall that most Brits praised Gwyneth Paltrow's British accent in Shakespeare In Love and Sliding Doors. Also Renee Zellwegger's in Bridget Jones's Diary.

MrDibble 06-11-2019 03:12 AM

To this day most people I ask have no idea John Hillerman was American.

terentii 06-11-2019 03:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MrDibble (Post 21691828)
To this day most people I ask have no idea John Hillerman was American.

They probably never saw him in Blazing Saddles. :p

epbrown01 06-11-2019 04:22 AM

James Marsters as Spike on BTVS has often been cited for doing a good Brit accent, which he credits to pointers from Tony Head (Giles).

Alessan 06-11-2019 04:35 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by epbrown01 (Post 21691865)
James Marsters as Spike on BTVS has often been cited for doing a good Brit accent, which he credits to pointers from Tony Head (Giles).

I've heard it said that Spike's accent is a copy of Tony Head's actual accent (and not the Oxbridge he affected on the show).

Smid 06-11-2019 05:15 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by epbrown01 (Post 21691865)
James Marsters as Spike on BTVS has often been cited for doing a good Brit accent, which he credits to pointers from Tony Head (Giles).

It was bearable, compared to Cordelia's, which was up there with Van Dyke with the worst ever english accents.

It's ENGLISH accents, btw. British would include Northern Irish (such as James Nesbitt), welsh (I can't name anyone using strong Welsh accent) and Scottish (countless but Ewan Macgregor (occasionally), Robert Carlyle (mostly) and, oh, yes Sean Connery).

Even within the remit of English accents there's wide variations, with Newcastle, Yorkshire (half of Game of Thrones had that accent), Essex, Cockney, West Country, Manchester, Liverpool (the Beatles). The accent you probably should probably be called Oxford English, which is in effect what BBC presenters mostly use.

Acsenray 06-11-2019 06:04 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Smid (Post 21691899)
It was bearable, compared to Cordelia's, which was up there with Van Dyke with the worst ever english accents.

Cordelia didnít have an English accent, did she?

PaulParkhead 06-11-2019 06:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Acsenray (Post 21691922)
Cordelia didnít have an English accent, did she?

Probably meant Drucilla, whose accent was indeed dreadful.

BrotherCadfael 06-11-2019 07:21 AM

I may get flamed for this, but, of all people, Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap did four recognizably separate accents, and pulled it off quite well. As Annie, she had an American accent. As Annie pretending to be Hallie, an American putting on an English accent. As Hallie, she had an English accent, and as Hallie pretending to be Annie, an English girl putting on an American accent.


(I know this because my daughter was right in the target demographic when this film came out.)

Acsenray 06-11-2019 07:47 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by PaulParkhead (Post 21691937)
Probably meant Drucilla, whose accent was indeed dreadful.

Drusilla did have a bad accent. So did Angelus when he was supposed to be Irish.

ElvisL1ves 06-11-2019 08:27 AM

The cast of This Is Spinal Tap all got critical praise for nailing a Squatney accent perfectly.

Acsenray 06-11-2019 08:35 AM

Squatney! What a delightful word.

RealityChuck 06-11-2019 08:48 AM

Gillian Anderson has an excellent British accent in The Fall and Sex Education. Of course, though born in the midwest, she lived in England as a child.

She speaks with an American accent in the US, but an English accent in the UK. Here's a comparison. I suspect she unconsciously switches depending on who she's talking to.

Horatio Hellpop 06-11-2019 08:50 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by epbrown01 (Post 21691865)
James Marsters as Spike on BTVS has often been cited for doing a good Brit accent, which he credits to pointers from Tony Head (Giles).

In interviews, I find his AMERICAN accent unbelievable. I'm just that sucked in!

BrotherCadfael 06-11-2019 09:12 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Horatio Hellpop (Post 21692127)
In interviews, I find his AMERICAN accent unbelievable. I'm just that sucked in!

"I'm just a friend of Xandurrrrs..."

Helmut Doork 06-11-2019 09:34 AM

Agree Lindsay Lohan's was very excellent in Parent Trap, possibly one of the best ever American pre-teen (or close) British accents. A bigger question would be why they are so rare- look at any American film with a large cast, probably half will be British or Australian, and you wouldn't know until reading their imdb bios. There are many like Christian Bale and Will Poulter to name just two I would guess your average American film goer assumes are American- I know of at least two normal adults who were shocked to hear Batman speaking in a Welsh accent on a talk show.

Dale Sams 06-11-2019 09:38 AM

Chris Pratt has received praise for doing a VERY specific Essex accent.


I can do a passable Jason Statham and James Mason.

Ashtura 06-11-2019 10:29 AM

I've heard RDJ, Gwenyth Paltrow, Renee Zellwiger and Meryl Streep do a good job.

Acsenray 06-11-2019 10:35 AM

Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones and Elijah Wood and Sean Astin in Lord of the Rings weren’t terrible, I thought. Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes wasn’t bad. Same with Renee Zellwegger in Bridget Jones.

Scottish actor Iain Glen’s Irish accent sounds pretty bad to me.

Jonathan Chance 06-11-2019 11:04 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Smid (Post 21691899)
It was bearable, compared to Cordelia's, which was up there with Van Dyke with the worst ever english accents.

It's ENGLISH accents, btw. British would include Northern Irish (such as James Nesbitt), welsh (I can't name anyone using strong Welsh accent) and Scottish (countless but Ewan Macgregor (occasionally), Robert Carlyle (mostly) and, oh, yes Sean Connery).

Even within the remit of English accents there's wide variations, with Newcastle, Yorkshire (half of Game of Thrones had that accent), Essex, Cockney, West Country, Manchester, Liverpool (the Beatles). The accent you probably should probably be called Oxford English, which is in effect what BBC presenters mostly use.

This has always intrigued me, actually. We're talking about a place with maybe a third to half the square mileage of Texas. Yet there's about a million differently identifiable accents. On their best day Americans might be able to spot five or six 'so-called' American accents. It's like we could spot the difference - and have it have meaning - between Charleston, Columbia and Greenville accents here in South Carolina. It's bewildering to me.

HeyHomie 06-11-2019 11:05 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JpnDude (Post 21691746)
Watch dialect coach Erik Singer critique actors' accents in this YouTube series from Wired.

I love this series! It's fascinating and informative. However, Singer got at least one critique disastrously wrong.

He was completely off the mark in his deconstruction of Sam Rockwell's Ozark Mountain accent in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. TLDR; Rockwell studied a real Missouri sheriff's speech for his role, and Rockwell nailed it.

At least, Rockwell nailed the accent of the guy he was imitating. As for the "Ozark Mountain Accent," there isn't one. I live on the top of them (seriously, my town is the highest-elevated incorporated community in Missouri). Give me ten locals and you'll hear ten accents. My mother-in-law, for example, speaks mostly General American with a slight twang. My landlady has a considerably stronger twang, but still wouldn't pass for Southern. And my landlady's sister sounds like she just crawled out of a cave in northern Georgia.

NO ONE around here, however, talks like Rockwell did in the movie.

Smid 06-11-2019 11:25 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by PaulParkhead (Post 21691937)
Probably meant Drucilla, whose accent was indeed dreadful.

Yes, it was so bad I forgot her name. I think Cordelia stuck in there because it was someone I didn't like that I grew to....

The thing about Drucilla's accent is that it wasn't even consistent. It was all over the place. The army in the Uk is a big mixing pot for accents, you find someone you know has gone to the army, and their accent is a mixture of three different ones when they come back. This was Drucilla, she shifted between really bad versions of a number of accents.

The only other "English Accent" I can compare was the Trevor Leeds, the Uncle of the Charlize Theron character in Arrested Development. He was supposed to be "British", but the accent to me was so clearly Australian to me. So blatantly, that I assumed that it MUST be a parody or in joke. Nobody yet seems to have "got" that joke. But it is of such a level that I'd say it was similar to Drucilla's.

carrps 06-11-2019 11:27 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Smid (Post 21692446)
The only other "English Accent" I can compare was the Trevor Leeds, the Uncle of the Charlize Theron character in Arrested Development. He was supposed to be "British", but the accent to me was so clearly Australian to me. So blatantly, that I assumed that it MUST be a parody or in joke. Nobody yet seems to have "got" that joke. But it is of such a level that I'd say it was similar to Drucilla's.

And the actor was actually Canadian!

Smid 06-11-2019 11:31 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jonathan Chance (Post 21692402)
This has always intrigued me, actually. We're talking about a place with maybe a third to half the square mileage of Texas. Yet there's about a million differently identifiable accents. On their best day Americans might be able to spot five or six 'so-called' American accents. It's like we could spot the difference - and have it have meaning - between Charleston, Columbia and Greenville accents here in South Carolina. It's bewildering to me.

Area is not the thing here, it's history, tradition and population size. Texas has half the population than the UK, and has only been sizeably populated for about a century. By a vast and diverse set of immigrants who's common connection was Texas.

The UK is twice the population size and has 400 more years of modern age population, and limited transport meant that the fiercest rivalries and wars were often with the town down the road, with different speaking sorts... Accent distinction being a source of pride.

markn+ 06-11-2019 11:40 AM

And note that most of the recognizable American accents (New York City, New Jersey, Boston, Philadelphia, Rhode Island) are from the East coast, which has been inhabited longer, compared to newer areas that have a similar accent across a wide geographical range (Western, Midland, North Central), and which are all pretty similar compared to the East coast accents.

Johnny L.A. 06-11-2019 12:05 PM

Are there any American actors who have accurately imitated a British accent?

Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins?

:D

Loach 06-11-2019 12:08 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Acsenray (Post 21692338)
Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones and Elijah Wood and Sean Astin in Lord of the Rings werenít terrible, I thought.

They werenít doing British accents. They totally nailed Westeros and Shire accents respectively.

Riemann 06-11-2019 12:12 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Acsenray (Post 21692338)
Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones and Elijah Wood and Sean Astin in Lord of the Rings werenít terrible, I thought.

Dinklage has been cited by others as an example of a terrible accent on this board before - but I agree with you, he's not bad. He can sound a bit like, I don't know, he's putting a lot of effort into every syllable? But that can be explained as idiosyncracy - I know posh native speakers who talk like that.

Dale Sams 06-11-2019 12:29 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by HeyHomie (Post 21692404)
I love this series! It's fascinating and informative. However, Singer got at least one critique disastrously wrong.

He was completely off the mark in his deconstruction of Sam Rockwell's Ozark Mountain accent in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. TLDR; Rockwell studied a real Missouri sheriff's speech for his role, and Rockwell nailed it.

At least, Rockwell nailed the accent of the guy he was imitating. As for the "Ozark Mountain Accent," there isn't one. I live on the top of them (seriously, my town is the highest-elevated incorporated community in Missouri). Give me ten locals and you'll hear ten accents. My mother-in-law, for example, speaks mostly General American with a slight twang. My landlady has a considerably stronger twang, but still wouldn't pass for Southern. And my landlady's sister sounds like she just crawled out of a cave in northern Georgia.

NO ONE around here, however, talks like Rockwell did in the movie.

I think he's also taken to task Brad Pitt for a "Kentucky" accent? Well Brads lived in Missouri and Oklahoma...so I didn't think whatever he was doing in Inglorious Basterds sounded bad.

Lamoral 06-11-2019 12:30 PM

Dinklage's accent never bothered me because his character isn't British, he isn't from anywhere on earth so there's no specific accent that he's "supposed" to sound like. But his accent is certainly NOT an authentic-sounding British accent.

ISiddiqui 06-11-2019 12:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by markn+ (Post 21692475)
And note that most of the recognizable American accents (New York City, New Jersey, Boston, Philadelphia, Rhode Island) are from the East coast, which has been inhabited longer, compared to newer areas that have a similar accent across a wide geographical range (Western, Midland, North Central), and which are all pretty similar compared to the East coast accents.

Well don't forget about Southern accents. One can easily tell the difference between, say, an Appalachian accent and a Savannah accent and a Louisiana accent. Some of that is how long those areas are inhabited, but part is also migration to these areas was arrested for a while and only now has increased in number (so traditional accents have not been overwhelmed by accents of other areas quite yet - though in places like Atlanta or Charlotte that has come a bit faster).

Slow Moving Vehicle 06-11-2019 12:58 PM

Bernard King, who played Theoden in The Two Towers, has talked about the wrap party for the film, when he didn’t understand why Brad Dourif - Wormtongue - was affecting a cheesy American accent. Dourif is, of course, American; he just stayed in voice character all through the filming, and King assumed he was a fellow Brit.

Loach 06-11-2019 01:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Slow Moving Vehicle (Post 21692649)
Bernard King, who played Theoden in The Two Towers, has talked about the wrap party for the film, when he didnít understand why Brad Dourif - Wormtongue - was affecting a cheesy American accent. Dourif is, of course, American; he just stayed in voice character all through the filming, and King assumed he was a fellow Brit.

Bernard Hill played a king. Bernard King played basketball. They are not the same person.

Die Capacitrix 06-11-2019 01:59 PM

Daniel Davis, who played Niles the Butler in The Nanny, is from Arkansas.

Allegedly, his coworker, Charles Shaughnessy, who was actually born in London, received complaints about his English accent.

Omniscient 06-11-2019 02:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Slow Moving Vehicle (Post 21692649)
Bernard King, who played Theoden in The Two Towers, has talked about the wrap party for the film, when he didnít understand why Brad Dourif - Wormtongue - was affecting a cheesy American accent. Dourif is, of course, American; he just stayed in voice character all through the filming, and King assumed he was a fellow Brit.

Maybe he was switching back to his Deadwood accent.

Acsenray 06-11-2019 02:12 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jonathan Chance (Post 21692402)
This has always intrigued me, actually. We're talking about a place with maybe a third to half the square mileage of Texas. Yet there's about a million differently identifiable accents. On their best day Americans might be able to spot five or six 'so-called' American accents. It's like we could spot the difference - and have it have meaning - between Charleston, Columbia and Greenville accents here in South Carolina. It's bewildering to me.

It's the same with dialects and languages in general. Land area is not the important factor. Important factors are a stable population over time and relative isolation from surrounding areas.

English has spread across North America too recently for those small, distinctive pockets to form in many places. As you note, where there is some degree of distinctiveness, it's in longer-established English-language settlements on the East Coast.

And also notice that America's accent regions are largely horizontal across the continent. Because that's how the populations mostly spread.

The Stafford Cripps 06-11-2019 02:24 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jonathan Chance (Post 21692402)
We're talking about a place with maybe a third to half the square mileage of Texas. Yet there's about a million differently identifiable accents. On their best day Americans might be able to spot five or six 'so-called' American accents. It's like we could spot the difference - and have it have meaning - between Charleston, Columbia and Greenville accents here in South Carolina. It's bewildering to me.

It's like that in every part of Europe, and I suspect everywhere in the Old World. I think it would be the same if you were to look at native languages and accents in the New World.

Little Nemo 06-11-2019 02:31 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Dale Sams (Post 21692582)
I think he's also taken to task Brad Pitt for a "Kentucky" accent? Well Brads lived in Missouri and Oklahoma...so I didn't think whatever he was doing in Inglorious Basterds sounded bad.

Talking Irish rather than British accents but a group of Irish people on the Facts YouTube channel felt that Pitt did a good job in Snatch.

Mahaloth 06-11-2019 04:07 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Horatio Hellpop (Post 21692127)
In interviews, I find his AMERICAN accent unbelievable. I'm just that sucked in!

Alexis Denisof did even better with Wesley. I hear him with his American accent and it is really weird.

Slow Moving Vehicle 06-11-2019 04:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Loach (Post 21692794)
Bernard Hill played a king. Bernard King played basketball. They are not the same person.

Yeah? I heard Theodenís got a sweet jumper from 15í, and is devastating in the low post.

:smack: Yes, I was thinking of kings, because Theoden.

SmartAleq 06-11-2019 05:13 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by PaulParkhead (Post 21691937)
Probably meant Drucilla, whose accent was indeed dreadful.

The weird bit is that Juliet Landau lived in England from early childhood to age 18 so you'd think she'd do better. I handwave it off that her character is batshit crazy and several hundred years old so she basically is her own population and speaks accordingly.

dorvann 06-11-2019 06:31 PM

Apparently Brad Dourif has. The actors in The Lord of The Rings didn't even realize he wasn't British.

Corry El 06-11-2019 10:29 PM

I've heard that Michael C Hall's accent in 'Safe' was credible to at least some Brits, sounded British to me (American) but I guess that's a lower bar.

Same token though some British actors fake good American accents (Bale was mentioned, he's had a lot of practice). Other times it's a good performance but the accent isn't really *that* accurate or slips. Dominic West notoriously in The Wire but Idris Elba doesn't sound like he's from Baltimore either in that show (maybe the character isn't supposed to be? anyway good performance not brilliant on the accent). My wife and I liked the actor Jason Isaacs in one of his recent British shows so we tracked down other works of his on Netflix. In the American ones like 'Brotherhood' and particular the abortive (but interesting) network show 'Awake', he's still an enjoyable to watch actor, but his accent is not really that good. Especially the latter show where he's supposed to be an LA detective. A stereotypical Rhode Island accent ('Brotherhood') is easier to fake because you can ham it up, it's basically a foreign accent to Americans too. The 'no accent' (to American ears) of LA is harder to hit right and he doesn't. But you ignore it after awhile.

Tamerlane 06-11-2019 10:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SmartAleq (Post 21693176)
The weird bit is that Juliet Landau lived in England from early childhood to age 18 so you'd think she'd do better. I handwave it off that her character is batshit crazy and several hundred years old so she basically is her own population and speaks accordingly.

You beat me to it :). Juliet Landau, hilariously, had much the same family background as Gillian Anderson.

But it appears from what I've read that she was making an attempt at some quasi-cockney for whatever reason, which I'm sure she never actually spoke as a child. Quite possible she has a decent, very mild English accent she might have pulled off, but she chucked it in favor of going broad and kinda fell on her face.

Nava 06-11-2019 11:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by The Stafford Cripps (Post 21692843)
It's like that in every part of Europe, and I suspect everywhere in the Old World. I think it would be the same if you were to look at native languages and accents in the New World.

Yep.

I can map Navarro-Aragonese accents (and even their New World descendants) down to specific villages; 2.SiL and I both realized that the writer of a series of popular novels set in Navarre "couldn't be from here" because of how she treats two specific words, turns out the writer is from neighboring Guipķzcoa (2.Bro had thought his wife was being a tad weird until it turned out I'd noticed the same details, at which point he declared his unconditional and eternal surrender for all language-related matters).

When I was in college in Barcelona, my Catalan dorm-mates spent Saturday afternoons when there was nothing on the TV discussing the geographical borders between the broad a and the narrow a, the muted s and the sonorous s.

While working in Seville I've had Andalusian coworkers dismember somebody's "Andalusian" accent, others point out that in fact the accent in question was correct for a different location in Andalusia, just not for Seville; I can't tell a Jaťn accent from a Huelva one but people from Granada can. I can tell Lepe because I worked for a while with a guy who's actually become infamous for his horrible communication skills, which include a Lepe accent so thick you need a cleaver to cut your way through.

And while I wouldn't be able to tell you which one is which right now, I can certify that my Indian coworkers "Indian accents" were very different depending on what their other languages were, which in turn varied with where they came from. For us Spaniards, the Tamiles and the Marathis were a lot easier to understand than the Bengalis: note that all those are simultaneously different regions and different languages.

thelurkinghorror 06-11-2019 11:55 PM

Not quite the same thing, but Christopher and Jonathan Nolan were raised together between London and Chicago, but have completely different accents.
Quote:

Originally Posted by Dale Sams (Post 21692216)
Chris Pratt has received praise for doing a VERY specific Essex accent.

Unless there's a role I missed, I presume you're talking about this. Discussion starts 0:28 in, his actual try is at 1:27.
Quote:

Originally Posted by Loach (Post 21692531)
They werenít doing British accents. They totally nailed Westeros and Shire accents respectively.

Yeah. Game of Thrones accents are a mess, family members have completely different accents. One that I've seen praised is Liam Cunningham (Irish) doing what is effectively a Geordie accent.


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