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Old 06-10-2019, 10:43 PM
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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.
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Old 06-11-2019, 12:22 AM
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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?!?"
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Old 06-11-2019, 12:34 AM
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Watch dialect coach Erik Singer critique actors' accents in this YouTube series from Wired.

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Old 06-11-2019, 11:05 AM
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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.

Last edited by HeyHomie; 06-11-2019 at 11:07 AM.
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Old 06-11-2019, 12:29 PM
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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.
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Old 06-11-2019, 02:31 PM
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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.
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Old 06-11-2019, 04:07 PM
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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.
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Old 06-11-2019, 01:05 AM
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I quite liked Forrest Whitaker in The Crying Game
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Old 06-11-2019, 01:51 AM
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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.
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Old 06-11-2019, 03:12 AM
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To this day most people I ask have no idea John Hillerman was American.
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Old 06-11-2019, 03:45 AM
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To this day most people I ask have no idea John Hillerman was American.
They probably never saw him in Blazing Saddles.
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Old 06-11-2019, 04:22 AM
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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).
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Old 06-11-2019, 04:35 AM
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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).
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Old 06-11-2019, 05:15 AM
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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.
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Old 06-11-2019, 06:04 AM
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It was bearable, compared to Cordelia's, which was up there with Van Dyke with the worst ever english accents.
Cordelia didn’t have an English accent, did she?
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Old 06-11-2019, 11:04 AM
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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.
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Old 06-16-2019, 09:12 PM
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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).
Mostly right, except while Northern Ireland is in the UK, it isn’t in Britain. Your main point is entirely correct though, and I think when most Americans think “English accent” they mean RP, or maybe Cockney.

Even within the realm of “English accent” there’s no shortage - West Country, Jordie, Yorkshire, Brummie, etc., all very different.
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Old 06-11-2019, 08:50 AM
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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!
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Old 06-11-2019, 09:12 AM
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In interviews, I find his AMERICAN accent unbelievable. I'm just that sucked in!
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Old 06-11-2019, 07:21 AM
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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.)
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Old 06-11-2019, 08:27 AM
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The cast of This Is Spinal Tap all got critical praise for nailing a Squatney accent perfectly.
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Old 06-14-2019, 11:37 AM
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The cast of This Is Spinal Tap all got critical praise for nailing a Squatney accent perfectly.
Christopher Guest is a hereditary member of the House of Lords. That's pretty definitively English.
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Old 06-14-2019, 01:36 PM
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Christopher Guest is a hereditary member of the House of Lords. That's pretty definitively English.
He hasn't been in there since 1999, after they got a lot more serious about membership. He's still a lord, of course, but very few of them are in the House anymore. He doesn't speak with an English accent, but sure, it probably helps him affect one.
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Old 06-14-2019, 02:03 PM
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Christopher Guest is a hereditary member of the House of Lords. That's pretty definitively English.
How the hell did I not know he's married to Jamie Lee Curtis, and because of that Jamie Lee is an actual Baroness? Heh, that's pretty cool. (He's not a member of the House of Lords though, but he was up until 1999)
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Old 06-14-2019, 02:16 PM
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How about Cary Elwes?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrFmuiF2ENY
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Old 06-11-2019, 08:35 AM
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Squatney! What a delightful word.
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Old 06-11-2019, 08:48 AM
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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.
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Old 06-13-2019, 03:32 PM
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Yes, my pick too. I have rediscovered her works and am smitten with her acting. Especially as Mrs Castaway in Crimson Petal and the White. Good series that.
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Old 06-13-2019, 04:35 PM
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By and large, American audiences don't notice or care if an Aussie or Brit mangles an American accent. In Britain, it's an entirely different story. If a middle class actor doesn't nail a posh accent or a Geordie isn't convincing as Liverpudlian or, heaven forfend, an English actor can't imitate a Scot, there will be gnashing of teeth and an agonized, nationwide debate. And if a foreigner fails at it...armageddon.
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Old 06-11-2019, 09:34 AM
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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.
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Old 06-11-2019, 09:38 AM
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Chris Pratt has received praise for doing a VERY specific Essex accent.


I can do a passable Jason Statham and James Mason.

Last edited by Dale Sams; 06-11-2019 at 09:39 AM.
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Old 06-11-2019, 10:29 AM
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I've heard RDJ, Gwenyth Paltrow, Renee Zellwiger and Meryl Streep do a good job.
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Old 06-11-2019, 10:35 AM
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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.
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Old 06-11-2019, 12:08 PM
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Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones and Elijah Wood and Sean Astin in Lord of the Rings weren’t terrible, I thought.
They weren’t doing British accents. They totally nailed Westeros and Shire accents respectively.
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Old 06-11-2019, 11:55 PM
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Not quite the same thing, but Christopher and Jonathan Nolan were raised together between London and Chicago, but have completely different accents.
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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.
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They weren’t 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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Old 06-12-2019, 01:25 AM
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Game of Thrones accents are a mess, family members have completely different accents.
The winner in this category has to be Daphne Moon's family on Frasier. Each one has a completely different accent, and they all sound the same to Americans!
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Old 06-12-2019, 07:16 AM
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The winner in this category has to be Daphne Moon's family on Frasier. Each one has a completely different accent, and they all sound the same to Americans!
The Weasley family was the same...
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Old 06-12-2019, 04:24 AM
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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.
Littlefinger's was a joke. He shifted between English, something different, Northern Irish and Irish (which he is) and back during not just the show, during a season and sometimes during an episode.

Non UK people wouldn't notice it, but sometimes you'd go "Eh? He's Northern Irish NOW?"
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Old 06-13-2019, 09:15 PM
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Littlefinger's was a joke. He shifted between English, something different, Northern Irish and Irish (which he is) and back during not just the show, during a season and sometimes during an episode.

Non UK people wouldn't notice it, but sometimes you'd go "Eh? He's Northern Irish NOW?"
I noticed he'd talk differently in different scenes (don't ask me to identify the accents, though) but thought it was part of the whole "chameleon" thing. Switching accent/dialect/register when you talk to different people, or even within a single conversation, is a negotiation/ingratiation technique. To me one of the difficulties of working in an Nth language is that I can't do that; in one of my primaries, I do it all the time.

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By and large, American audiences don't notice or care if an Aussie or Brit mangles an American accent.
That would depend on which American accent we're talking about: "somewhere in the US" can be mangled no problem; something more narrowly identified such as "Brooklyn" or "Louisiana", you'll have so much gnashing of teeth dentists will be lining up.
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Old 06-12-2019, 09:54 AM
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(snip)
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.
That’s not necessarily inaccurate. I knew a family who all had different accents; the man was from New Zealand and the woman from Australia, each having the appropriate accent. They raised their daughter in England, though, so she had an Estuary accent.
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Old 06-12-2019, 01:28 PM
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Lake Bell did a pretty good job in Man Up with Simon Pegg. Here's a quote from IMDB.

"Simon Pegg revealed that American actress Lake Bell stayed in character with her English accent during filming, even when not before the camera. It wasn't until photography was done and she thanked the assembled crew that they realized she wasn't English."

I'd say that counts as a pass.
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Old 06-12-2019, 03:24 PM
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That’s not necessarily inaccurate. I knew a family who all had different accents; the man was from New Zealand and the woman from Australia, each having the appropriate accent. They raised their daughter in England, though, so she had an Estuary accent.
Then Ned Stark must've got on a plane and done a huge adoption frenzy. I'm okay with the accents, it's just funny.
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Old 06-11-2019, 12:12 PM
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Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones and Elijah Wood and Sean Astin in Lord of the Rings weren’t 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.
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Old 06-11-2019, 12:30 PM
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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.
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Old 06-11-2019, 11:40 AM
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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.

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Old 06-11-2019, 12:41 PM
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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).
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Old 06-11-2019, 12:05 PM
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Are there any American actors who have accurately imitated a British accent?

Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins?

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Old 06-11-2019, 12:58 PM
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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.

Last edited by Slow Moving Vehicle; 06-11-2019 at 12:59 PM.
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Old 06-11-2019, 01:57 PM
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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.
Bernard Hill played a king. Bernard King played basketball. They are not the same person.
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Old 06-11-2019, 04:11 PM
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Bernard Hill played a king. Bernard King played basketball. They are not the same person.
Yeah? I heard Theoden’s got a sweet jumper from 15’, and is devastating in the low post.

Yes, I was thinking of kings, because Theoden.
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