Old "Die Hard" complaint

It bothered me at the time I first saw the film, but I recently saw the movie again and it still bothers me. The villian, (Hans Gruber[?]) wanders off looking for blasting caps, explosive triggers or whatever and he loses his weapon, comes upon John McClain, at which time he improves his English pronunciation sufficiently that he convinces McClain that he is an American employee of the corporation being held hostage.

My complaint is that people speaking with a foreign accent speak as well as possible and the accent is a stumbling block that exists independent of that. You can’t just minimalize it on a whim. I know, I speak other languages. I know I have an accent in those languages eventho I can’t hear it. At all times I try to minimize my accent in those languages. I cannot just turn it on and off.

My wife suggested that the character was faking the depth of the accent to throw off the police. My response was to question why he maintained it while interacting with his own men and even talking to himself?

He just used an American accent to fool McCain. I have a Southern accent, but can fake other regional accents.

Because if he really was interacting with his own men or talking to himself, it would have been in German, so you get “English with a German accent” at those times. Common movie/tv convention.

I’m not sure I really understand your complaint. Alan Rickman is from London. That’s his real accent. Then he switched it to a more Americanized accent.
So if Alan Rickman can do it, why would it be impossible for Hans Gruber to do it too? Why would it be unbelievable if it literally happened?

Yes, but if you spoke German but accented with English (as it would be your second language), could you then fake it with a Bavarian accent?

That said, Hans Gruber rules dictate that since he is a Master Criminal, he can do super-duper shit like that. Much the same way that John McClain can defeat the laws of physics through most of the movie.

That’s easy to do with a home-grown language, but it is, in my experience, virtually impossible with a forign language. You have that accent because of an inability to master certain aspects of the forign language.

Alan Rickman is English. I believe Hans Gruber was supposed to be German.

It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the movie. I can just hear Rickman’s voice in my head so maybe I’m misremebering his accent in this film.

Anyway, maybe he’s really an American and his parents raised him in Hamburg. Maybe he’s a quick study and is so fluent in two (or more) languages he can switch accents at will.
Maybe he’s really an American after all and was just faking being a German terrorist…fooling even his own brother from Die Hard 3!

Until the unauthorized biography of Hans Gruber and family hits bookshelves this fall, we’re left in the dark.

I never really let the accent switch bother me all that much.

Maybe one of Hans Gruber’s parents were English. I’ve heard anecdotal evidence of Brits and Germans mating in the wild, so it’s possible. :smiley:

Mr. Gruber: Ja ja ich komme!
Mrs. Gruber: I say! Bloody good show!

I call bollocks on that. I can fake English accents well enough that people have thought I’m from Australia, Ireland and somewhere in England (different times, different people).

If I can manage that, I’m sure a master criminal like Gruber wouldn’t have a problem with it either.

I have a friend that is 1st or 2nd generation American. Her parents (or Grandparents) are from Spain. She speaks fluent spanish and american english with a Jersey accent. So yeah, I’ll say it’s possible.

This was sort of my wife’s contention.

Actually, I would love to see this as a mini series.

It was just one of those stumbling blocks for me that once I hit I couldn’t let it go. I had a friend have a similar reaction about “Valkyrie (spelling?)” with Tom Cruise. Cruise having an American accent and everyone else having a British accent. I haven’t seen that one yet, but I think I could live with it, but this one got to me.

Wasn’t the whole point of that scene that Gruber’s American accent was so bad that McClane saw right through it?

The first thing I thought of was Hugh Laurie on House. Every week he sounds like an american. To hear him talk when being interviewed always causes me to pause with a “Huh?” moment.

From the third movie we know that Hans’ brother was some kind of ex-East German special forces guy. Do we know exactly what Hans was before he decided to turn to large scale armed robbery? If Hans Gruber also started out in East Germany’s equivalent of the Spetsnaz, it could explain his facility with accents.

John was tipped because Gruber held his cigarette like a European.

I’ve read an interview with Rickman and it’s made clear what’s going on. His character is a German who learned English, probably late in childhood. Most of the time, his English is slightly accented. However, he’s good at faking accents. When he meets McClain, he decides to pretend that he’s American. If he concentrates hard enough, he can sound close enough to being American to fool most people.

Well, first, he didn’t fool John McClain.

Second, he didn’t improve his German accent until he sounded America, he affected an American accent. He deliberately added American inflections to his (now carefully controlled) normal speech. He wasn’t speaking the English he was taught, he was parodying the English he’d heard others speak. It’s a different approach, and gets used all the time. Hugh Laurie in House has been mentioned, Bob Hoskins in Who Framed Roger Rabbit is another example.

The two leads (Russell Crowe and Guy Pierce) in LA Confidential are both from OZ. The producer thought that the director was insane for casting two Aussies as 1950’s Americans, but they did the accent flawlessly.

But to be fair, Hugh says it’s very hard for him to consistently hit the mark with his American accent. He says he even has to make sure that the British crew member is not the last voice he hears as he starts a take, because it puts him back into his normal accent too much.

That doesn’t mean that someone can’t be a natural at accents. Then there’s the idea that Gruber was raised with English too. My buddy who was raised in Japan as an American missionary kid can fool native Japanese speakers over the phone all the time. For 18 years he heard native idiomatic Japanese all around him, and causes some confusion for people who haven’t met him yet.