Why so many non-Americans play Americans now?

Maybe it’s not new but seems like I’ve noticed a lot of British and Australian actors playing Americans on TV and in movies lately.

Is this a new trend or did it happen a lot in the past and I missed it?

I think you need to define when you think it started happening before people can answer. I think it must have become a lot more common at some point just because of the way movie-making and entertainment has expanded so much.

However, it certainly has been happening for a number of years. I just saw the Australian film Animal Kingdom, which reminds me that one of the main actors, Guy Pearce, played one of the main roles in LA Confidential (1997) along with fellow Australian Russell Crowe. Both played Americans in one of the most talked about and acclaimed movies of 1997.

It goes back quite a ways. I can remember when Sam Neill was making Omen III (in 1981) and there were comments about a New Zealander playing an American.

I recall reading an interview with Anthony LaPaglia where he mentions deliberately losing his Aussie accent so that he could get more work in the much more lucrative American TV/movie market.

I have no citation for the following claim, just my intuition based on what I’ve seen in many years of movie-watching. It seems to me that there was a major shift in the abilities of English-speaking actors to do accents other than those of their own country around 1990. Before then it seemed to be easier for audiences to accept bad versions of accents and less common for filmmakers to be willing to cast actors where they have to do accents other than their own. It certainly wasn’t unknown for actors to do foreign accents before then, but it was less common. I suspect that acting schools and acting coaches these days insist more on prospective actors having to learn how to do foreign accents well.

Why is this true? I think it’s just another example of globalization. It’s now much more accepted that products will travel across national boundaries after being manufactured and that workers will travel across national boundaries to find a job. There are more foreign actors in American movies for the same reason that there are more foreign athletes in American professional sports. People all over the world are more accepting of foreign-manufactured products. People all over the world are more willing to cross borders to get jobs.

I suspect that they simply like playing Americans. I guess we’re fun to do.

A disquieting thought, since Brits also seem to love playing Nazis.

For a while now it has seemed to me that there’s a shortage of good young male American actors. Particularly where the role requires any sort of machismo. Don’t know why.

Drifting slightly from films, British R&R singers tried to adopt American accents in the early 60’s, presumably to break in to the market, the exeption being the ‘Beatles’. Mick Jagger, Elton John and Rod Stewart are still trying their ‘darnest’. I guess John Cleese played a big part in trying to make nazis (small n) acceptably funny.

How hard is it to lose an accent? When I hear Damien Lewis in Band of Brothers and Homeland, he speaks quite fluidly with no hint of a British accent. When on talk shows, award shows, or whatever, his accent is very pronounced. Does he (and other similar actors) really have to concentrate on his speaking when playing an American character?

Damien Lewis would think of doing American characters as gaining an accent, not losing one, of course. Doing accents other than your own is the sort of thing taught by acting schools and acting coaches. Some people are good at it and some aren’t.

It pays better and they can probably avoid that killer UK taxation.

Any aspiring actor anywhere in the world who can reliably and convincingly imitate other accents is going to be more employable just about anywhere. Hollywood and American TV are big, lucrative markets for actors so anything you can do to make yourself more employable there will be of interest to any actor anywhere, especially one from the Anglosphere. On top of that, far too many people in California have succumbed to the lure of plastic surgery and look-alike faces and bodies, so if a director/producer wants to cast someone outside of the “Hollywood” or “California” standard they’re more likely to find that look in a foreign, non-surgified actor.

I don’t know that it’s any more common now than in the recent past – I expect it’s more common than in say the '30s if only because international travel is faster and easier – but if a British or Australian actor wants to make it in Hollywood they’re going to have more opportunities if they can do an American accent. There aren’t that many roles in American movies and TV shows that call for a British/Australian accent. In some cases a part will be adjusted a bit if a non-American actor is deemed the best suited for the role, but an actor can’t count on that unless they’re already a big star.

Even when they’re not playing Americans, actors from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Australia, and New Zealand often play English characters in movies. I assume this is in part because there are more English roles and in part because the average American moviegoer is more likely to be fooled by a phony English accent than a phony American accent.

by my own casual observation, with rare exception it seems like non-American actors are far better at affecting a fairly neutral American accent than American actors are at affecting, well, pretty much any non-American accent.

for example, I didn’t know Bob Hoskins was English until long after I had first seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

And I was surprised to hear his voice in WFRR because the first movie I ever saw him in was The Long Good Friday, back when it ran in the theaters! Oh, and in that one, check out Pierce Brosnan in the gay bathhouse scene!:stuck_out_tongue:

The blonde lead from CHuck is an Aussie and I think she or Parade Magazine explained it: Brits and Aussies are less egocentric and are less demanding when it comes to American Tv work, that they are grateful. Plus fresh faces rather than seeing the same recycled American actors running thru failed series after failed series. American C or D listers especially.


I keep hearing that but I thought his American accent was appallingly bad. But I had seen him in Flickers so I may have been prejudiced.

Okay, not as bad as Olivier’s French-Canadian in 49th Parallel, but not the slightest bit convincing. I agree that the actors of the British Commonwealth have gotten better at doing American. F’rinstance, I’d never guess from his accent that Nathan Fillion was from far-off Edmonton.

I’m not an actor. But my guess would be that when you’re already playing a character and delivering lines that somebody else wrote for you, putting on a fake accent is just another part of the process.

WAG: The Australian showbiz industry is probably easier to break into because it’s much smaller; successful Australian actors quickly run out of local opportunities and seek work in the US; having achieved success in Australia, they have contacts who can help them with introductions and the sort of helping hand your average unknown aspiring US actor doesn’t have access to.