As a Suthna who’s seen any number of movies about the South, I find it disturbing that so many accents are just never heard in this part of the country but that seem to be de rigueur for actors not from this area (pronounced AY-Ree-Yuh).
Outside of the real suthnas like Billy Bob, Duvall, Joanne Woodward, and their like, it’s rare to hear a real accent.
What about you non-suthnas and the accents used for your region?
90% of non-Irish people doing an Irish accent. Minnie Driver is one of the few I have seen pull it off. I have seen one other actor manage it too, but I can’t remember who.
For that matter, half the Irish people doing Irish accents in non-Irish films (especially American films) have abominable accents, I suspect this is from the director asking them to “sound more Irish” or something, or to have them do accents that are not their own (a Dubliner doing a Belfast accent for example).
I must say, however, that Australians doing American accents are often impeccable. I saw Memento and had no idea Guy Pearce wasn’t American until I saw him in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
But yes, Southern accents in movies are dreadful. Kevin Spacey, I’m talking to you.
(Robert Duvall was born in California, however. I assume his family is from around here, though, as his accent was so good in Days of Thunder that I didn’t realize he had one until halfway through, because it’s my accent.)
Hearing the English doing American accents sounds so…unnatural. Not wrong, per se, because the accent’s technically correct, but it sounds just FREAKY. Watch any of the “Jeeves and Wooster” episodes when they’re in New York, you’ll see what I mean.
That may just be the actors faking 1920s American accents, though. Which were admittedly different.
Actors playing Texans seem driven to giving them Generi-Suthuhn accents. I don’t want my guy from Houston to sound like he got there by way of Joh-ja. Likewise, I don’t want that Mississippi society matron to sound like she’s been in Jarrell for 30 years.
It makes me want to take the actor and force them to one year’s hard labor in the Coastal Bend. Thick accents, no escape.
I have to second what Iteki said. American actors should not be allowed to attempt Irish accents. The UN should really pass a resolution about it. Kevin Spacey (hmmm Kevin Spacey and bad accents mentioned again. Must be a concidence) and Linda Fiorentino arguing in Ordinary Decent Criminal sounded like a scene from The Sopranos.
Unless it’s a documentary, virtually any movie or TV show set in New Orleans has the speakers speaking erroneous accents. There are almost no Southern belles or Cajuns in New Orleans – and when there are, they’re visiting.
The most common accents spoken in New Orlean are akin to a folksy form of Brooklynese with the Yiddish influences removed. Additionally, Sopranos-style Italian accents are not uncommon, and are not limited to those of Italian descent.
I’m going to assume you know she is from Louisiana, so hers should be natural. So are you pointing out that she manages to still do it well even after being in Hollywood? I agree with you that she does it well; I’m just checking to make sure I understand you.
As to Nick Cage in Con Air, it just makes me laugh. Whenever my friends and I have an argument and things are getting tense, I come out with, “Why couldn’t you put the bunny back in the box?” in the worst southern accent possible (and I’m from Georgia, teehee). It always gets a laugh.
TV shows (Buffalo Bill, Jessie) and movies (Best Friends, Hide in Plain Sight, Buffalo 66, Bruce Almighty) that take place in Buffalo seem to ignore that area’s very distinctive accent altogether. Maybe it’s because voice coaches don’t teach it; there’s not as much call for it as for a Brooklyn or Southern accent.
The English do a particularly terrible job with New York accents. In the BBC miniseries “Sprockets,” one character was supposed to be a New Yorker and Jewish. He said “OY VEY” with heavy stress on each syllable. There was a similar character in the Dr. Who serial “The Chase” whose NY accent made him sound like an alien.
I’m always amazed at how poorly some great foreign actors do with American accents (Anthony Hopkins in Nixon comes to mind). This may simply be my bias: I’m American, so I would notice this failing more than I would American actors doing foreign accents.
However, I’ve also heard that American English is the only language in the world that uses a terminal ‘R’ sound (i.e., pronounces the r in tailor). If true, it could explain why American accents are so hard to do authentically. Could someone confirm or refute?
I would nominate Fred Gwynn in My Cousin Vinny as the most convincing southern accent by a (non-southern) American.
I buy your example. If you check the IMDB listing of the movie and then check out the individuals in supporting roles, I think a goodly percentage of those folks were Suthnas. If so, Gwynne had some good “dialog coaches” to draw from. Even if it was his own doing, it was well above average.