When Bad Accents Happen to Good Actors

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by Matt Singer
December 6, 2012 1:21 PM
12 Comments
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"Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves."
Last night I watched "Deadfall," a new crime thriller opening this weekend in limited release. Afterwards, I struggled for a while with the horrible -- and I mean horrible -- Southern drawl Eric Bana uses in the film. Bana is an actor I like and admire, and in the past he's put on convincing American and Israeli accents for roles. Not this time; his accent might be one of the worst I've heard delivered by a good actor in thirty years of watching movies.

That, naturally, got me thinking about other contenders for the title. A few notable stinkers popped to mind, but you know how this goes; you have a question, you put it to the hive mind on Twitter. So I asked my followers: "What is the worst accent you've ever heard come out of the mouth of a good actor?" The responses were immediate and overwhelming, and the suggestions -- some of which I had seen, some of which I'd never even heard of -- prompted a highly entertaining hour YouTubing clips of brilliant thespians doing stupid accents. It was so much fun, I decided I had to share my favorites, in this list (ranked in no particular order except for number one, which is clearly the worst ever) I'm calling "When Bad Accents Happen to Good Actors."

These men and women are indeed very good actors, some of the finest to ever appear on the silver screen. Let this be a lesson to everyone: pretending you're a Romanian philanthropist with an interest in diamonds and gorillas is not as easy as it looks. Even for the professionals.

When Bad Accents Happen to Good Actors

10. Jude Law in "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"

9. Tim Curry in "Congo"

8. Ben Kingsley in "Sneakers"

7. John Malkovich in "Rounders"

6. Leonardo DiCaprio in "Blood Diamond"

5. Katharine Hepburn in "The Iron Petticoat"

4. Michael Caine in "The Weather Man"

3. Ewan McGregor in almost any movie where he talks like an American (i.e. "The Men Who Stare at Goats"):

2. Dick Van Dyke in "Mary Poppins"

1. Kevin Costner in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves"

BONUS: A single, magical line by Keanu "Dude, I'm, Like Not British" Reeves from "Bram Stoker's Dracula"

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12 Comments

  • Jenna | March 28, 2014 10:47 PMReply

    Have any of you ever spoken to someone from South Africa? I Had friend who grew up speaking Africaanes and his accent is almost identical. People don't realize how difficult an accent like that is to emulate, but his was great and even my friend agreed.

  • Chris | March 25, 2014 12:25 AMReply

    There's an entire VanityFair article written by an expert and South Africa basically saying how amazing Leo's accent was, to quote:
    "As far as their accents go, I don’t really think it’s close—Leo is just unbelievable. Although he’s not perfect, I could believe that he was a South African (he plays a Zimbabwean [in The Blood Diamond], but the accents can be the same). "

  • 0 | August 22, 2013 1:49 PMReply

    I think DiCaprio is a really good actor, but Meryl Streep he is not. He can't really do accents very well, and to me it always sounds really inauthentic. Which isn't exactly ideal when he seems to try a different accent in every film he does.

  • derry | May 19, 2013 6:31 PMReply

    I agree, I cannot usually stand Leonardo DiCaprio, but he really went up in my estimations as a result of his performance in Blood Diamond.

  • Alex | December 7, 2012 7:38 AMReply

    Even though I am not a native English speaker, I join the ranks of those who think Leonardo DiCaprio actually did a pretty good job in "Blood Diamond".

  • Josh | December 6, 2012 3:30 PMReply

    Oh Keanu. I actually think he's unfairly maligned as an actor, but man. That Dracula clip makes me bust out laughing every time, without fail.

  • Skippy | December 6, 2012 3:06 PMReply

    What?! No Julia Roberts in "Mary Reilly?" I thought that was legendary.

    Also, I am a huge fan of the movie "Quiz Show," but the one thing that drives me crazy about it is the accents wandering in and out. Rob Morrow has a Boston accent...sometimes. Every so often Ralph Fiennes busts out an exaggerated New York accent, which then promptly disappears (and which his character doesn't need). Accent consistency clearly wasn't a priority when they made this.

  • Paco | December 6, 2012 3:01 PMReply

    Charlton Heston as a Mexican in Touch of Evil. Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's

  • Shane Slater | December 6, 2012 2:18 PMReply

    Leonardo DiCaprio?? Oh please. That was excellent attempt at a very difficult accent. I lived in Cape Town for 2 years and I was very impressed.

  • Maxwell Haddad | December 6, 2012 1:51 PMReply

    The only one on the list I have a hard time with is DiCaprio in Blood Diamond. That's a pretty authentic South African accent, if you ask me. Damon's attempt at South African in Invictus was far less convincing.

  • Jeremy Schobel | December 6, 2012 1:44 PMReply

    I thought Ewan McGregor's American accent was fine in I Love You Phillip Morris, but maybe that had something to do with the effeminate southern drawl.

  • Gerardo Valero | December 6, 2012 1:29 PMReply

    How about Irish Richard Gere in "The Jackal"? http://youtu.be/rJGOCtlPzUs

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