Find your true voice: truly terrible movie and TV accents
The lights dim and the movie begins. The locations are fabulous. The costumes are perfect. The lighting is a work of art. Then the actor opens his mouth... and out pops the most ridiculous accent. The film is destroyed. Your disbelief is no longer suspended and, no matter what happens for the next 90-120 minutes, all you’re going to think about is that rubbish accent attempt.
'Course, it’s very easy to laugh at someone else’s failed attempts to reproduce an accent. So let’s do just that, with a list of our favourite 'so-bad-they're-good' movie and TV accents.
John Wayne in The Conqueror
In an older, less culturally-sensitive time, Hollywood knew just what to do about funky foreign accents – ignore them. In the 1956 clunker, The Conqueror, John Wayne plays the Mongol chief Temujin (aka Genghis Khan) as an important cowboy in a funny hat. There’s a certain logic to this, given that both cowboys and Mongol chiefs ride horses. Try 0:47-1:50 to enjoy The Duke drawling his way through some super-snappy dialogue.
Keanu Reeves in Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Another creosote-ready performance from our friend, Mr Keanu Reeves. Here, he plays solicitor-turned-vampire-hunter Jonathon Harker. It’s not so much that his English accent is hopeless, it’s more that you can sense how much work he’s put into it, and that he thinks he’s doing rather well, dude. Fast forward to 1:52 for the best.
Nicholas Cage in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
Ah, Nick Cage. Like Keanu, there’s always something endearing about how hard he’s trying. Playing Corelli, the Italian Mr Cage should have had a head start. After all, Nick’s dad was Italian. Unfortunately, he seems to also be drawing on his mum’s Polish-German roots, his Californian upbringing, and just a touch of Steven Hawking. 0:40-1:06 is just enough to get the picture.
Angelina Jolie and Colin Farrell in Alexander the Great
What’s wrong with this scene? Colin Farrell’s haircut, for a start. Also, twenty-eight year old Farrell playing a teenage Alexander. And twenty-nine year old Angelina playing his mother. Then there’s the accents. Because Farrell was struggling to eliminate his Irish accent, director Oliver Stone decided all the Macedonians should have Irish accents. You know, to be consistent. Except that is for the equally Macedonian Jolie, who opted for a fabulously fruity Russian accent.
"Fine Angie, do it your way!" "Da, tank you, darlink."
Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins
Fooled you! It didn’t go in at the start or at the end. But of course, everyone's favourite ne plus ultra of naffness had to be on the list somewhere. No further comment necessary… except to say, is it us, or at 1:40, does Dick van Dyke look like a young Bill Clinton?
Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise in Far and Away
This title of this forgettable caper may refer to the fact that it contains far and away some of the most ridiculous Irish accents we’ve heard. In this scene, Aussie Nicole Kidman and American leprechaun Tom Cruise have a competition to see who can out-rubbish who. Sorry, Nicole, but at 1:38 and 1:52 Tom wins it hands down with his laughable, “Tell me you loike moi hat…Woi carn’t ye say it?”
Warning: contains some mildly rude words.
James Doohan in Star Trek
Real-life hero James Doohan (seriously – google his military service) won fame as Star Trek’s ‘Scotty’ – the clue to the accent is in the name. You could pick any moment in this montage, but our favourite is at 0:36. Doohan may be playing an Old Aberdeen pub-crawler, but the accent is light years away. Or more specifically, 4,373 miles as the landing shuttle flies: Doohan was raised in Vancouver, to Irish parents. His diction just cannae take it, Cap’n.
Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert in Highlander
We saved our favourite until last. In this brilliantly bizarre scene, we have a Scotsman playing a Spaniard/Egyptian and a Frenchman playing a Scotsman. Both are wonderfully hopeless, but who’s worse? At least Christopher Lambert is trying, though his opening line might as well have been ‘Je n'aime pas les bateaux, je n'aime pas l'eau…’ On the other hand, Sean feels he’s already done more than enough by adopting a Spanish haircut and beard. And who would argue?
That’s it for now, the noo, or noi. But if you will permit us one small plug for our agency: if you’d like to find your true voice to reach your audience, we’re only a phone call away. Plus, we proudly rock more than our own fair share of dodgy accents.