The 10 worst British accents in cinema history
Adopting a new accent can be a useful tool for an actor, one of a number of methods useful for getting into character. While this may indeed be the case for thesp-types, however, the process can have a detrimental effect on international audience’s viewing pleasure. Instead of immersing viewers in the movie’s story, audiences are all to often left watching in horror as some over-paid foreigner makes a mockery of their prized idiom.
In a country brimming with untapped acting talent, it is a shame that Hollywood too often feels the need to cast Americans, Australians and even mismatched Brits in the role of British characters. Throughout the ages, no accent has gone unsavaged as Hollywood populates its movies with some of the worst imitations imaginable. Here are the worst offenders.
The film: V for Vendetta
The accent: English
The culprit: Natalie Portman
Set in dystopian Britain, V for Vendetta tells the story of verbose anarchist (Hugo Weaving) who adopts the Roman numeral V as his name following his imprisonment in a cell block of the same number. Encountering Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) one night, Weaving displays some of the best acting this side of Oscar season as he appears to take Portman seriously, despite her harrowing assault on the English vernacular.
The film: Highlander
The accent: British
The culprit: Christopher Lambert
Perhaps the most infamous candidate on this list, Christopher Lambert’s atrocious accent is just one among many in Russell Mulcahly’s Highlander. As memorable as your school’s first STI slideshow, it will live on in infamy for as long as it’s immortal protagonist.
The film: Far And Away
The accent: Irish
The culprit: Tom Cruise
Irish immigrants seeking refuge in 1980’s America, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman take it in turns to mangle the Irish accent for all it is worth. While Nicole Kidman does not escape this list unscathed, it is Cruise’s Joseph Donnelly who earns a special mention for his abomination of an accent. While the Irish idiom will suffer elsewhere – Back to the Future 3, the Leprechaun series – Far and Away‘s crimes are all the more distressing for its welcome reception and undeserved John Williams score.
The film: Burke and Hare*
The accent: Scottish
The culprit: Isla Fisher
Although Shrek is by no means hailed by Scots as a realistic representation of their prized syllaba, the ogre can be forgiven on account of his ogre-ness and the fact that he’s randomly picked it up in the middle of Far Far Away. Isla Fisher, on the other hand, has apparently lived in Edinburgh her entire life, surrounded by such noteworthy imitators as Tim Curry and Tom Wilkinson. Treading the line between stereotype and verbal diarrhoea with all the precision of a blind kangaroo, Fisher’s Ginny has Shrek sounding as natural as Rabbie Burns.
The film: Robin Hood
The accent: Yorkshire
The culprit: Russell Crowe
Having apparently based his accent on that of Meg Ryan fave Michael Parkinson, Russell Crowe stormed out of a BBC interview when he was informed that his impersonation of a Yorkshireman sounded like it was peppered with hints of an Irish accent. Retorting, “You’ve got dead ears mate”, interviewer Mark Lawson missed a trick by not pointing out that is was Crowe, not himself, that couldn’t tell the difference between Yorkshire and Irish.
The film: Mary Poppins
The accent: Cockney
The culprit: Dick Van Dyke
Love is often described as being able to conquer all, but Cupid really does deserve a Scooby Snack for tricking the flighty Mary Poppins into falling for Dick Van Dyke’s Bert. An ambitious one-man band, Bert complements his aimlessness with a truly excruciating Cockney accent. Unbearable at the best of times, the rhyming slang is truly toxic when being sung from the roof tops with the aid of chimney-sweep backing singers.
The film: Australia
The accent: English
The culprit: Nicole Kidman
An Australian playing an English woman in Australia, Nicole Kidman does for the English accent what she had once done for the Irish: no favours whatsoever. Without Tom Cruise to make her look slightly less heathen, Kidman only makes things worse by singing Judy Garland’s ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ to a young aboriginal boy who relentlessly acts her under the table. With Hugh Jackman somehow parodying his own natural accent, however, Kidman hardly had much reason to raise her bar.
The film: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
The accent: Welsh
The culprit: Bill Nighy
Bill Nighy plays himself in almost every movie he’s in (my opinion). In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I, however, he plays himself with a truly dreadful Welsh accent. Dragging out the moments until Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour does the decent thing and disapparates, this particular imitation is undoubtedly the reason Catherine Zeta-Jones and Christian Bale opted to dumb themselves down for American audiences.
The film: Bram Stoker’s Dracula
The accent: British
The culprit: Keanu Reeves
Bringing his trademark stoner persona to 1987 Transylvania, Keanu Reeves clearly forgets to pack his contractual British accent. Acting opposite a slithering Gary Oldman, Count Dracula is done a disservice by being the least terrifying thing onscreen. Remembering, sporadically, that he is not in fact on drugs, Reeves phones in a British accent that could kill rainbows with its sheer awfulness.
The film: Letters to Juliet
The accent: British
The culprit: Chris Egan
Chris Egan, well versed in tripe thanks to 2006’s Eragon, approaches Letters to Juliet with a grudge against all things British. Having apparently been raised by Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, Egan’s Charlie Wyman will only ever appeal to deaf old ladies looking for a cheek to squeeze. And Amanda Seyfried, clearly.
* OK, Scotland. I know Mel Gibson’s unforgivable turn in Braveheart deserves a dishonourable mention, but I’m not sure his beaver can take it. Considering it is the Christmas season, and that the film has nevertheless survived to become a national treasure, I have opted to point the finger at that woman who is addicted to shopping and shout, “Hey, you. Yes, you. You suck!”