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Bad Accents in the Movies

20 Jan 2022

Oh dear, it appears that Oscar Isaac is doing a silly English accent in the new Marvel movie ‘Moon Knight’. According to Stuart Heritage in The Guardian he sounds like Alan Bennett being played by Dick Van Dyke. Watch the trailer on YouTube and you’ll see that’s not far off.

I have always found it baffling that English actors play Americans and vice-versa. I expect it drives Americans bonkers when our actors blend a nasal Boston accent with a southern drawl or Californian Valley girl with a Pacific North-western. It’s hard to judge the merits of accents other than our native ones. The list of epic fails by Americans is impressive though.

Don Cheadle’s catastrophic cockney car crash in the Ocean’s Eleven movies is quite funny and doesn’t distract too much. Keanu Reeves’s  in ‘Dracula’ and Anne Hathaway’s honkingly awful attempt at Yorkshire in ‘One Day’ spoil the films. Given all the money, the expertise and the lengths filmmakers go for authenticity it seems odd that they let actors get away with it.

Sometimes the accents are so bad we don’t notice what they are supposed to be. I had no idea that Naomi Rapace was supposed to be English in ‘Prometheus’.

Perhaps the most bizarre example of a hopeless English accent comes from Charlie Hunnam as a cockney geezer in ‘Green Street’. Bizarre because Hunnam is British who hails from Newcastle and appears to have lost any grip on the English lilt after a long stint playing an American in ‘Sons of Anarchy’. Another more recent example of this phenomenon that seems to have gone under the radar is Robert Pattinson’s American tinged effort in ‘Tenet’. This could be excused as a mid-Atlantic accident of business travel – if one was feeling generous.

Other actors adopt the zero effort, no dialogue coach method. Arnold Schwarzenegger has loaned his Austrian accent to numerous Americans, a Russian and a cyborg. Sean Connery gave no quarter to his character’s Egyptian heritage in ‘Highlander’ nor to his Irish cop Jim Malone in ‘The Untouchables’. In fairness to Connery, Christophe Lambert wasn’t exactly immersed in the Method for his take on “Connor Macleod of the clan MacLeod.”

There has been internet conjecture that absolves Don Cheadle via his character secretly being an American who is obsessed with cockney culture. Cheadle has graciously accepted this theory and apologised for the accent. He has promised never to do it again.

Richard Warburton