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Thread: Worst movie accents

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    Default Worst movie accents

    MSN Movies - 2007 Fall Movie Guide - Worst Movie Accents&

    By Sean Nelson
    Special to MSN Entertainment

    Friends, there's an elephant in the room. And when I say "room," I mean the movie theaters and TV screens of America, and when I say "elephant," I mean Russell Crowe. Specifically the unforgivably broad, unforgettably bad Noo Yawk accent he has saddled himself with in the trailer for Ridley Scott's "American Gangster." I have no quarrel with Crowe under normal circumstances. I've seen almost every movie he's done since "Romper Stomper" in 1992. I'll probably go see "Gangster." But that accent signifies, with almost utter certainty, that at least his portion of it is going to suck.

    I don't know why I'm such a stickler for accents, but there's nothing that can spoil an otherwise good film/performance faster than a mangled or grossly inaccurate or -- worst of all -- inconsistent dialect. I suppose it's because, well, what the hell else do these actors have to worry about? After all, it's not like they don't have coaches on set to help them remember how Irish is different from English (forget about why Dublin is different from Ulster), why Queens is different from Brooklyn, why Texas and Alabama aren't the same drawl. But somehow -- whether it's directors being too scared to criticize them, lack of preparation time, or just medium talent -- stars still find ways to botch the job. And now they must pay.

    Here is a list of the 10 most egregious examples of bad accents to ever maim a motion picture. They are in no particular order, and if you have some other candidates, please send them our way.

    Dick Van Dyke, "Mary Poppins" (1964)
    Yes, it hurts to lay the smack down on Bert, the lovable chimney sweep from this justly beloved children's film, but guess what: If you're searching for the all-time standard for judging poor dialect delivery, you need look no further. Granted, in the '60s, the idea of a screen actor, let alone a renowned comedian like Van Dyke, actually working to make his character's accent believable was something of a novelty. And no way could any of them have guessed that videotapes and DVD would arrive to put their shoddy work on display for all time. But that's no excuse. It's a testament to Van Dyke's native lovability that the film and his rancid performance remain perennial family treasures. That said, I still have nightmares about the way he says "puntin' own da Tems."

    Brad Pitt, "The Devil's Own" (1997)
    Oh, he's a handsome devil, and he has even become an occasionally convincing actor. But strap an Irish brogue on him, as in this otherwise promising 1997 Alan J. Pakula thriller about terrorism on U.S. soil, and he's a complete washout. That weird thing about Pitt -- where you can really see him trying to be good so he can prove that he's not just a pretty face -- is very much in evidence here. He seems to be using David Thewlis' Earth-scorching performance as Johnny in Mike Leigh's "Naked" as a model for the accent. Unfortunately, Johnny was from Manchester, England, not Ireland. Not long after, Pitt actually got to co-star with Thewlis in "Seven Years in Tibet," in which Pitt executed another horrendous accent, this time Austrian (see it, and you'll never hear "Himalayas" again without laughing). But since Austrian is already an ugly-sounding dialect, let's stick to his mangling of Irish, shall we?

    Angelina Jolie, "Alexander" (2004)
    The thing about Jolie's accent in Oliver Stone's catastro-pic about Alexander the Great is that, in certain ways, it's almost brilliant. In a film where British, Greek, Arabic and Slavic accents sort of whirl around willy-nilly in actors' mouths, Jolie sort of melds them all together into one ludicrous goulash that sums up everything that's wrong with the film: it's funny without knowing why; it's absurd without intention; and it's just crazily wrong on every level. But if Jolie is making fun of the role she's playing, she doesn't let on. Instead she just sinks her whitened teeth into her elaborate concoction. And it's impossible to take seriously.

    Gary Oldman, "State of Grace" (1990)
    Seventeen years before Russell Crowe made mincemeat of the generic New York cop accent in "American Gangster," Gary Oldman butchered the generic New York thug accent (Irish variation, not to be confused with Italian variation) in this overwrought cop-crime thriller starring Sean Penn. Bouncing all over the screen like a manic, violent superball, Oldman strains for comparison to Robert De Niro's Johnny Boy from Martin Scorsese's "Mean Streets." But, like many a British actor before him, he can't quite get the hang of the letter "r," thus making his performance a bad cartoon. Oldman can be great sometimes, but not here.

    Uma Thurman, "Henry & June" (1990)
    Another New York hatchet job, from the same year, but this time from an American actress who lives in New York! But movie New York isn't real New York, and Thurman's performance as June, the temperamental but fragile wife of Henry Miller (Fred Ward), isn't real either. Granted Thurman's unstoppable beauty -- she was 20 at the time -- made her seem perfect for the role of a woman who could not just tame but overpower the legendary libidos of Miller and Anais Nin (Maria de Medeiros). And it's true, when you look at her, all dolled up in '20s couture and heavy makeup, your eyes just about pop out of your head. But when she speaks, it's moiduh.

    Tim Robbins, "Mystic River" (2003)
    The first Oscar-winning performance on this list, and therefore possibly the most controversial, right? Nonsense! This is "Dances With Wolves II"; wait 10 years, then see if anything about "Mystic River" still seems genuine or gripping. Sean Penn -- there he is again -- may be the center of Clint Eastwood's fictional Boston here, but Robbins, playing Penn's slow-witted childhood buddy, is its leaden heart. Equal parts Lennie from "Of Mice and Men" and the Abominable Snowman from Bugs Bunny, Robbins' portrayal of Dave, the grown-up victim of child abuse, not only verges on sentimentality, it charges right through the line to become pure bathos. The motor of this lousy performance is his thick Boston accent, which coats every word Robbins speaks like a bad suit. There have been other poor Boston accents in movies -- even other Oscar-winning ones (see Robin Williams in "Good Will Hunting") -- but this one makes the whole city sound like a huge baked bean. It's had to stomach after a while.

    Winona Ryder, "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (1992)
    Many have pointed to Keanu Reeves' atrocious attempt at Anglicism in this misbegotten adaptation of the world's most famous vampire novel, but come on! You expect bad accents from Reeves (see "Dangerous Liaisons"). Winona Ryder, just entering the peak of her star power, is abominable as Mina, wife to Reeves' Jonathan Harker (there's an unpleasant household to imagine) and object of the amorous attentions of good old Drac (Gary Oldman). Leaving aside the fact that Ryder seems utterly bound to the 20th century, and is dwarfed by the campy spectacle surrounding her, she also sounds like a small girl hosting a tea party for her dolls when she affects an upper-crust British dialect. Wrong, wrong, wrong. It's almost enough to make you long for "Reality Bites."

    Forest Whitaker, "The Crying Game" (1992)
    To put it bluntly, what the hell was anyone thinking when they let this performance happen? Whitaker is often a brilliant actor, and, as his Oscar-winning turn in "The Last King of Scotland" proved, he can do accents. But he can't do a limey British one, at least not in this otherwise fantastic Irish political-sexual thriller whose big twist had audiences lining up in 1992. In the 30-minute prologue that sets up the entire film, Whitaker plays a British soldier who so loves his "girl" back home that he makes the IRA gunman (Stephen Rea) who kills him promise to look in on her when he gets back home. And while no one would condone such acts of violence in real life, there's some sense that the solider is executed for crimes against the English accent. However fine an actor he may be under normal circumstances, Whitaker is inconsistent, half-hearted and unconvincing in "The Crying Game" -- you can imagine that it seemed like good casting to begin with, but someone should've checked to see if he could handle the load.

    Liam Neeson, "Schindler's List" (1993)
    It doesn't exactly feel good to criticize a film with such high-flying moral and aesthetic credentials, but let's be serious: Neeson is horrible as Oskar Schindler. Handsome, obviously. Heroic, acceptably. But German? Please. From the very first moment he opens his mouth, Irish-born Neeson is the tragic flaw in the most well-meaning film there ever was. And while Schindler plays out his noble scheme, the actor who plays him is busy molesting the music of Germanic dialect, choking on words, flattening vowels, sucking. By the time he is reduced to muttering, "I could have saved more" over and over toward the end, you wonder if he really means that he could've studied more.

    Special Award: Kevin Costner, "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" (1991), "JFK" (1991), "A Perfect World" (1993) and "Thirteen Days" (2000)
    A lot of people hate Costner now, and with plenty of good reason, but I've always had a soft spot for him. That softness, however, only covers the roles in which he speaks in his native flat accent. In the films listed above, and in many others, Costner reveals that the ego of megastars often leads them to believe they are capable of any feat. Four feats this former megastar is not capable of: an English accent ("Robin Hood"), a New Orleans accent ("JFK"), a Texas accent ("A Perfect World"), and a Boston accent ("Thirteen Days"). The films in question vary wildly in scope and excellence -- "JFK" is obviously a messy mish-mash; "Perfect World" a wildly underrated meditation on the nature of authority and violence; "Robin Hood" a coulda-been-great action flick undone by stunt casting; and "Thirteen Days" is an ambitious political thriller -- but Costner's performances in each are all the same: sloppy, arrogant, painful. His Robin Hood English is a famous calamity, all over the map and prone to disappearance. But his "JFK" New Orleans is just as cartoonish -- unrecognizable even. The Texan he plays in "A Perfect World" yearns to be accurate, and at times slips into reason, but never for long. But the lahf-able Boston brogue he affects in "Thirteen Days," playing an adviser to the Kennedys, takes the all-time prize for not just inaccuracy, but for gall. No one in the world, not even in New England, sounds like that. And for that, at least, we can be grateful.
    Last edited by Tati; April 23rd, 2008 at 05:23 PM.

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    Elite Member Honey's Avatar
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    I LOVE Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but Kevin's accent is painful.

    Dick Van Dyke's is infamous

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    Anyone doing a fake Southern accent. They all sound like Vivien Leight (whom I love) doing Scarlett O'Hara...and hers sucked too btw.

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    Elite Member HWBL's Avatar
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    I know many people (including Chalet?) thought
    Warren Beatty's Italian accent in "The Roman Spring
    of Mrs. Stone" was atrocious, but it doesn't even
    come close to much worse accent attempts I have
    heard and seen. Nick Nolte in "Lorenzo's Oil" is
    probably THE worst, but I have seen tons of other
    actors, including the great Marlon Brando's pseudo
    British accent in "Mutiny on the Bounty" that are
    as bad as Warren's attempt, or perhaps even a
    tad worse.
    Costner just has one of the worst voices in
    cinematic history, plus he ALWAYS talks like
    himself, Robin Hood being the best example.
    Warren Beatty: actor, director, writer, producer.

    ***** celeb

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    um, Liam Neesons accent was supposed to be Czech, and it's pretty good considering my manager is Czech and sounds just like it. Idiots.

    Lastly, the worst accent ever:

    Keanu Reeves in Bram Stoker's Dracula.. the boy cannot even do a fair imitation of a brit accent. It's HORRIBLE. Omg. It's worse than Dick Van Dyke!
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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    Super Moderator NoDayButToday's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Honey View Post
    I LOVE Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but Kevin's accent is painful.
    I mentioned how awful the accent was to my boyfriend a little while ago. His response? "He was trying to do an accent?" I think that might say it all, just terrible.

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    Elite Member Chalet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HWBL View Post
    I know many people (including Chalet?) thought
    Warren Beatty's Italian accent in "The Roman Spring
    of Mrs. Stone" was atrocious, but it doesn't even
    come close to much worse accent attempts I have
    heard and seen. Nick Nolte in "Lorenzo's Oil" is
    probably THE worst, but I have seen tons of other
    actors, including the great Marlon Brando's pseudo
    British accent in "Mutiny on the Bounty" that are
    as bad as Warren's attempt, or perhaps even a
    tad worse.
    Costner just has one of the worst voices in
    cinematic history, plus he ALWAYS talks like
    himself, Robin Hood being the best example.
    "Signora Ston-ah"

    Thank heavens Redford refused to do (I think) a British accent in Out of Africa.

    Just last night I was waiting for my friend to return home and I was watching her cable tv. Two Angelina movies were on simultaneously. Original Sin with Banderas and Lara Croft. I can only take her five minutes at time. Lara was British (cough, cough) and Original Sin sounded like some faux Mexican accent. Not sure. Either way, she sounded atrocious. Both had her old nose!

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    Elite Member Laurent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Honey View Post
    I LOVE Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but Kevin's accent is painful.
    What I remember of that is that everyone in the movie had an English accent, except Costner. I remember him just keeping his regular speaking voice, so he sounds like some random American in the English countryside.

    I could be wrong, though, because Alan Rickman is in that movie, so all my attention was focused elsewhere.

    Quote Originally Posted by DoveFeatheredRaven View Post
    Anyone doing a fake Southern accent. They all sound like Vivien Leight (whom I love) doing Scarlett O'Hara...and hers sucked too btw.
    Agreed. Most are way over the top and don't sound anywhere near real. In fact, I don't recall ever hearing an actor get it right unless they were actually from the South - Brits come the closest to getting it right, though.
    “What are you looking at, sugar-tits?” - Mel Gibson

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    My friend was complaining last night that she watched Gangs of New York but getting through it was rough due to Leonardo DiCaprio's "Irish" accent.

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    La vie en rose DitaPage*'s Avatar
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    Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett in Pearl Harbor. (particularly Josh.)

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    slightly off-topic, but I happened across this on YouTube the other day and I feel that it probably contains the WORST examples of the Irish accent ever commited to anything, ever. Seriously....
    [YOUTUBE]http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQJrovKgrTw[/YOUTUBE]

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    "Ahm Robin of Lockslee. Gimme back mah land."
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    Quote Originally Posted by DoveFeatheredRaven View Post
    Anyone doing a fake Southern accent. They all sound like Vivien Leight (whom I love) doing Scarlett O'Hara...and hers sucked too btw.
    i am watching this movie right now, and as much as i want to disagree with you, i cant LOL
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    DiCaprio in Blood Diamond

    Kate Beckinsale in Van Helsing
    FUCK YOU AND GIVE ME MY GODDAMN VENTI TWO PUMP LIGHT WHIP MOCHA YOU COCKSUCKING WHORE BEFORE I PUNCH YOU IN THE MOUTH. I just get unpleasant in my car. - Deej

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    ^True to Kate. Very bad!

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