Can you think of movies, television or radio shows which feature British actors playing American characters putting on fake British accents?
January 2, 2009 4:58 PM   Subscribe

Can you think of movies, television or radio shows which feature British actors playing American characters putting on fake British accents? Extra bonus points if you can name other examples of actor from country X playing a character from country Y faking the accent of country X.

In case the X/Y is confusing, here's a couple of examples:

An actor from Portugal plays a Australian character who at some points fakes a Portuguese accent.

An actor from China plays a Cambodian character who fakes a Chinese accent.

This doesn't have to be limited to English-language films.

So far I've thought of Dominic West in The Wire, Hugh Laurie in House M.D. and Lee Evans in There's Something About Mary.

For super duper extra bonus points, what on Earth should this particular phenomenon be called?
posted by Kattullus to Media & Arts (28 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I know this sounds implausible, but thinking about this was keeping me awake. No, I am not drunk.
posted by Kattullus at 5:00 PM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

David Tennant is a Scottish actor who plays an... alien with a London accent... on Doctor Who. In one episode he briefly adopts a Scottish accent.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:11 PM on January 2, 2009

Don't know if this fits your definition 100% but the guy who play Nigel in Crossing Jordan, while actually from London, definitely sometimes morphs into what's possibly an American's idea of a cheeky chappie rent-a-Cockney, e.g. using "love" and "bloke" in a peculiar manner, and relapsing into occasional US usage like "math" instead of "maths"...
posted by runincircles at 5:11 PM on January 2, 2009

There was a blogpost on The Guardian website this week about the excruciating horror that is any Hollywood-made flick about Nazi Germany. The example used there was that for _The Reader_ the German extra's in it had to learn English, but English with a distinct German accent.
posted by ijsbrand at 5:15 PM on January 2, 2009

I'm bored too.

Found about Spike (an american actor playing a british vampire who sometimes fakes an american accent) in Buffy here. I wouldn't know if it's true, never watched it.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 5:20 PM on January 2, 2009

This is kind of opposite but James Marsters in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He is American, but played Spike who is British. However, in several episodes he put on a fake American accent and was quite brilliant at it.
posted by Ugh at 5:21 PM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

The recent Bionic Woman series in the US had an early episode where its star (who is English, playing an American) went undercover at an English university and "faked" an English accent.
posted by cali at 5:21 PM on January 2, 2009

Michelle Ryan, who's from London, played an American in the recent Bionic Woman remake. Her character fakes a British accent in one episode, though Wikipedia says it's an Oxfordshire accent rather than her native London accent.
posted by des at 5:25 PM on January 2, 2009

I'm not very thoughtful of the examples, but for the name: baccents? (Backcents?) A play on the notion of Backronyms, a 'reverse acronym', that is a phrase constructed "after the fact" to make an already existing word or words into an acronym.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:27 PM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Same site I mentioned above, on Fraser: "Ironically, John Mahoney, who plays Martin Crane, grew up in Manchester before emigrating to America.(...) John Mahoney actually dropped back to his natural accent, despite having mostly lost it, when he satirised Daphne."
posted by lucia__is__dada at 5:36 PM on January 2, 2009

stringer bell from the wire. he english too.
val kilmer doing an 'extinct' accent for doc holliday in tombstone.
whotsit from there will be blood. actor perfectionist.
christian bale.
Anthony Hopkins in nixon.
Edward James Olmos (of batlestar galactica fame) invented his own Cityspeak based on hungarian as Gaff in bladerunner.

for starters...
posted by gonzo_ID at 5:41 PM on January 2, 2009

An episode of The Riches had Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver (who both play Americans) had the protagonists con someone by pretending to be posh English people.
posted by Ridge at 5:44 PM on January 2, 2009

At some point relatively early in The Wire, Dominic West's character - born and bred in Baltimore - pretends to be English as part of a sting.
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:50 PM on January 2, 2009

In this scene from an episode of Frasier, John Mahoney (who was born and raised in Manchester, England, but started using an American accent when he got into acting) puts on an exaggerated British accent while imitating Daphne (at about 2:32).
posted by Oriole Adams at 6:04 PM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

At the end of "Hamlet 2," Brit Steve Coogan, who plays an American in the movie, does an imitation of Jeremy Irons. Coogan also narrates the movie in what sounds to me like an impersonation of Peter O'Toole.
posted by grumblebee at 6:23 PM on January 2, 2009

I can't help mentioning this: Jim Carrey playing Jimmy Stewart playing Jim Carrey.

"Iiii'm Jim Caareeey. I need attention 24 hours a day!!! I'll do anything for a laugh. Maawhrrr!!!"

also not drunk
posted by nosila at 6:39 PM on January 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

er, on SNL circa 199x
posted by nosila at 6:39 PM on January 2, 2009

There is one episode of Alias where David Anders (I think), an American actor playing a British character, puts on an American accent.
posted by synecdoche at 6:43 PM on January 2, 2009

Chuck Bass on Gossip Girl, at the beginning of this season, faked a British accent to get with Blair. The actor who plays him is actually British.
posted by OLechat at 6:48 PM on January 2, 2009

The actress who plays Sarah Walker on "Chuck" is Australian, and does an American accent for the show. In the 6th episode of the second season, she briefly does an "australian" accent as a cover.
posted by Richat at 8:46 PM on January 2, 2009

Depending on how you define this, Mel Gibson and Nicole Kidman have done this for some films or others in their careers: they are both American-born but spent their formative years in Australia, and both have played Americans and Australians at different times.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:16 PM on January 2, 2009

In the House MD segment, "The Socratic Method" (Season 1, episode 6), Hugh Laurie adopts a posh English accent (very different from his speaking voice) when he makes an after-hours call to another doctor, hoping to secure additional medical history for a patient.

TV Tropes Wiki, which lists other examples, refers to the phenomenon as "fake-fake accents."
posted by terranova at 9:27 PM on January 2, 2009

I was about to mention the "House" example. I laughed for an hour after I first saw it - he doesn't just do an English accent, he does "an American imperfectly imitating an English accent".

Really it's the only way that scene would have worked, because if he did his real Hugh Laurie voice he might have shattered the illusion of being American for lots of viewers...
posted by mmoncur at 10:12 PM on January 2, 2009

How about Robert Downey Jr in Tropic Thunder? Let's see, an American playing an Australian character who's playing a (black) American character...
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 3:11 AM on January 3, 2009

The Gossip Girl scene is even more convoluted than that.

Chuck, an American character (played by the English Ed Westwick) fakes an English accent whilst pretending to be Marcus, an English character (played by the American Patrick Heusinger) who had himself been faking an American accent for several episodes prior. In other words, both characters have been X faking Y faking X, and in that scene, Chuck is actually X faking Y faking Y faking X!

You can hear Chuck's line about five seconds into this clip on YouTube. Ed Westwick does it rather well, too -- he makes it sound like an imperfect imitation.
posted by Georgina at 4:21 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

There was a Simpsons episode that had Apu affecting an American accent because of anti-immigrant hysteria. Turns out he was American all along and "plumb forgot about it."
posted by codswallop at 6:12 AM on January 3, 2009

Does it count if it's another language? Masi Oka from Heroes and Daniel Dae Kim from Lost speak English with heavy Asian accents or limited English, although both speak English without on some occasions. (Time travel and dream sequences will do that though)

Have to say though that it's funnier to listen to Daniel Dave Kim speak Korean, which is not his native tongue.
posted by slyrabbit at 11:32 AM on January 3, 2009

Found a special one today in the movie The Island (spoiler alert).

Ewan McGregor, a Scottish actor, plays an American (?) who at one point imitates the accent of his Scottish clone.
posted by Redruin at 8:47 PM on January 6, 2009

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