Multilingual Talents
May 26, 2012 6:48 PM   Subscribe

Multilingual Performers: Name actors/actresses that have acted in at least three different languages, the roles they were in, and (if known to you) if the language-use was fake, broken, fluent, or flawless (without identifiable accent). The most obvious example is Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds: German/flawless; French/(dunno if fluent or flawless); English/flawless; Italian/fake.

Feel free to also name directors that have made movies in at least three languages. (e.g. Roman Polanski: Knife in the Water/Polish; The Tenant/French; Chinatown/English.

Please try to make three the minimum requirement though, not two (which, I'm sure, has many more examples).
posted by dgaicun to Media & Arts (55 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Michael Haneke has made films in German, French and English, though the only one he's done wholly in English was a remake of one of his other films. Wiki says Code Unknown is in seven languages, but I've never seen it, so I don't know how many of those should 'count'.
posted by hoyland at 6:59 PM on May 26, 2012

I'm pretty sure Maureen Doyle Kennedy has worked in Irish, English, and Spanish.
posted by 4ster at 7:04 PM on May 26, 2012

The first person to spring to my mind is Julie Delpy, who has made movies in English, French, and German. Her English and French are pretty flawless, although I don't know about her German, since mine is laughable at best.
posted by shamash at 7:04 PM on May 26, 2012

Apologies. Maria Doyle Kennedy.
posted by 4ster at 7:05 PM on May 26, 2012

Hugh Laurie's character on House is supposed to speak Spanish and Mandarin. His Spanish sounds plausibly like someone who learned in high/school or college, decent but obviously not a native speaker. But his Mandarin was pretty obviously just phonetically memorized. He spoke snippets of Portuguese and Russian, but I don't know how if the character was supposed to be fluent in those or not, and I don't know how well he spoke in those languages.
posted by skewed at 7:05 PM on May 26, 2012

Daniel Brühl (aka the bloke from Goodbye, Lenin) has been in films in English, French, German and Spanish. Wiki says he speaks English, German, French, Spanish and Catalan. German and either Spanish or Catalan (or both) natively. His French in Joyeux Noël is very brief, but seemed perfectly fine to me. (I've never seen a film where he plays a francophone character.) He's in Inglorious Basterds, which I haven't seen. In the Bourne movies, he's playing a German speaking English.

(I should probably write one big long answer, but they'll keep coming one by one, probably.)
posted by hoyland at 7:08 PM on May 26, 2012

I'm pretty sure that Bruno Ganz has acted in four languages fluently. He's Swiss, which helps. ;) I know he grew up speaking German and Italian. Off the top of my head I can say he was in Wings of Desire (German, English), The American Friend (German, English), Bread and Tulips (Italian), and some French movies, too (see his filmography on IMDB).
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 7:13 PM on May 26, 2012

Monica Belluci has made multiple films in each of English (e.g. Shoot 'Em Up), French (e.g. L'Appartement), and Italian (e.g. Sanguepazzo).
posted by brainmouse at 7:14 PM on May 26, 2012

Juliette Binoche works in French, Italian and English (including all three in Certified Copy—which was directed by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami.)
posted by bcwinters at 7:15 PM on May 26, 2012

Jodie Foster dubs all her roles in French for the Parisian market, and spoke French for her role in A Very Long Engagement. When she was a kid she spoke Italian in an Italian sex comedy called Casotto.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:22 PM on May 26, 2012

Best answer: Elke Sommer speaks 7 languages fluently. I think she's done movies in Italian and French, and I'm sure about performances in English and German.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:23 PM on May 26, 2012

Stellan Skarsgård. Swedish/native (multiple films). English/flawless (The Glass House), Russian/fake (Ronin).
posted by infinitewindow at 7:34 PM on May 26, 2012

It's a weaker answer, but Fatih Akın's The Edge of Heaven is in German and Turkish, with a few scenes in English.

Samuel Fuller made films in English and German (including Tote Taube in der Beethoven Strasse, filmed in partly in English and partly in German and then dubbed and re-cut into an English version and a German version). He acted in English (loads), German (loads) and French (La vie de bohème).
posted by hoyland at 7:35 PM on May 26, 2012

Audrey Hepburn, spoke English in most of her films, Dutch (in a cut scene in "Dutch in 7 Easy lessons" or something like that), and French in the French version of Monte Carlo Baby. (I'm trying to think if she spoke foreign languages in some of her English-language roles, but I can't recall, it's late.) She was British-Dutch, and also fluent in Spanish and Italian.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:36 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Peter Coyote has made films in French, Spanish and English (he also speaks some German in at least one French film I've seen, 'Bon Voyage')
posted by estherbester at 7:41 PM on May 26, 2012

Aishwarya Rai has spoken English, Hindi, and Tamil fluently in films. I imagine there are more Indian actors and actresses who have done the same or similar.
posted by yasaman at 7:45 PM on May 26, 2012

Jean Reno has acted in English/accented (Ronin), French/native (many films), and Italian/fake-but-probably-pretty-close (Léon). Wikipedia says he acted in Japanese and Spanish as well (he is actually Spanish, born Juan Moreno), but I can't confirm that at the moment.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:49 PM on May 26, 2012

Response by poster: Monica Belluci has made multiple films in each of English

If I live a noble life, I mean like Gandhi noble, can I be reincarnated as Vincent Cassel? (Wait, was Gandhi reincarnated as Vincent Cassel?)

Vincent Cassel speaks fluent English in Black Swan, etc., flawless French in Irreversible, etc, fluent or flawless Portuguese in Adrift (2009), and fake Russian in Eastern Promises.

Jim Jarmusch directed Night on Earth segments in at least four different languages (But like Clint Eastwood's Letters From Iwo Jima or Akira Kurosawa's Dursu Uzala, I'm confused about how directors make films in languages they don't speak. It seems like cheating.)
posted by dgaicun at 7:50 PM on May 26, 2012

Shah Rukh Khan was in Hey Ram which had a Tamil and a Hindi version using the same actors. (Wiki contradicts itself as to whether they shot it twice or if they dubbed it. Actually, it contradicts itself on which way it was dubbed, too.) My Name is Khan is in English.
posted by hoyland at 7:51 PM on May 26, 2012

John Cleese in "A Fish Called Wanda" uses English, Italian, and Russian (the latter two briefly).

Possibly Anthony Quinn? Definitely English, definitely Italian (e.g. "La Strada"). Maybe some Greek in "Zorba the Greek"? I'm not sure - I've never seen it, but Wikipedia lists it as both an English and Greek language film. Maybe also Spanish? But that's a real shot in the dark guess just based on the fact that he was Mexican.

William Shatner: English, Esperanto ("Incubus"), and Klingon (e.g. "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock"). If Klingon doesn't count (but it does!), perhaps he has done some work in French? I don't know for sure that he has, but I do know that he speaks it.
posted by Flunkie at 7:54 PM on May 26, 2012

Sylvie Testud speaks German in Beyond Silence, though I'm not a German speaker so I can't tell how well. She also learned sign language for that film. Her Japanese in Fear and Trembling is astonishing, since apparently she doesn't actually understand the language and memorized her part phonetically (it's very hard to tell). And of course she speaks French in everything else. I think she also speaks Italian but I don't know if she does that in any films.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:58 PM on May 26, 2012

Walk on Water is in English, German and Hebrew. IIRC, Lior Ashkenazi's character speaks all three. He seems to have acted in French in Hello Goobye. Apparently, he's a native Ladino speaker, which is nifty (though I don't think there's much call for acting in it).
posted by hoyland at 8:03 PM on May 26, 2012

Response by poster: Daniel Brühl (aka the bloke from Goodbye, Lenin) has been in films in English, French, German and Spanish

This question was actually inspired by Joyeux Noël, since both Daniel Brühl and Diane Kruger speak parts in German, English, and French. Both those actors also star in Inglorious Basterds (another multilingual showcase).
posted by dgaicun at 8:11 PM on May 26, 2012

Stellan Skarsgård.

His English was not flawless in "Good Will Hunting" (but still pretty good).
posted by Melismata at 8:16 PM on May 26, 2012

Best answer: Ingrid Bergman made movies in five languages: Swedish, English, Italian, French, and German. In the late 1940s, she described herself in a letter as "a Swedish actress who speaks English very well, who has not forgotten her German, who is very understandable in French, and who in Italian knows only 'ti amo.'"

The recipient of this letter was Italian film director Roberto Rossellini -- he and Bergman then began a love affair that led to marriage, several films together, and presumably to Bergman's becoming fluent in Italian.
posted by clair-de-lune at 8:19 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Walter Salles is a Brazilian director who has made films in Portuguese, Spanish (The Motorcycle Diaries), and English. He has a new English-language film that just debuted at Cannes, On the Road.
posted by msali at 8:27 PM on May 26, 2012

Maggie Cheung has acted in a bunch of different languages - in Clean she speaks Cantonese, English, and French.

Bertolucci has directed in French (Dreamers, Last Tango...), English (Sheltering Sky, Last Emperor), Italian (1900, the Conformist, Spider's Strategem)
posted by lowest east side at 8:40 PM on May 26, 2012

Everyone in Sin Noticias de Dios (Gael Garcia Bernal, Fanny Ardant, Victoria Abril, and Penelope Cruz) switches back and forth from English to Spanish to French repeatedly throughout the film.
posted by elizardbits at 8:56 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Connie Nielsen is Danish and speaks flawless (almost unaccented) English. She acts in both English and Danish films.

Famke Janssen is Dutch and speaks fluent, almost unaccented English as well. I don't think she's ever worked in a Dutch movie, though.

Vera Farmiga is Ukranian, but came to the U.S. as a child. She has used Ukranian in some of her work.

Charlotte Rampling and Kristin Scott Thomas are both English, but speak French fluently and have acted (even starred) in French-language films.

In the Michael Mann remake of "Miami Vice," Li Gong plays a Chinese-Cuban woman who speaks English pretty well. I do remember her speaking Spanish occasionally in the film, but don't remember if she uses her Chinese.
posted by elizeh at 10:09 PM on May 26, 2012

Oh, and in "I am Love," Tilda Swinton's character is a Russian immigrant to Italy, so she speaks both Russian and Russian-accented Italian in the movie. In an interesting moment, she is at a fancy dinner where the conversation is in English, and her character doesn't understand it. (Swinton is British)
posted by elizeh at 10:11 PM on May 26, 2012

Note on Indian actors and how they speak "flawless" Tamil or language from other side of country - check to see if a) there's been dubbing or b) what Lata Mangeshkar used to do, have the words written in their home language script and learn to speak them without understanding the actual language.

Though SRK could plausibly speak Punjabi, Hindi and English being from Delhi
posted by infini at 10:34 PM on May 26, 2012

Best answer: Nobody's mentioned Takeshi Kaneshiro? I've seen him do Mandarin in Red Cliff, Japanese in Returner, and Cantonese is Chungking Express and it's spiritual sequel Fallen Angels.

He speaks all three languages fluently.
posted by C^3 at 10:35 PM on May 26, 2012

A Prophet features a main character who speaks French, Arabic, and eventually Corsican as well, which I had not realized was a language unto itself until I saw this film. It is excellent, by the way.

Also, the movie Russian Dolls features a great deal of dialogue in French, English, Russian, and I believe some Spanish (since this is a sequel to a movie set in Spain from a couple years earlier). Though I don't believe any single character speaks all of these languages, the central character does speak French, English, and Spanish. Its a nice movie as well.
posted by Alonzo T. Calm at 10:39 PM on May 26, 2012

Best answer: The aforementioned Iranian director, Abbas Kiarostami, has filmed in Persian, English (Certified Copy), and now, Japanese (Like Someone in Love, which just debuted at Cannes).
posted by phonebia at 11:21 PM on May 26, 2012

I don't know how they did it, but Edgar Ramirez and his costars in Carlos spoke a mix of French, German, Spanish, and Arabic.
posted by thack3r at 11:35 PM on May 26, 2012

Might as well throw in Wong Kar Wai --- Cantonese, Mandarin in a good chunk of Chungking Express (Takeshi Kaneshiro's voiceover narration) and 2046 (Zhang Ziyi's character), and English (My Blueberry Nights).

Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat-- Cantonese, Mandarin (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon--both were fluent I think but they had accents, especially Chow Yun Fat), and English (Chow in Anna and the King/broken; Yeoh in several roles e.g. Sunshine/fluent).
posted by phonebia at 12:04 AM on May 27, 2012

Best answer: Delphine Seyrig acted in French, English (fluent, only slightly accented) and German.
posted by misteraitch at 12:05 AM on May 27, 2012

Eiji Okada made movies in Japanese, learned his (all French) lines phonetically for his co-starring role in Resnais' Hiroshima mon amour--- and *appears* to have spoken English for his role in The Ugly American with Marlon Brando. I am not 100% sure about this last bit though as I haven't seen the movie myself. Can anyone confirm?
posted by phonebia at 12:27 AM on May 27, 2012

Best answer: I can't help but think that this is fairly common among European actors. Speaking and acting in several languages broadens their scope significantly.

One recent example was watching Rohmer's Pauline a la Plage which has Feodor Atkine speaking flawless French. He's supposed to be French. Then later we're watching Almodovar's High Heels and he is the flawless Spanish speaking husband (My native language is Spanish. Trust me, it was flawless).

Turns out he was also Woody Allen's brother in Love & Death. And looking at his IMDB bio, he's got German movies in there too.
posted by vacapinta at 12:39 AM on May 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

A lot of Indian actors are part of multiple local language film industries and are multilingual. Modern Indian films make liberal use of English in them too. Also keep in mind that Hindi and Urdu are mutually intelligible (and sometimes it's hard to label which language is being spoken). From what I can remember...

Amitabh Bachchan: Hindi/perfect, English/fluent, Bhojpuri/not sure

Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan: Rai has featured in films in various languages including Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu, and Bengali (according to Wikipedia), to my knowledge she is fluent in Hindi and has slightly accented English (perhaps on purpose). Since she made her debut in Tamil films, I'm guessing she's fluent in that.

Rajinikanth: Tamil/fluent, Hindi/fluent, Kannada/not sure, Telugu/not sure
posted by Senza Volto at 12:41 AM on May 27, 2012

And Raul Ruiz, director of the awesome Mysteries of Lisbon, made a lot of movies in different languages including French, English, Portugese.
posted by phonebia at 1:03 AM on May 27, 2012

Response by poster: Connie Nielsen is Danish and speaks flawless (almost unaccented) English. She acts in both English and Danish films.

Connie Nielsen also acts in French. Olivier Assayas' Demonlover is another multilingual showcase (dialogue in French, English, and Japanese), and features Nielsen and Chloë Sevigny alternating between French and English as they go at each other's throats. I don't speak French, so I can't say if Nielsen (or Sevigny) are speaking fluent or flawless, but Nielsen's English is indeed flawless.
posted by dgaicun at 3:25 AM on May 27, 2012

Response by poster: Klaus Kinski's daughter Nastassja Kinski is a polyglot heavyweight. Wikipedia notes she "reportedly" speaks Englsh, French, German, Italian, and Russian fluently, which is weirdly agnostic because she's acted in all-English films (flawless), all-Italian films, all-German films (native language), all-Russian films, and all-French films.

The English actor Peter Ustinov was also a polyglot heavyweight. Wikipedia lists five fluent languages, and going down his IMDb page he's at least played roles in English, French, German, and Italian.
posted by dgaicun at 4:46 AM on May 27, 2012

Michael Fassbender speaks four languages in X-Men First Class - English (fluent), German (almost flawlessly), Spanish (fake), and French (fake).
posted by firei at 7:07 AM on May 27, 2012

Bela Tarr has one film in English & French - all his other films are in Hungarian. Andrei Tarkovsky, the legendary Russian filmmaker, made a film in Swedish & two films at least partially in Italian.
posted by kickingtheground at 8:11 AM on May 27, 2012

Bela Lugosi was born in Hungary. He acted in Hungarian, German, and heavily-accented English. Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 9:01 AM on May 27, 2012

Best answer: Liv Ullmann has made movies in Norwegian, Swedish, English, Spanish and Italian.
posted by iviken at 12:08 PM on May 27, 2012

Vigo Mortenson speaks Danish (half Danish and resided in Denmark), English (raised in US and attended college), and Spanish (lived in Argentina and Venezuela) fluently. He has done Russian in the film "Eastern Promises". According to IMDB he is fluent in French and speaks passable Norweigan and Swedish as well.
posted by jadepearl at 1:41 PM on May 27, 2012

Response by poster: The recipient of this letter was Italian film director Roberto Rossellini -- he and Bergman then began a love affair that led to marriage, several films together, and presumably to Bergman's becoming fluent in Italian

Not to mention a whole new person. A whole new person, I must add, who has acted in English, French, and Italian language roles.
posted by dgaicun at 2:12 PM on May 27, 2012

Science of Sleep One actor, one movie, three languages. No idea on how good he is, though.
posted by Yowser at 8:05 PM on May 27, 2012

Response by poster: Mexican actor Gael García Bernal on speaking French in Science of Sleep: "I was dubbed, or I post-synchronized myself, because the way I speak French in the movie is terrible. I understand French, so-so, I speak very little, and it is right there for everyone to see how terrible my French is."

Bernal also fakes his way through French in the much earlier Don't Tempt Me (2001) (mentioned above by elizardbits). He does act in fluent English though.
posted by dgaicun at 8:48 PM on May 27, 2012

Peter Stormare is Swedish, started acting in Sweden, has been in several Swedish films, has at least one role with heavily-accented English (Fargo), and apparently has acted in a French-language film. And there's also the "lingonberry pancakes" scene in The Big Lebowski, where I can't recall whether or not he speaks German.

Roberto Benigni is Italian, has been in several Italian films, several English-language films (heavily accented), and apparently speaks French (or less likely, German) in this film.
posted by cardioid at 12:07 AM on May 28, 2012

The Band's Visit concerns a group of Arabic-speaking Egyptian musicians who are stranded in a desert town in Hebrew-speaking Israel. The two sides don't know each other's languages too well, but they do share a non-native, occasionally broken form of English, which they spend the rest of the movie communicating in.

The film was Israel's Foreign Language Film submission for the 2007 Academy Awards, but the Academy rejected it as over 50% of the film was technically in English.
posted by Smallpox at 10:30 AM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: No one mentioned Max Ophüls, who directed movies in German, French, Italian, Dutch, and English.
posted by dgaicun at 4:32 PM on June 7, 2012

Response by poster: Eddie Constantine (a.k.a. Lemmy Caution) acted in English, French, and German-language films.
posted by dgaicun at 4:59 PM on June 10, 2012

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