What are the best (and worst) fake accents?
June 24, 2016 7:31 AM   Subscribe

On a scale from 1 to "Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice", what are the most standout examples (for better or worse) of fake accents in movies and on TV shows?

I've been watching Preacher on AMC and was impressed by Joe Gilgun's seemingly spot-on (at least to my ear) Irish accent. I was even more blown away when I found out he's hella English!

Another example: my jaw might have actually dropped when I found out that Yael Stone (Morello from Orange is the New Black) is not only not from New Jersey, but is Australian.

Flip side: Keanu Reeves' British accent in Dracula pained me physically to hear. Like, that was just not even close, and I'm amazed that a film with a cast that also included Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins would ever let this happen.

It got me thinking about all of the actors out there who use fake accents for their roles with varying degrees of success.

This doesn't have to be limited to English language movies/TV either! I'm also curious about how spot-on actors who've had to act in their non-native language may have done with the accent from a native speaker's perspective.

Tell me: which actors just NAILED their fake accents, and in what role? And which actors should have put in more quality time with their dialect coaches?
posted by helloimjennsco to Media & Arts (77 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Actors in pretty much every movie involving ancient Greece, ancient Rome, and greek or roman gods do terrible Greek/Italian accents. They actually sound more British than Greek or Italian. Here's a scene from Troy, for example.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:38 AM on June 24, 2016

Worst: David Boreanaz' Irish accent in Buffy/Angel.
posted by ITheCosmos at 7:45 AM on June 24, 2016 [15 favorites]

Kate Winslet's Australian accent is superb (Holy Smoke, The Dressmaker). Robert Downey Jr's is not (Tropic Thunder, Natural Born Killers).
posted by h00py at 7:46 AM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Terrible: Nicole Kidman in Cold Mountain. I couldn't bear to listen.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:49 AM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

For worst, it's a tossup between Kevin Costner and Christian Slater in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. You be the judge.
posted by headnsouth at 7:51 AM on June 24, 2016 [5 favorites]

Jude Law's "Savannah" accent in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: sublimely bad.
posted by kapers at 7:54 AM on June 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

Dominic West nailed the Bawlmer accent in the Wire (also a really bad English accent!). Likewise Idris Elba in the same show.

Hugh Laurie also nailed the American accent in both House and Veep.
posted by General Malaise at 7:56 AM on June 24, 2016 [24 favorites]

I think "worst" is anyone doing an accent from the place where you live. 95% of Boston accents in the movies are terrible.

That said, I think most of the folks in The Wire did pretty convincing accents, at least as far as I could tell, having never been to Baltimore.
posted by bondcliff at 7:58 AM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Dominic West (“McNulty”) in The Wire is excellent.
posted by whoiam at 7:58 AM on June 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

Michael Rapaport's accent on Justified, and I am not exaggerating for effect here, damn near drove me out of the room every time he was on screen. For a show that was normally good on regional accents, it was extremely jarring.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 7:59 AM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

I used to argue with a friend over how terrible Leonardo DiCaprio's "BAHSTAN" accent in Shutter Island was.
I feel like it was terrible, but I'm not from Boston.
My pal thought it was outstanding.

Can a Boston authority weigh in?
posted by Dressed to Kill at 8:01 AM on June 24, 2016

Oops, failed to preview. But yes, Hugh Laurie also!
posted by whoiam at 8:01 AM on June 24, 2016

Actors in pretty much every movie involving ancient Greece, ancient Rome, and greek or roman gods do terrible Greek/Italian accents.
They're not trying to do Greek/Italian accents. The Queen's Latin has a long tradition in Hollywood.

Albert Finney was convincingly American in Erin Brockovich.
posted by xyzzy at 8:02 AM on June 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

One of the worst accents I can remember was Jon Voigt in Anaconda. A mumbly Scarface impersonation which I think was supposed to be a Spanish accent?

Some people hated Tom Hardy's accent in the Revenant but I thought it was a fun performance.

Gillian Anderson has a solid British accent, but she sort of cheated by spending half her childhood there.
posted by p3t3 at 8:03 AM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also, while Dominic West and Idris Elba did a very impressive job nailing generic American accents, being on The Wire did drive home that they weren't doing a Baltimore accent whenever a Baltimore native was onscreen. Compare either of them to Tootsie Duvall in season 4, whose accent is pure Baltimore.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 8:06 AM on June 24, 2016 [6 favorites]

A couple of goodies:

Robert Carlyle in The full monty
Jordan Gavaris in Orphan Black
posted by monkey closet at 8:09 AM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins is famously bad.
posted by miles1972 at 8:09 AM on June 24, 2016 [15 favorites]

I remember back in the 90s watching a bad BBC movie on PBS. (I just looked it up--it was called The Student Prince.) For the life of me, I couldn't make out where the protagonist, played by Tara Fitzgerald, was supposed to be from--like what country. Maybe Germany? Lithuania? It was kind of distracting. Toward the end of the movie, another character casually mentions she's from Brooklyn, and I realized that you were supposed to have figured that out on your own at the beginning from her accent. I didn't.
posted by pangolin party at 8:21 AM on June 24, 2016

There is an interesting case involving Paul Newman. I'm not positive of the movie, but it might have been The Outrage (1964). Newman played the role of a Mexican, and "studied" with (IIRC) a taxi driver of the appropriate place and class, i.e. not with any sort of speech coach. Newman strongly defended his performance and had some people declare the accent flawless, while some people outside the production said it was atrocious.

I'm not sure if the accent in question was while the character was speaking Spanish or English.
posted by SemiSalt at 8:30 AM on June 24, 2016

Kyra Sedgwick's southern accent in The Closer is sometimes praised outside the south, but sounds so bad to people from the south that there is actual academic work on why it sounds so fake.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:33 AM on June 24, 2016 [10 favorites]

I thought Damian Lewis did a good American accent on Homeland and he does a pretty good one as a brassy New Yorker on Billions. David Harewood was also on Homeland as a CIA director and his American accent was so good I was surprised to find out that he was British.

On the now-cancelled You, Me, and the Apocalypse, several British actors were playing American characters and most of them in my opinion didn't pull them off. One in particular played a U.S. Marshal using a southern twang that was almost painful to listen to it was so horrible.
posted by fuse theorem at 8:33 AM on June 24, 2016

When I watch the Americans, I sometimes mumble that I don't find the language facility of the undercover spies completely believable. (Esp. the idioms.) But it was pointed out to me that when Matthew Rhys is interviewed as himself, he has a Welsh accent. So his American accent is good enough that he could pass undetected in the US.
posted by puddledork at 8:35 AM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, Quiz Show had two accents that sounded wrong to me: Ralph Fiennes as an American and Rob Morrow as a Bostonian.
posted by pangolin party at 8:38 AM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bad: American Kristen Stewart's English accent in Snow White. I felt for her. It was just so cringeworthy. I feel bad right now just thinking about it. Oh my god. Make it stop.

Good: Peter Serafinowicz in Spy. He's British, and while his Italian accent was over the top, it was actually not bad, and the way he ping-ponged back and forth effortlessly between his regular speaking voice and the Italian accent at the end was really well done.

Really Good: British Henry Cavill's American accent in Man of Steel (very good) and Man from U.N.C.L.E (good).

(errr I watch some shitty movies huh)
posted by the webmistress at 8:38 AM on June 24, 2016

I don't really know why, but Matthew McConaughey's various southern accents sound OK, but a little off, and yes, I'm aware that he's from Texas.
posted by eclectist at 8:38 AM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Michael Palin did such bad American accents on Monty Python's Flying Circus that it took me years to figure out that's what he was trying to do.

Jack Black did an atrocious Mexican accent in Nacho Libre, but some people have told me that's what he was going for.
posted by FencingGal at 8:53 AM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Peter Dinklage's accent on Game of Thrones is just legendarily awful and has not improved in six years. It's a testament to his other considerable skills and charisma that that alone hasn't rendered his performance unwatchable. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau's is only marginally better.

David Tennant, while pretty good at various British regional accents, is absolutely dire with an American accent. Dire. I love the man madly as an actor but he needs to just... not do that.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:54 AM on June 24, 2016

Kenneth Branagh's American accent in Dead Again was very good.
posted by ldthomps at 9:08 AM on June 24, 2016 [5 favorites]

whoiam: "Dominic West (“McNulty”) in The Wire is excellent."

Really? I always think of him as "That guy with the really bad American accent".
posted by octothorpe at 9:12 AM on June 24, 2016 [5 favorites]

For worst, it's a tossup between Kevin Costner and Christian Slater in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

I know! I watched that film again recently now I'm an adult and I was like.. wait! Kevin Costner is supposed to be ENGLISH??? (duh - I was young when that movie came out!)
posted by JenThePro at 9:13 AM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Good: Alex O'Loughlin (Hawaii 5-0) and Paul Blackthorne (Arrow). I honestly didn't realize Paul was British until I heard him speaking during a documentary he was working on.

Bad: David Tennant (Rex is Not Your Lawyer). I love David as an actor, but his American accent was just horrible.
posted by Roger Pittman at 9:14 AM on June 24, 2016

I've found Russell Crowe's American accent to be pretty bad in a few movies. His attempt at New York/New Jersey in American Gangster was awful.
posted by octothorpe at 9:14 AM on June 24, 2016

Nastassia Kinski as Tess of the d'Urbervilles was pretty bad. (Nor did she much resemble a typical Wessex lass of the era.)
posted by zadcat at 9:21 AM on June 24, 2016

boston accents seem to be tough for people:

in the movie thirteen days: bruce greenwood playing JFK has a pretty good accent, but Kevin Costner's just sounds forced and overplayed.

in the movie goodwill hunting: obviously matt damon and ben affleck's boston accents were authentic sounding, but robin williams' accent goes in and out throughout the movie, and at times sounds a bit unnatural (though not the WORST i've ever heard, which may be not extreme enough for your question).
posted by carlypennylane at 9:26 AM on June 24, 2016

Oh my goodness, AMEN on Paul Blackthorne. Blew my mind to watch The Dresden Files while knowing Blackthorne AND Terrence Mann (who played Bob) were both doing FLAWLESS fake accents for their roles. Another reason I'm still not over that show's untimely cancellation.

I just remembered: Chris Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain in The Huntsman: Winter's War might be tied for the WORST fake accents I've ever heard. They sounded like Groundskeeper Willy, but at least Dan Castellaneta's outrageous Scottish accent is consistent (and mostly beloved by Scots, I'm told.)

Okay, done threadsitting now. Keep 'em coming!
posted by helloimjennsco at 9:31 AM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I can't believe nobody has yet mentioned Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins. It's just seuh euhvah the top. "Sahm, geuh heumne." Shudder.
posted by Namlit at 9:42 AM on June 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

Jamie Bamber's American accent is pretty much flawless. He is a Gillian Anderson situation, however, as his father is American.
posted by oflinkey at 9:49 AM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Don Cheadle's accent in Ocean's Eleven. Apparently it was so bad, he had to keep it for the rest of the films because it was too funny to change.
posted by thefang at 9:50 AM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Andrew Lincoln is British, but his southern accent in the Walking Dead sounds pretty good to my ears (although I'm not from the south)
posted by littlesq at 9:50 AM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

On the trickiness of doing a Boston accent (found this while looking for info on Julianne Moore's Boston accetn on 30 Rock, which I recall as atrocious.
posted by AwkwardPause at 9:58 AM on June 24, 2016

I love Peter Dinklage but I have to agree that his accent on Game of Thrones is painfully bad. Aidan Gillen is also pretty awful; his accent roves from England to Ireland and back often in one line of dialogue.

Portia de Rossi does an okay American accent until she hits the word "anything" and then her accent slips. Why the writers on Scandal keep having her say "anything" I will never understand. They could write around that one word and her accent would be much stronger.

Emma Thompson's American accent is pretty awful. She's a great actress but in Primary Colors it was bad, like she was making fun of the accent rather than emulating it.

Andrew Lincoln is British, but his southern accent in the Walking Dead sounds pretty good to my ears (although I'm not from the south)

No. He is on my bad list. "Get in the house, Coral!" I'm not from the South either, but I know southerners and he's doing too much to try to sound "real." He's not the only offender because accent-wise I cannot stand Lauren Cohan as Maggie and Emily Kinney as Beth who sounded like they were from different states despite being sisters.
posted by GilvearSt at 10:11 AM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Yeah, Jamie Bamber's American accent in BSG was amazing. I was shocked to find out he was a Brit. Ditto on Hugh Laurie, although he has said in interviews that it's tremendous work to get it right.

It may be apocryphal, but I've heard that the producers were afraid of blowback in casting Damian Lewis to play Dick Winters in Band of Brothers, so he showed up on set doing an American accent from day one, and no one who didn't know him was the wiser. His American accent on that show, and when he did "Life" (which was a terrific detective show and pained me that it was cancelled) was flawless.

Colin Farrell does a decent American accent as well.

Worst? Costner can't do accents. Eddie Izzard has intermittent success with an American accent. Harrison Ford's Irish-but-not-Irish accent in "The Devil's Own" was not good.
posted by Thistledown at 10:16 AM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Paterson Joseph's "American" accent in Jekyll was just painful. He slid between five or six different regional accents (all badly done) in one sentence, as I remember.

Oh, ha. I just searched for his name to remind me which show it was. Four of the top five hits are complaints about how bad his accent is.
posted by Lexica at 10:16 AM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think "worst" is anyone doing an accent from the place where you live.

I tend to agree, but speaking as someone from the west of Ireland, Steve Coogan's Mayo accent is jaw-droppingly impeccable -- you can nearly pinpoint the town his character comes from.
posted by rollick at 10:28 AM on June 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

Gabrielle Anwar's American accent is a good non-regional peripatetic American accent, She sounds like a lot of the military kids I grew up with who have vaguely-regionally-but-not-identifiably-so American accents. I know she's English but she acts in a lot of American TV and movies, so she may live here now and just speak like that all the time now.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:36 AM on June 24, 2016

Christopher Guest's accent range is amazing in pretty much everything, but especially in Best In Show.
posted by Mchelly at 10:46 AM on June 24, 2016

I absolutely cannot believe that I am the first to mention the outstanding, incredible work of Matthew Rhys on The Americans (and Brothers and Sisters, although that's a far inferior show). He sounds so very American that I was blown. away. when I first heard his normal accent. He's super Welsh! I had no idea. (On my phone so can't link but check it out!)

Yet another way in which this guy is one of the greatest actors working today.
posted by bookgirl18 at 11:13 AM on June 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

I've seen plenty of people cite Kevin Spacey's attempt at a South Carolinian accent in House of Cards as particularly terrible.
posted by mrhaydel at 11:14 AM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

And as for the bad accents, as a southerner I *cringe* when I hear Kevin Spacey on House of Cards. IT HURTS.
posted by bookgirl18 at 11:15 AM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

bad accents: practically every single person on true blood attempting a "southern accent"

good accents: that one guy on true blood who apparently did extensive voice training with a cajun accent coach or whatever (rene the serial killer)
posted by poffin boffin at 11:16 AM on June 24, 2016 [5 favorites]

I only realized about two years ago that Bugs Bunny has a Brooklyn accent. Apparently, to be more specific, it's a Flatbush one.
posted by colfax at 12:13 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Kiwi accents

Emily Watson totally nailed the NZ accent in Everest, and Keira did well. Anthony Hopkins wasn't bad in The World's Fastest Indian.

I know people say Elisabeth Moss did ok in Top of the Lake but she was nowhere near the full on twang. Not that it matters, as she just went with a neutralized accent. Anything else would have been distracting from her excellent performance.

Speaking of Meryl Streep - absolute hash of it in Evil Angels
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 12:21 PM on June 24, 2016

Worst: The American CIA agent in BBC Sherlock's 'A Scandal in Belgravia'. It was a small roll, but memorable for the guffawwwww it summoned from my soul.
posted by jenmakes at 12:26 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Apparently, to be more specific, it's a Flatbush one

it's a pretty old-timey brooklyn accent, though. i've heard it irl but all the speakers i knew are relatives who died before i was 10.

also mel blanc wasn't even FROM brooklyn which is of course an enormous shande, an outrage, how dare, etc

posted by poffin boffin at 12:31 PM on June 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

Nthing Damian Lewis's great American accents, particularly in Life and Band of Brothers.

I always thought that Dominic West's accents are half-assed--he didn't improve much from The Wire to The Affair--but I was stunned to learn that Idris Elba was British when I first heard him in an interview. Neither does a real Bawlmer accent, though.

Ian McShane is like in his own werid category where his Ian McShane-ness blinds you to whatever faults are in the accent he's going for, IMHO.
posted by TwoStride at 12:32 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Terrible Australian accents: every minor "Australian" character in the early seasons of Lost. Why not just get Australian actors, I used to think, considering that some of them actually exist? Especially considering that there were actual Aussies on the show (Emilie de Ravin; Kimberly Joseph) to underline the fakeness.

As a non-USian, I was always taken with Rachel Griffiths' SoCal accent in Six Feet Under, but I don't know how that would sound to an actual Angeleno.
posted by Sonny Jim at 12:34 PM on June 24, 2016

Gregory Peck played Captain Horation Hornblower in a movie in 1951, and he didn't even try. Hornblower as a character is quintessentially British, but Peck used his normal American speaking voice.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:58 PM on June 24, 2016

I came across Land Girls on Netflix or Amazon Prime and was soooo distracted by one character (played by Clive Wood) falling all over his vowels I couldn't figure out what was going on, until I remembered he's supposed to be the American.
posted by sweetmarie at 1:57 PM on June 24, 2016

Tracey Ullman is great for accents, and all over youtube.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 1:59 PM on June 24, 2016

Daniel Day-Lewis!! And Tom Hardy kills it in The Drop & Lawless - they both make it seem so effortless
posted by speakeasy at 2:15 PM on June 24, 2016

Awful: Texan Dennis Quaid's Queens accent in Frequency (and his Louisiana one for The Big Easy sounds terrible to me, too).

I'm impressed by Canadian Tatiana Maslany's distinct, consistent voice + accent for each of the characters she plays on Orphan Black, but I couldn't tell you if those accents sound truly authentic. Toni Collette is Australian and has more than one solid American accent. From his work alone, you wouldn't know Christian Bale was Welsh unless he deigned to tell you. Seconding Tracey Ullman's brilliance; in this ancient interview she herself name-checks Peter Sellers.

(Also, I have a minor soft spot for the Cloons because a casting director once reminisced that a twenty-something George had said, straight-up, that he didn't do accents, and as far as I can tell he's never attempted one.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:36 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Toni Collette's American accent is great, specifically the Philadelphia accent in The Sixth Sense. Bradley Cooper did a good Philly accent in Silver Linings Playbook, but he's from the area. Still though, it's a weird accent and usually people just do NY accents instead.
posted by smirkyfodder at 3:20 PM on June 24, 2016

Anne Hathaway in One Day is atrocious.. All over the shop from posh Southern to working class Yorkshire, occasionally via Ireland
posted by KateViolet at 3:22 PM on June 24, 2016

Jude Law in anything, but particularly Rancid Aluminium - I'm still genuinely not sure if he was meant to be Irish or Russian. He was terrible in Enemy at the Gates too. In fact he just can't do accents.

Tom Hardy in Locke - he was channelling Richard Burton which would have been fine if he was doing Shakespeare, but was far too overdone for a phone conversation about concrete. Imagine a Welsh Brian Blessed.

Daphne's accent in Frasier was just weird. I have no idea what she was even aiming for.

Gwyneth Paltrow doing posh Londoner in Sliding Doors was surprisingly good.
posted by tinkletown at 4:56 PM on June 24, 2016

I don't really know why, but Matthew McConaughey's various southern accents sound OK, but a little off, and yes, I'm aware that he's from Texas.

I think there are several Texas accents (found in different parts of the state) and probably none of them are typically or generically southern. I went to school in Houston as an out-of-stater and remember being surprised that some of my native Texan classmates from the Houston area barely had discernable accents at all.

I'm currently watching Animal Kingdom, a US remake of an originally Australian series. Some of the main actors are British and are doing okay with their basic American accents but not so much with the California surfer boy variation they're supposed to be using.
posted by fuse theorem at 5:43 PM on June 24, 2016

No movie accent discussion is complete without the bizarre horrorshow that was Teddy KGB, as played by John Malkovich in Rounders. It's so bad it defies defiance itself.

That, and the almost entirely Brit/Australian cast of Black Hawk Down doing some of the more atrocious "Generic Texas" accents. Even Mcgregor's "oh, yeah. Oh hell yeah" must be cringed at to be believed.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:02 AM on June 25, 2016

As an English person I have to strongly disagree with those who say Peter Dinklage has a terrible English accent. He's a high born Lannister and he has a ridiculously posh English accent, which is spot on. I know many people that speak in a far more ludicrous way than him and that's their real voice. When I hear him speaking with an American accent it sounds weird. That's how much I love his accent. So sorry guys, he's on the good list.

The UK has so so many accents it's not really easy to judge if you haven't lived there yourself.
posted by shesbenevolent at 9:57 AM on June 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

If you've ever seen Bernie (which is pretty great), it's filmed in the town where Matthew McConaughey is from, and everyone sounds like that, including his mom, who has a cameo. Jack Black does a good job of the local accent in that film, as well.

My mom's family is Russian, and I give high marks to Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys--hers is good, his is excellent. On the bad side, I love Scarlet Johanssen as Black Widow, but wow, her Russian accent is crap. She doesn't have to speak accented English, but she can't even say the character's name correctly.

I'm not sure how accurate it is, but Brad Pitt's Traveler accent in Snatch is entirely delightful. His accent was pretty good in Devil's Own too; he did an actual Northern Catholic accent instead of a generic Lucky Charms thing. Tom Cruise's "Irish" accent in Far and Away is considered by many Irish people to be the worst one ever committed to film, to the point of being sort of a cult item.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 2:45 PM on June 25, 2016

Anytime Ewan McGregor attempt to do anything than a British accent - dear lord, try to make it through his early US films without dying. At least Down With Love tried to utilise his shaky accent work. But it is awful.

Equally awful: Meryl Streep's "Danish" accent in Out of Africa. *weeps*
posted by kariebookish at 4:04 PM on June 25, 2016

Daphne's accent in Frasier was just weird. I have no idea what she was even aiming for.

It's supposed to be a Manchester accent; it really really isn't.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 4:39 PM on June 25, 2016

What a fun question!

As an American, I think Ryan Kwanten in True Blood, Andrew Lincoln in Walking Dead and Idris Elba in anything did a great job. Jack Nicholson and Baldwin didn't even try Boston in The Departed and Poppy Montgomery can't keep her Australian out of American accents. McNulty did okay at American, not Bawlmer, but actually slipped away from American sometimes, too.

I've read that Renee Z. did the wrong English accent for the character, but to an American's ears she sounded good. I loved Brad Pitt's accent/schtick in Snatch, but have no idea how accurate it was.

I don't have an example, but I feel like movies set in Chicago/midwest forget to give the actors appropriate accents. (cf. Fargo)
posted by Pax at 5:41 PM on June 25, 2016

Sir Patrick Stewart had a pretty terrible French accent when he played Captain Jean-Luc Picard (if Westeros and Middle Earth character accents are fair game...).
posted by Pryde at 7:50 PM on June 25, 2016

I just watched Cloud Atlas and among many other laughable things about that movie, Tom Hanks' various accents were just The Worst.
posted by MsMolly at 10:24 PM on June 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

For me the absolute bottom mark is Steve Martin trying to elaborate on Peter Sellers' mock-French accent as Clouseau. It is not only that that extra layer of one person re-hashing another person's gimmick makes painful what once was meant to be sort of hilariously embarrassing, it's also not the fact that Martin tries (and fails) with his own set of gags, it is his sheer incompetence in doing that accent and the rhetorical timing right. Listen to "ze area is---secure"--it's all utterly and horribly wrong. That there wasn't _anyone_ on the crew who at one point just said, guys, this ain't goin' nowhere is just, er, inconceivable.

I've never (ever) switched off a DVD after ten minutes without later being secretly curious how it went on. I did with Martin's Clouseau. Dumpster. No regrets.
posted by Namlit at 11:37 PM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have to kill this meme right now: Bugs Bunny does NOT have a Flatbush accent. Bernie Sanders has a classic Flatbush accent, and he sounds nothing like Bugs. To my ear, Bugs Bunny has a Bronx Irish accent (like my husband) and not a Brooklyn Irish accent (like my father). The Bronx accent has a pronounced nasal quality. Think of the first sound in the catchphrase "Eh, what's up, Doc?" That long nasal vowel? Pure Bronx.
posted by islandeady at 9:00 AM on June 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

As littlesq mentioned, it seems like half the cast of The Walking Dead is (are? dammit) English and I have been freaked out more than once seeing/hearing interviews with them because you'd never guess.

I thought Will Smith did an impressive Nigerian accent in Concussion.

Painful -- a decent Irish is notoriously tough; so many have tried and failed (including Irish actors!). These two articles have a lot of overlap and I can't say I disagree..
posted by raider at 10:05 AM on June 26, 2016

Great: David Suchet's Hercule Poirot really nailed a lot of the French intonations. From an interview with Suchet:

"I worked very hard on finding the right voice. I was desperate that he should sound French, although he is Belgian, because everybody believes that he is French. I wanted to move my voice from my own-which is rather bell-like and mellow and totally unlike Poirot. I wanted to raise that voice up into his head because that’s where he works from. Everything comes from there. My voice is very much in my chest and in my emotional area, but his is up in his head. He’s a brain, so that voice had to be raised up and perfected."

However, the American accents on that show leave a lot to be desired.

Terrible: Jack Black's accent in the Goosebumps movie was described as a "strange, effete, vaguely English accent only ever used by Jack Black characters pretending to be someone else".

I thought Ian McShane's American accent in Deadwood was excellent, and made the ham-fisted "I hear you're descended from limey bastard Englishmen" insert line totally unnecessary.
posted by amicamentis at 7:06 AM on June 29, 2016

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