Top 10 Worst Attempts at a British Accent

by awindram

As there is a certain movie-related shin-dig happening over the weekend, I thought I’d put up a movie-related post. As the consensus seems to be the Streep’s Thatcher impression in The Iron Lady is a success and the betting odds on her picking up an Oscar tomorrow are  a staggering 13/8, I thought it’d be a good time to look at those whose British accents were a little less successful:

10. Nicolas Cage in National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007)

Almost certainly unfair to include as while it is hideously bad, I think it was intended to be hideously bad, and boy did Nicolas Cage succeed in that respect. Included, more than anything, because I think all top ten lists of this nature (which let’s face it are always something of a creatively bankrupt idea) could be improved with some Cage-branded craziness — he’s like a crack addict’s impersonation of Jimmy Stewart.

9. Josh Hartnett in Blow Dry (2001)

In the (rightly) forgotten hairdresser comedy Blow Dry, the (rightly) forgotten all-American heart throb Josh Hartnett struggles to convince with his Irish accent. Unfortunately, he’s meant to be doing a Yorkshire accent.

8. John Lithgow in Cliffhanger (1993)

John Lithgow is an actor who can effortlessly perform comedy or drama. Occassionally, however, he seems happy to serve up the audience a big slice of honey roast ham. Cliffhanger is definitely one of his more porcine performances. Warning: clip is not suitable for work — though arguably none of them are.

7. Bette Davis in Of Human Bondage (1934)

Some people would have you believe this is one of the great dramatic scenes of cinematic history showcasing the titantic talent of Bette Davis. Others counter that it’s am-dram caterwauling delivered in the world’s least convincing cockney accent. Both groups are right.

6. Don Cheadle in Ocean’s 11 (2001)

Actually, forget Bette, Hollywood’s worst cockney accent belongs to Don Cheadle. It’s so bad I’m only prepared to link to a clip of Don dubbed in German. Trust me, I’m just being humane here.

5. Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Like the Nicolas Cage entry possibly an unfair inclusion as accuracy was hardly the point, but as Harrison Ford acted this within earshot of Sean Connery it seems Ford is deserving of either opprobrium or massive props.

4. Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap (1998)

That’s right, I’m dickish enough to include a child actor on this list. <Fill in your own Lindsay Lohan joke here>

3. Keanu Reeves in Dracula (1992)

Considering the difficulty Keanu Reeves often seems to have in portraying a functioning, coordinated human being, it was probably a bit too much of a stretch to ask him to do anything as nuanced as acting a different nationality.

2. Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins (1964)

As Mary Poppins is clearly a fantastical movie Dick Van Dyke really didn’t need to try an accent, and certainly when it was clear that he couldn’t for the life of him perform one, someone higher-up in the production should have taken him to one side and suggested he drop it. It has never struck me as odd that in the same movie Ed Wynn performs Uncle Albert in his normal American accent, and I don’t think anyone would have thought different had Van Dyke had just played it without the mangled cockney. If I’m going to accept a world where nannys float around on the jet stream,  I think I can deal with a chimney sweep who sounds more California than Clapham. As it is, it’s voice acting as verfremdungseffekt. In fairness to Dick Van Dyke he learned his lesson and didn’t repeat the mistake in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and despite the accent in Mary Poppins it is still an extremely charming performance.

1. Russell Crowe in Robin Hood (2010)

Unquestioningly, Russell Crowe‘s accent in Robin Hood was a triumph. What sort of dick would suggest otherwise?

An earlier version of this post appeared here


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