My Top Incongruous Yet Mysteriously Forgivable Movie Accents

They are out of place, out of time, or out of a method acting class... They're the foreign accents that infiltrate our favorite films where these accents should not go. And whether it's because it's a riveting actor or a film too fun to care, they become a part of the film's tone so much we may not even question.

These are my nominees for those films...
  • Sean Connery in the Hunt for Red October. He's a Russian, with a Scottish accent and a Humphrey Bogart lisp. But shhomehow ash Captain Ramiashh, Sean Connery ish shtill shenshayshional.
  • John Malkovich in, well, every European period movie he's ever done using an American accent-- but particularly Mary Reilly. I've heard the man do accents. But every now and then, he just gets in a film and it's like he figures, "What this character needs is a little more... Malkovich." And suddenly we're in Victorian England and he's speaking with his very own American twang. But of course, he's right. Lots of mediocre films benefit from Malkovichization.
  • Drew Barrymore in Ever After. Our likable little Cinderella is French. Our surly Prince Charming is French. They're all French people living in France. Medieval France. With le poisson and le mouton and, um, la baguette. And virtually each and every one of them have a British accent. The French would SO not be heureuse about it.
  • The Entire Cast of The Count of Monte Cristo. Like the folks in Ever After, Guy Pearce's Mondego wouldn't know a croissant from a crumpet. And as the Count, James Caviezel finds his inner Jonathan-Pryce-in-creepy-English-bloke mode-- if he were a Frenchman. Still, the film is almost as enjoyable as the sandwich, and a lot less fattening.
  • Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. Speaking of English accents-- yeah, Van Dyke's Cockney chimney sweep accent accidentally channels a bit of of Disney's Goofy, but it's legendary among movie-goers. And still a jolly 'olliday.
  • Marge Gunderson in Fargo. Fargoians... Fargoites... Fargoists... er... North Dakotans say that the accents used in the Coens' film are not at all accurate to their region. But anyone who loves the Coens knows, most of us also don't talk in snappy film noir dialogue and repeat key phrases for humor and literary emphasis. Oh yaaah, you betchaaaa!
  • Christopher Lambert in Highlander. He's an American-born Switzerland-educated expat playing a Scotsman, and the effect is an immortal Highland warrior who sounds oddly like Peter Lorre. Then there's Sean Connery, an actual Scotsman, playing a Spaniard with a Scottish accent and a Humphrey Bogart lisp. (Where have we heard that before?) The mind boggles. But hey-- there's the Queen soundtrack and Clancy Brown being evil with safety pins in his neck. So, still campily cool.
  • Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park. Okay, so he's speaking English, yes, but half of what he's saying is so mumbled, it qualifies for a foreign language. That's how we know his character is really scientific.
So tell me, what Accents Incongruous have you forgiven in your favorite films?


Shieldmaiden96 said...

THANK YOU for calling out Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. THERE was a movie that needed a dialogue coach. Grating to the extreme on the ear.

I have to throw old Kevin Costner under the bus for Robin Hood; I'm one of the 27 or so people who made it through that whole movie and he abandons the accent (which he is doing badly anyway), then picks it back up again at least half a dozen times.

I hated this movie for other reasons, but Brad Pitt's Belfast accent in 'The Devil's Own' was very off. They should have had Miranda Richardson help him; she mastered the incomprehensible accent that caused my first couple of weeks in that fair city to be one panicked 'OhGod did he just ask me a question?' moment after another.

Deray said...

Salma Hayek in "Frida". A Mexican speaking in English with a Mexican accent?

Now that I think about it, everyone in that movie has an accent and most them is the wrong one!

HumorSmith said...

Keanu Reeves in "Bram Stoker's Dracula". Whoa!

Lizzy said...

I loved Fargo, mostly for the accent. Great list of movies!!!

Dave White said...

Connery's character in Highlander is even worse than you think - he's originally from ancient Egypt. Or maybe the planet Zeist, depending on who you ask.

Unknown said...

Shieldmaiden- Costner's accent (or non-accent) made it hard for me to like that film, though Alan Rickman was excellent. And THANK YOU about Brad Pitt's accent in the Devil's Own. I thought it was pretty awful, but I'm also not a Brad Pitt fan. To me he never quite feels the character-- he knows to do certain things to connote moods, but I always sense he doesn't really FEEL it.

Deray- Ah, I didn't see that one, but it is interesting to hear folks who KNOW what the accent should be weigh in on what it ISN'T.

HumorSmith- He's great as Ted, and fine in the Replacements, but his range is... um... not-so-much.

Sex-n-Fries- I like Fargo, myself, though I prefer some of the other Coens films.

Dave- Oh gawd, you're right. I totally forgot he was Egyptian, too. Ramirez-- an Egyptian. Yipes.

Anonymous said...

2 accents come to mind:

1. Mandy Patinkin's inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride - Priceless!!

2. Sarah Holcomb's Maggie in Caddyshack - so dreadful she never acted again!

Unknown said...

Anonymous- Inigo Montoya's a classic! "I wonder if he's using the same wind we're using?" :)

And I didn't know the girl who played Maggie in Caddyshack, and now I guess I know why-- her career tanked!

Robert Crane said...

robert redford didn't even try to sound like the son of an english earl in out of africa. the closest he came to an english accent was eating a muffin of english.

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

You're absolutely right, and it's been going on for a very long time unchallenged! In England we are so used to Americans playing English people we almost don't notice anymore.

But yes, I think Dick Van Dyke takes the biscuit. And you're also right .. it doesn't really matter! The movie is still fun.

cardiogirl said...

This isn't an actress in a movie, but ever since Madonna did "Evita" her standard speaking voice has a bit of an English accent to it.

You're from Detroit, Madge.

Barry Logan said...

Great list. I haven't seen quite a few on the list but highly agree with Sean Connery and Drew Barrymore. Gotta love films like that, accents are a great thing.