Accents are easy, right? YouTube a couple of vids, do two weeks of vocal training, then hope you get within 100 miles of the right country.
Sometimes, however, too much money has been spent on production to politely ask an actor to reign it in, meaning these atrocious accents were immortalised on film forever…
‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’
Actor: Nicolas Cage
Accent: Italian by way of Borat.
Cage is a trier, bless him, but his attempt at an Italian accent goes round the houses until it gets lost in Eastern Europe. When spoken properly, the Italian accent rolls off the tongue, but Cage’s comic-book cadence seems like it’s coming from his nose.
Pro tip: this movie is much more enjoyable if you close your eyes and imagine the leader character is being played by 'Strictly Come Dancing’ judge Bruno Tonioli. But then that’s true of most movies.
'Bram Stoker’s Dracula’
Actor: Keanu Reeves
Despite his reputation for being more wooden than Pinocchio, Keanu is blessed with a few acting abilities – but an ability to do accents is not one of them. Still young and fresh-faced when he was hired to play vampire hunter Jonathan Harker in Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 'Dracula’, Reeves dived right in: act now, worry about the British accent later.
Unfortunately, Keanu’s stab at prim and proper sounded like a Downton Abbey reject.
Actor: Don Cheadle
Accent: The holy grail: Cockney.
Unless you’re willing to train for years with professional Cockneys, don’t go there. Just don’t even bother. Didn’t you see what happened to Dick van Dyke in 'Mary Poppins’? That was a heartbreaker. Don Cheadle went one better in 'Ocean’s Eleven’ as Basher, a crook who strangles the English language like a serial killer.
“Arhh leaahhve it ahhht!” Cheadle cries, confident that as just one of a large and starry ensemble cast, his contribution to the movie would likely not register. Dead wrong, Don. This is anything but “triffic”.
Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio
Some accents sound like they’re easy to pull off but before you realise it you’ve wandered into caricature. So it is with the Afrikaans accent: you might think it’s as simple as swapping out vowels at random – e.g. “Look et me, I’m a bleddy Sarth Efrican!” - but chances are before long you’ll end up on the offensive end of the spectrum.
Leonardo DiCaprio can do many things but accurately portray a man from Zimbabwe is not one of them, although to be fair, no one could deliver the line “In America it’s 'bling bling’ but out here it’s 'bling bang’!” without being met with gales of laughter.
'Breakfast At Tiffany’s’
Actor: Mickey Rooney
Accent: Japanese. Or, to put it less politely, a massively racist interpretation of Japanese.
Rooney’s portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi is the one black mark against Blake Edwards’ otherwise peerless romance 'Breakfast At Tiffany’s’. Every time you start to enjoy the sultry performance by Audrey Hepburn or fall in love with the Henry Mancini score, there’s Mickey Rooney in yellowface, confusing his 'L’s with his 'R’s in a highly dubious fashion. “Miss Gorightry” indeed.
Actor: Anne Hathaway
To be fair to Ms Hathaway, she has shown previous form with British accents, but the elusive Yorkshire brogue proved beyond her considerable talents.
Emma Morley, the northern lass and star of weepie romance 'One Day’, couldn’t have felt less authentic at the hands of Hathaway, whose vocals gamely trot around the British Isles, unwilling to set up camp anywhere north of Middlesbrough. Be warned, Hollywood bigshots: this is proof there’s no such thing as one single 'British’ accent. There’s bloomin’ loads of us.
'PS I Love You’
Actor: Gerard Butler
Presumably the producer of 'PS I Love You’ assumed that because Gerard Butler was Scottish, he’d easily be able to whip out an Irish accent. Same thing, right? Wrong. Oh so wrong. Because when you’re the owner of the most iconic Scottish accent this side of Sean Connery, you can’t just hop over the Irish Channel and expect nobody to notice.
You can actively see Butler struggled to perform even single lines competently in this clip because his accent is so clunky and hideous. The producer clearly learned his or her mistake, because no one ever hired Gerard Butler to do anything ever again.
Actors: Christoph Lambert and Sean Connery (tie)
We can’t decide who’s the worst offender in this movie: Christoph Lambert, a Frenchman, attempting a Scottish accent, or Sean Connery, a Scotsman, (barely) attempting a Spanish accent.
Spin the globe and put your finger on it and you’ll probably hear hints of the native tongue in Lambert’s performance, although to his credit, it was only his second film shot in the English language. Connery, however, has no excuse: when your character is called 'Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez’ you can’t just pretend your Edinburgh accent will do.
'The Jazz Singer’
Actor: Laurence Oliver
Accent: Jewish. Or 'Super Jewish’.
Screen legend Olivier came a cropper in Neil Diamond’s massively misguided coming of age story, playing the stuck-in-his-ways father of wannabe entertainer Yussel. As Cantor Rabinovitch, luvvie Laurence turned the Semitics up to 11, a seriously parodiable level that took Judiasm to the moon and back, culminating in the oft-mocked line: “I. HAFF. NO. SON!"
Larry should be glad, however, that he was not the worst thing in a movie famous for several bad things.
Actor: Jodie Foster
Accent: Who knows? It might as well be from Outer Space. There’s a heavy British twang in the accent for Jodie’s character, Delacourt, but that’s because it’s a pre-requisite for a villain. As for the rest, there are hints of German vowel efficiency and French linguistic flair, but the end result is a sort of pan-European cross-breed that you couldn’t pin down on a map.
There’s an argument to say that pan-European is exactly what director Neill Blomkamp was going for, given the futuristic socio-political slant he took, but damn if it didn’t make one of Hollywood’s finest actresses ten times harder to listen to.
Watch a compilation of Hollywood’s worst accents below…
Image credits: Universal Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Warner Bros./Paramount/Film 4/Momentum Pictures/20th Century Fox/EMI Films/Sony Pictures