People are always complaining about how much Americans suck at doing accents, whether it's Kevin Costner as "Robin Hood" or Keanu Reeves seemingly coming off a heroin addiction in "Bram Stoker's Dracula." And we do suck sometimes, yes.
However, we want to at least even the playing field a little by pointing out some bafflingly bad American accents perpetrated by thesps from overseas. Europe and Australia may have the best acting academies and such, but not every graduate is as versatile as they should be, starting with a certain Gerard Butler from this past weekend's "Olympus Has Fallen."
This week's "Olympus Has Fallen" is cheesy fun, but Butler's American cadence is just … off. Granted, he's a bit more convincing than his oft-compared Scottish soul mate Sean Connery, but the "300" star has tried his hand at miming our accent in disasters like "The Bounty Hunter" and the recent surfing drama "Chasing Mavericks." Perhaps he should devote as much time to his vocalizations as he does to "8-minute abs."
"Elizabethtown" was a troubled project for the normally stellar Cameron Crowe, who had to replace several actors during the course of filming, including lead Ashton Kutcher. While we're all for upgrading from Kutcher, dropping Orlando Bloom of all people into the middle of Kentucky made the Englishman more than conspicuous. Riding high off "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "The Lord of the Rings," Bloom was taking a shot at leading mandom. However, Bloom proved he's not only tone deaf comedically, but his generic American accent (which we're saturated with thanks to hefty narration) sounds like nails on a chalkboard.
So if you're casting for Alice Sebold's "The Lovely Bones" and need a girl with an authentic Pennsylvania dialect, why not hire a little Irish chick? There's no doubt in our minds that Peter Jackson auditioned a whole pack of talented American natives for the part, but as the only Academy Award-nominated 14-year-old around at the time, Saoirse Ronan probably sounded good on paper. On film is another thing. There's a lot wrong with Jackson's film (like everything), but Ronan's recently deceased Susie Salmon comes across like a third-generation photocopy of a simpering American girl.
The hunky slice of Aussie beefcake that is Sam Worthington has manly screen presence to spare, but even James Cameron had a tough time beating the outback out of him for "Avatar." He's since tried to expand his American range in films like "Texas Killing Fields," but the results have been … well, even he has to admit it's rusty. "I’m useless at [expletive] accents," he told Xfinity. "What, you don’t read reviews and blogs? Everyone has an opinion about my accents and I’ll be the first to admit it – I find it extremely difficult, but I try my best."
Don't get us wrong, we think Ewan McGregor is the bee's knees, but this ginger Scotsman cannot do an American accent if his life depended on it. Whether he's a naïve clone in "The Island" or a U.S. Army sergeant in "Black Hawk Down," the Force is not with him, or his dialect coach. Probably the worst offender is Tim Burton's "Big Fish," where his only frame of reference for a southern drawl seems to come from "Forrest Gump."
Simon Pegg is one of geekdom's best and brightest, but the talented writer/performer behind "Shaun of the Dead" has an Achilles heel: one of the worst American accents that's ever filled our earholes. He got to trot it out a little bit in the miniseries "Band of Brothers," but the Brit's big (dashed) chance to assimilate came in the form of low-budget comedy "Big Nothing," where he managed to get out-acted by David Schwimmer. Yikes. We're not sure how the Scottish feel about his Scotty accent in "Star Trek," but that's their problem.
Now here's a case of someone not even f**king trying. Yes, Hayley Mills was but a wee child working in indentured servitude to her dark master Walt Disney, but 1961's "The Parent Trap" proved Mills had little interest in getting her accent right. Granted, she's playing twins, one from California, the other from Boston, but they both sound remarkably English! C'mon, even Mark Wahlberg could have gotten one of those right.
When Christian Bale played Patrick Bateman in "American Psycho," he was intentionally creating this phony, outlandish proxy of a Yank, but what was James McAvoy's excuse? In "Wanted," he plays a mild-mannered cube farm drone whose innate talent for assassinating people is put to good use, but his manner of speaking never quite passes muster. It's too pronounced and too artificial-sounding to come across as anything but a parody.
This one's kinda like throwing fish in a barrel, but it really must be acknowledged no matter how obvious it is: Arnold sounds like a scary Austrian no matter who he's playing. Ivan Reitman was keenly aware of this, which is why the director dropped Ah-nuld squarely in Small Town USA in "Kindergarten Cop." The idea of this monstrous mass of muscle teaching at an elementary school straight out of Norman Rockwell was hilarious, but even when he was playing a New York City cop in "End of Days" or a U.S. spy in "True Lies" he's still just plain Arnold. "It's not a toomah!"