We’re pretty sure that there are enough good actors in each of the world’s nations that they can field at least a handful for every accent ever required by Hollywood. But who cares when you can just get a big, bankable star to fake it for the masses? Cinematic history is littered with disastrous drawls, insidious intonations and bonkers brogues when that approach is taken, so we thought we’d round up the thirteen most unfortunate examples to prove just why you should go back to where they actually came from when casting.
1. Russell Crowe’s Irish brogue in Winter’s Tale (2014)
Pretend Australian Russell Crowe is a serial offender when it comes to dubious accents. That infamous temper reared its ugly head when BBC Radio 4’s Mark Lawson suggested his Robin Hood (2010) sounded a bit Irish. A fuming Crowe retorted, “You've seriously got dead ears if you think that's an Irish accent… Bollocks."
At the risk of taking a telephone to the head, his latest turn in the abysmal Winter’s Tale is, ironically, a bloody awful Irish accent. It’s as mangled as his character Pearly Soames’ demonic face. As an aside, quite why Colin Farrell keeps his genuine Irish accent when he’s supposedly been raised in Brooklyn is anyone’s guess?
2. Cate Blanchett’s Russian in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Picking faults in this immensely miscalculated return to Harrison Ford’s whip cracking second-most-famous character almost two decades after The Last Crusade is un-sportingly like shooting fish in a barrel, but you have to hand it to our Cate, her slick-bobbed Russian villain Irina Spalko is all over the place. She just can’t keep her mispronunciations straight, slipping between both “will,” and “vill,” seemingly at random, even during the course of the official trailer.
3. Sam Worthington as an American, Avatar (2009)
The Perth-born action hero actually gave us his first cinematic shot at a US accent in the aborted Terminator reboot Salvation, but it was his turn as US marine and test tube big blue thingy Jake Sully in James Cameron’s mega-budget Avatar that really talks the biscuit (sic). Skipping vocally across the States, down to Oz and back again, he really should stick to taking his shirt off.
4. Geoffrey Rush’s German in The Book Thief (2013)
In fairness to Geoffrey, the German accents or lack thereof are universal in this cheesy snoozefest adaptation of fellow Australian Markus Zusak’s best-selling novel. Nazis and evil singing schoolchildren speak in actual German with subtitles, while Rush, French Canadian co-star Sophie Nélisse and English actress Emily Watson all work dreadfully accented faux-German, dropping in “yah’s” and “neins,” at random. Bizarrely, New Yorker Ben Schnetzer sounds English as Jewish refugee Max.
5. Quentin Tarantino’s dodgy Australian accent in Django Unchained (2013)
Laying off the Aussies doing dodgy accents, let’s turn our attention instead to cult auteurs doing dodgy Australian accents. We’re still not even sure why Tarantino’s cameo in Django Unchained was Aussie in the first place, never mind why the scene’s so long in a film already overstuffed with pointless segues, but lordy it’s bad. The only thing funnier than his complete failure is an interview he gave afterwards attempting to explain it away by saying some lines got edited. Should have cut the lot.
6. Meryl Streep’s even worse Aussie accent in Evil Angels (1988)
Meryl scooped the first of three Oscars to date way for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), so there really is no excuse for the hilarious awfulness that is her stab at the infamous Lindy Chamberlain three years later. Chamberlain’s much-mocked catchcry “Dingos ate my baby,” hits a nadir, and she’s not fond of being asked to repeat the line, as Andy Cohen found out. Still, even on a crap day there’s no keeping the Streep down. She still managed to scrape an Oscar nom for this one. Clearly there aren’t that many Aussies in the Academy.
7. Nicolas Cage’s allegedly Italian accent in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001)
At the height of his, at times, perplexing popularity, Cage tackled Italian artillery officer Captain Antonio Corelli in this adaptation of Louis de Bernières’ best-selling novel. That is if, by tackled, you mean the muddy, scrappy mess that occurs on rugby pitches. Mostly he sounds like Mario on steroids.
8. Tom Cruise and then wife Nicole Kidman mincing Irish in Far and Away (1992)
But back to Irish for a moment, because barring Scottish, no other accent has been quite so thoroughly mangled by folks who clearly ain’t Irish. Take a bow, Tom, and then-wife Nicole too, because you might just be the worst offenders of all when it comes to the offending the Emerald isle. Yank Cruise plays Irish immigrant Joseph Donnelly alongside Kidman’s Christine and it’s too funny to be sure, to be sure.
9. Mel Gibson in Braveheart (1995) and Christopher Lambert in Highlander (1986)
While we’re talking about screwing up Scottish, there’s way too many to choose from, but we have to award this as another dead heat. Just why you’d choose a US-Born, Swiss-raised actor to portray the lead in a film called Highlander we’ll never know. Needless to say, the results are pretty shocking, but Aussie-American Mel Gibson, he of the foul-mouthed tirades, gives Lambert a run for his money mangling national hero William Wallace in Braveheart. Please take his freedom now.
10. Sean Connery ditches Bond for the Russians in The Hunt for Red October (1990)
Fair’s fair, let’s have a go at perhaps Scotland’s most famous export. Sure, Connery may be the ultimate Bond but his talent for accents more or less begins and ends with his own peculiarly unique Scottish burr. He’s never been much cop at passing as a Yank, but his ‘Russian’ submarine captain Marko Ramius in the Jack Ryan nuclear attack jaunt The Hunt for Red October is the best because he doesn’t even bother. He’s just doing his own Scottish thing.
11. Keanu Reeves being British in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
It’s worth noting that while Keanu has been nominated for a Razzie award six times, he’s never taken one home. We think he was robbed for his awful, stammeringly posh British turn as Jonathan Harker in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. Possibly the best bit in this already high camp affair is when also hokey-accented Winona Ryder actually rolls him some shade during a dinner scene. You think she’d be happy he was taking the heat off of her own dubious diction.
12. Mickey Rooney turns Japanese in Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961)
Sometimes an accent isn’t just bad, it’s far out racist too. Blake Edward’s Audrey Hepburn-starring adaptation of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s might be considered a classic, but there’s no getting past the terrifying sight and sound of a buck-toothed, half-blind Mickey Rooney mimicking this horrifying attempt at Japanese. It’s as if he’s single-handedly striking back for Pearl Harbour.
13. Dick Van Dyke defeats them all with his cockney accent in Mary Poppins (1964)
Rooney may have set the bar high with stooping low on accents, but three years later Dick Van Dyke destroyed the competition with his cheerily awful attempt at a cockney accent in Disney’s nevertheless enduring adaptation of P. L Traver’s umbrella-riding nanny. Almost as if they had to cancel out casting actual Brit Julie Andrews in the title role, they helicopter in Missouri’s finest and a legend is born. It’s so bad they even mangled his name in the credits, but there’s no hiding from your celluloid crimes Navckid Keyd.