Weekend Roundtable: Worst Movie & TV Fake Accents

I haven’t watched ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ in years and don’t remember it clearly. Was Renée Zellweger’s fake British accent in that one as awful as it sounds in the trailers for this week’s belated sequel, or is she just woefully out of practice? With that as our first example, let’s look at some other embarrassing attempts by actors to speak in accents they can’t pull off.

Shannon Nutt

Kevin Costner needs to stay away from doing accents. In ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves‘, he puts on an unconvincing British accent that he slips in and out of throughout the course of the film. Then, in ‘Thirteen Days‘, Costner’s Bostonian accent is so bad he almost sinks what is otherwise a really great film.

Costner’s least-offensive accents are the Southern drawl he applies to Jim Garrison in ‘JFK‘ and criminal Butch Haynes in ‘A Perfect World‘, but even there, he comes off as if he’s trying too hard to over-annunciate every line of dialogue. Costner can be a great actor when he gets the right part. Sadly, he’ll never be able to master anything beyond his original Southern Californian voice. He should stop taking parts that ask him to try.

Mike Attebery

Kate Winslet spends the first third of ‘Steve Jobs‘ chatting away with absolutely no accent whatsoever. Then, at some point in the second segment, she starts using a really strong Polish accent. It comes so completely out of the blue that it almost gave me whiplash. I wasn’t sure if it was the same character or what the heck was going on. From then to the end of the movie, that accent comes and goes endlessly, to the point that any time she speaks, all I could pay attention to was whether or not she was employing that wavering, terrible accent!

Brian Hoss

Having seen Steven Seagal’s ‘On Deadly Ground‘ in the theater, I can forgive anyone who, a) either having seen it or not, does not remember the movie, or b) saw the movie long ago and thereby thinks that its particular flaws have already been experienced to a sufficient degree. The muddled film’s villain, Michael Jennings, is meant to be a Texan oil tycoon (complete with American goon slang) and is played by Michael Caine, who, even at a low ebb in 1994, does not have the accent chops to pull off a big screen Boss Hogg.

M. Enois Duarte

Since I just recently watched it to review the UHD Blu-ray, I’d have to say Kristen Stewart’s faux British accent in ‘Snow White and the Huntsman‘ is absolutely the worst. Not only is she unable to pull it off convincingly, it seems as though she mostly mumbles her dialogue while gazing stupefyingly at others and at the make-believe creatures. As entertaining as the movie is, there are signs of script rewrites and alterations (likely done in post) and editing to remove much of Stewart’s dialogue. Apparently, even the filmmakers didn’t much care for the otherwise talented actress’ attempt to appear British. Although her character name isn’t given top billing, Charlize Theron is the real standout star of the film and has far more screen time than Stewart.

Luke Hickman

I genuinely think that she’s the best young actress working right now, but fresh on my mind is Alicia Vikander’s American accent in ‘Jason Bourne‘. Vikander is typically wonderful at adopting accents, but she didn’t sound American at all during the latest ‘Bourne’ entry. Slipping in and out of different accents, I couldn’t tell if her well-educated and intelligent character was supposed to have English as a second, third, or fourth language. With no mention of her being from another nation, I assume that she was meant to be American by birth, but that certainly wasn’t an American accent that she was doing.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

Having been born and raised in South Carolina, you’d think I’d take this golden opportunity to lash out at some of the all-time most cringeworthy Suthe’n draaaaawwwwwls ever committed to film. There’s one fake accent that got stuck in my craw more than any other, though, and that’d be Katie Carr’s short-lived role as Caitlin in NBC’s ‘Heroes‘. Playing a bonnie lass from the Emerald Isle, Carr studied under one of the greats as her dialect coach: Lucky the Leprechaun. Evidence of her dreadful stab at an Irish brogue is unexpectedly scarce on YouTube, but here’s a taste that’s actually more subdued than usual:

“Payter Petrelli! Remember me? Caitlin? Y’r Oirish flame? Ye done stranded me in a future that dinna exist no more!” She makes Chief O’Hara from the 1960s ‘Batman’ sound authentic. ‘Heroes’ completely abandoned her plot line and never so much as mentioned Caitlin again, but nearly a decade later, I still do impressions of her to an audience of no one. Peter may have forgotten you, Caitlin, but I never will.

Josh Zyber

As a longtime Boston resident, I’m particularly sensitive to bad Bostonian accents in movies and TV. The thing about it is, most people in Boston don’t speak with any particular accent. It’s really only a small subset of locals from a few neighborhoods (primarily Southie and Dorchester) who speak in that thick, stereotypical “Bahsten” accent. And yet, every time you watch a movie set in the city, every damn character has to drop their Rs (or “ahs”).

Shannon already mentioned Kevin Costner in ‘Thirteen Days’. Although that movie is a docudrama about real events, Costner’s character is a fictional composite of several different people. He’s not playing JFK or a Kennedy brother. There’s no need whatsoever for him to speak with any accent. Why does he insist on doing it?

Likewise, if Jack Nicholson had used his normal speaking voice in ‘The Departed‘, absolutely no one would ever have thought twice about it. Instead, he had to affect that ridiculous, comical accent that just draws attention to how bad he is at it and how fake it sounds.

Tell us in the Comments below about the fake movie and TV accents you’ve found the most laughable or distracting.


  1. It’s hard to judge Brits doing American accents because (mostly on TV series) I often can’t tell if they are trying to be American or just dim-witted.

    Was William Hurt doing an accent in A History of Violence or was he just medicated?


  2. Csm101

    Keanu Reeves in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
    Kevin Bacon in Elephant White.
    Steven Seagal tried to do some Italian New Yorker accent in Out for Justice that’s pretty hilarious.
    I believe Aidan Quinn played Paul McCartney in some tv special in which he’s conversing with John Lennon and that one was brutal.

  3. Greg

    I didn’t think that Kevin Costner even attempted an English accent in Prince of Thieves, so I feel he doesn’t qualify for a “fake accent”. As for Bridget Jones, she was totally authentic in the original (speaking as an Englishman), but I haven’t seen the new sequel yet.

    • Bill

      I thought that Kevin Costner’s lines in Prince of Thieves were all supposed to be redubbed/re-looped/re-recorded in post production (by Costner – after having time to study to do a real accent) – but when production money ran out they just went with the live recordings they had…

      • Josh Zyber

        The way I remember hearing it, Costner was supposed to study with a dialogue coach prior to production of Robin Hood, but he was so tied up finishing and promoting Dances with Wolves that he arrived on set with no preparation and had to start shooting immediately.

  4. Chris B

    Hey Josh, being that you’re from the city and frequently criticize many attempts by famous actors at doing a Boston accent, I’m curious as to who some actors are that you think actually do a good job of it. Who’s done a really good onscreen Boston accent (excluding actors who are actually From there of course).

      • Chris B

        I thoughy Jeremy Renner in The Town was pretty good….do people in the Charlestown area of Boston even have accents? Or was that more Hollywood rubbish?

    • Pedram

      Apparently Blake Lively did such a good Boston accent for her audition for The Town, Ben Affleck asked her what part of Boston she was from.

    • William Henley

      It’s funny that you ask that question, Chris, because that actually leads me into what annoys me. I think if you are from an area and you hear someone trying to imitate your accent, it comes across as annoying and bad. Other than people from here, I am annoyed by fake Texas and fake Southern accents, annoying to the point of almost being rude. I had the same issue with Sound of Music – they even had dialect coaches, but I am not sure what they were trying to achieve – it doesn’t sound like any dialects in Austria, Slovenia or Croatia (where the family lived before Austria got split up into different countries and they moved to Salzburg), but rather like they are trying to do Queen’s English (I guess it would have been King’s English in the 60s).

      One of the worst accents I ever heard was Dick van Dyke in Marry Poppins. Absolutely awful.

      Truthfully, I prefer them either to cast local actors, or just to throw the accents out. Amadeus is a good example of this – no Salzburg or Vienna accents.

      On the other hand, I enjoy what they were trying to do with Star Trek Enterprise. Many shows show Hoshi trying to not only get the language down, but struggling with inflections, gutterals, dialects and accents. When you have an alien race, and try to create a fake accent, it works very well. Marina Sirtis did a great job creating an accent for her character, but then they brought in Majel Barrett as her mother, and she did not even attempt to do an accent. Yet it worked. You just went with it

      So yeah, for the most part, I would prefer people to not even try to do an accent, its annoying and insulting if you are from the area they are trying to imitate.

  5. EM

    Any movie that tries to convince me that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a natural-born American is (A) attempting science fiction of the highest magnitude and (B) failing abysmally.

    It’s not quite what you’re going for, but I feel compelled to mention Jean Seberg in Jean-Luc Godard’s À bout de souffle (Breathless). As she is an American actress playing an American character, her American accent is quite convincing. But that same accent in French is so thick as to be horribly grating. Rather than sounding like someone who’s trying to assimilate while living the French life with a French boyfriend, she sounds like she’s just arrived in France after a crash course in French at a school for the deaf.

    • ScoobySnack

      One of the most brilliant things ever done in a movie to get past the accent problem was in The Hunt for Red October: the camera slowly zooms in on the mouth of an actor (speaking Russian) and then he begins speaking English as the camera slowly zooms outs. This tells the audience: They are Russians, but they will be heard in English for the rest of the film. Brilliant.

      • EM

        Perhaps Red October should have used English all along. It’s one thing to accept Sean Connery as a Lithuanian speaking English with a Scottish accent…unfortunately, the same film also gives us Sean Connery as a Lithuanian speaking Russian with a Scottish accent.

        • Josh Zyber

          I don’t remember if it was in reference to that film or something else (it might have been The Untouchables), but Sean Connery was once asked why he never tries to disguise his Scottish accent. His response was something to the effect of: “This is my voice. If I didn’t talk like this, how would they know it’s me?”

          The logic is impeccable. 🙂

  6. Guy

    Bill Paxton in Edge of Tomorrow. I was born, raised and am now typing this comment a short ten minute drive from the town his character claims to be from. There’s no one that has ever spoken like him anywhere near here. I know it’s very specific to me, but I was pulled right out of the movie any time he had dialogue.

    It shouldn’t have surprised me greatly because Hollywood southern accents tend to be about as accurate to the real deal as sucking on a green apple Dum Dum is to taking a bite of an actual Granny Smith.

  7. photogdave

    Brad Pitt in The Devil’s Own. Haven’t seen it in years but my memory says it was bad.

    However…I thought the same thing about Keanu in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. At the time I thought it ruined the film. Having re-watched the new 4K Blu, I have to admit he’s not as awful as I remember and his performance no longer takes me out of the film.
    Likewise Sophia in Godfather Part III.

    • Bolo

      Brad Pitt doing accents misses more than he hits. ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ was another one. The film is done in English, and Pitt does an Austrian accent that is really distracting. Making it even weirder is that David Thewlis is there playing his fellow Austrian but just speaking with his regular English accent. You’ve also got B.D. Wong in there playing a Tibetan while speaking English with an American accent. I’ve read Harrer’s memoirs on which the film is based. Harrer brags about his ability to master the Tibetan language quickly. Strangely, in the film they play it like Harrer struggles in this respect and everybody humours him by doing translations for him. So in the reality of the film, I’m not really sure what language everybody’s supposed to be speaking. Are we supposed to believe than Tibetans in the 1940’s were all fluent in German?

    • eeek78

      What’s funny is that the accent that I hated the most and loved the most came from the same actor. Brad Pitt’s The Devil’s Own accent was atrocious, but his accent in Snatch was awesome.

      “D’ya like dags?”

        • Csm101

          I heard somewhere( or maybe read) that he was supposed to have a regular Irish accent, but it was so bad, they went with the pikey one instead. I never cared enough to look into it, because I really liked his character and accent in the movie.

  8. Pedram

    The twins’ accents from Age of Ultron. Neither was great, but Elizabeth Olson’s was particularly bad. It also seemed to change throughout the movie.

  9. Thulsadoom

    Movie-wise, I’m going to go with both Chris Hemsworth’s ‘Scottish’ accent in the Huntsman movies, and that idiot trying to do an Irish accent in the most recent Transformers.

    They all pale, though, in comparison to an episode of Castle, in which they had a geordie character (meaning someone from the Tyneside area in the UK). This wasn’t just bad in the way someone trying to be Irish sounds Australian, or somebody doing a terrible Indian or Chinese accent… This was just unintelligible gibberish. A ‘geordie’ accent is no different in the UK to, for example, someone with a very strong New York accent would be to other people in America.

    However, in that episode of Castle, not only was he unintelligible, he was supposedly having to take English speaking classes! Imagine a New York accented character in an Australian drama having to take English speaking lessons, and pretending that a New York accent sounds like one of the Martian’s from Mars attacks. It was truly that absurd!! 😉

  10. Bolo

    Cate Blanchett in ‘Hanna’. Her wandering accent is really distracting. She goes from Southern belle to Texan with frequent meandering off into the mid west.

  11. Tommy Wiseau in ‘The Room’. No idea what he’s trying to speak. He has lived in America for many moons, but I’m pretty sure I’m able to pull off a better (generic) American accent.

  12. Chris B

    I’m not sure if this has already been a Roundtable topic before, but I hope we can have a diacussion on the Best Movie Accents one day….

  13. Bolo

    Joseph Gordon Levitt is an actor who should probably stop acting in any voice other than his own. I see the trailers for stuff like ‘Don Jon’ and ‘The Walk’ and he just seems to overshoot the accent to the point that his performance seems cartoonish. I saw him try to play a Mexican in ‘Women in Trouble’ and again, it was so over the top and forced.

  14. Jordi

    Heather Graham in “From Hell”. Have not seen the movie for years but her accent was so bad as to be unforgettable.

    Honorable mention to Tom Cruise in “Far And Away” which is an equally awful attempt at “Oirish”

  15. Hedley

    Seriously? No ones mentioning the two worst attempts at accents in movie history? Humphrey Bogart in Dark Victory and Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.

  16. Baked

    Every Irish (oirish) accent in every film since the dawn of Film. Except one, Brad Pitt in Snatch. He deserved and Oscar nod for that performance.

  17. Jordi

    Correct Josh, I was referring to the fake (and usually terrible) variety of Irish accent that permeates cinema. On the flip side, Brendan Gleeson’s ‘cockney’ in “28 Days Later” is pretty bad, so Irish actors can be just as guilty of terrible accents!

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