With the release of Inventing Anna, fans have latched onto actor Julia Garner’s imitation of Anna Delvey’s accent in the show. TikTok has been flooded with creators mimicking the accent or re-enacting scenes. Similar audience reactions have occurred with films like Knives Out and Daniel Craig’s Southern accent.
What moviegoers and TV audiences may not realize is that perfecting an accent that is not native to the actor can be very difficult, if not impossible. It requires months to years of training and working with coaches. Shaw Academy recently did a study on the 10 most difficult accents for Hollywood to master, as perceived by viewers. Since these accents are so difficult to nail, which actors have perfected them?
British English – Meryl Streep
Across the internet and numerous Reddit threads, there are several actors that do British accents that fans love, but many that they hate. However, one constant name that has been praised on Reddit, one study done by Babbel, and even in an article by GameRant, has been that of Meryl Streep — most notably for her role as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.
Meryl Streep has a great many skills, she even learned to sing for her role in Foster Florence Jenkins, and having an amazing talent for accents is just one of those skills that audiences everywhere have taken notice of. While the commendations are more for her impression of Thatcher, rather than just the accent, she’s also been commended for her American impersonations as well, like when she played chef Julia Child.
Irish – Jon Voight
Ireland was said to be the next least believable accent in Hollywood. Like the British English accents, there are many nuances to Irish accents that viewers think actors just don’t do justice to. But, according to The Rewind online magazine, Reddit threads, College Times, and Newsweek, Jon Voight did the best of the best in The General.
Jon Voight, much like Meryl Streep, has been acting for decades and has extensive experience in his craft. This is probably why he was able to master the Irish accent so well that even Irish news outlets wrote in appreciation of it. The General won awards at the Cannes Film Festival, the Irish Film & Television Awards, and several others.
American – Hugh Laurie & Christian Bale
Brits would agree that they can easily tell the difference between an authentic and genuine British accent because of all the different regional nuances that it can have, and the same can be said for the American accent. Two British actors that have been greatly commended for their American accents in film on Reddit, Unreality Magazine, Insider, and Ranker are Hugh Laurie and Christian Bale.
Hugh Laurie is best known for his titular role in House, where many A-list actors have gotten their start. Watching the show, many fans didn’t even know that he wasn’t natively American. Christian Bale has been praised for his myriad of American accents. FutureAlcoholic on Reddit wrote, “What’s most amazing about Bale’s accent is that he’s used so many different American accents and yet every single one is convincing.”
Russian – Viggo Mortensen
Russian accents appear in worldwide movie releases less often than American and British, which has apparently made them more difficult to master, according to the Shaw Academy study. Even though, movie fanatics on Reddit and TVOM have listed Viggo Mortensen’s accent in Eastern Promises as one of the best Russian accents in films. WIRED even did a YouTube analysis of the performance with an accent expert.
Eastern Promises won the Audience Prize for Best Film at the Toronto Film Festival in 2007, and had three nominations at the Golden Globe Awards, including one for Mortensen’s performance. He was also nominated for Best Actor at the 80th Academy Awards as well, demonstrating how hard he worked for this role and how well it paid off.
Australian – Stephen Fry
Australians are pretty picky when it comes to judging actors for their Aussie accents. There is a lot of debate amongst movie and television fans about who really has the most believable accent and the discussion on Reddit and Buzzfeed from native-born Australians point to Stephen Fry in QI.
There are so many actors that moviegoers don’t realize are actually Australian, even in the MCU, but the opposite situation doesn’t usually occur. However, Australians have complimented how natural Stephen Fry’s accent is in the film, and have noted that he has really perfected the inflection of their speech. On Buzzfeed, they said he did a “bang on Australian accent.”
Greek – Christian Bale
Greek accents are almost completely absent from old and new films and TV shows. There are many films and television shows about Greek mythology and history, yet they seldom include actual Greek accents. One actor that has been applauded for his Greek accent, though, is Christian Bale.
Christian Bale played Mandras in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, a story about a Greek fisherman who fights during WWII and whose wife falls in love with an Italian commander. Because of his well-roundedness, fans have taken to making compilations of the many accents of Christian Bale, and it’s entertaining to watch.
Scottish – Jonny Lee Miller
One of the best-ranked characters in Trainspotting was Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson, played by Jonny Lee Miller. Many fans of the film were shocked to find out that Miller was, in fact, not a real Scot. The Press And Journal and The Scotsman credit him with having one of the most believable Scottish accents in cinema.
Redditors are in agreement as well, with GregorF92 saying, “The only successful attempt that doesn’t sound like sh**e was Jonny Lee Miller in Trainspotting, his accent was spot on.”
Italian – Penelope Cruz
The verdict from viewers on Italian accents is similar to Greek: there are many movies and television shows that should have Italian accents that don’t, and there are some very poor Italian accents floating around the history of Hollywood. One that stuck out, specifically to WIRED accent expert Erik Singer and also Redditors was Penelope Cruz playing Donatella Versace on American Crime Story.
This is a unique case where not only did Cruz change her natural Spanish accent to an Italian one, but she was also imitating a specific person instead of just a general accent. This is even harder than doing a general accent, as Singer explains in his video breakdown, and he highly praises Cruz for her performance.
South African – Andy Serkis
There is an entire Quora discussion dedicated to Andy Serkis’ South African accent in Black Panther. As one user, Mighael Botha, writes, “He nails it. NAILS IT!” This comment was followed by many fans expressing how perfectly he articulated their accent and how much they were impressed by it.
Serkis’ role, Ulysses Klaue, has one of the most memorable quotes of Black Panther, and they’re made even better by his skill with the accent. Even Lesego Semenya, the South African chef, weighed in on Twitter, saying, “Any other actors who want to play White South Africans in movies or stage need to give Andy Serkis a call. He got the accent 100% spot on, even the ad-libs.”
Jamaican – No One? But Maybe Gabourey Sidibe
The authentic Jamaican accent seems to have actors everywhere stumped–or giving a very lackluster and unbelievable performance. VICE did an entire deep-dive article about the presence of less-than-desirable phony Jamaican accents, most recently in Marvel’s Luke Cage.
REACT”s channel on YouTube had singer Shaggy on for a segment where they had him listen to pop culture Jamaican accents and rank them on authenticity. Most of them were duds, but Gabourey Sidibe in Tower Heist had Shaggy cringing the least. He comments that most actors who know the Jamaican accent understand that they would need subtitles if it were to be done full-out, so many combine it with “The Queen’s English” to make themselves more easily understood.
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