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Astonishing accent work in films


Toto
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I just watched a short film on TCM highlighting some of the best accent work by actors and actresses in films.  The narrator of this short film trains actors/actresses in accents.  Some of his favorites (and mine!) include the amazing accent work in Dr. Strangelove by Peter Sellers who plays three different roles in the film (a bland, mild-mannered president, a creepy ex-Nazi scientist, and a calm disinterested Englishman), Vivien Leigh in a Streetcar Named Desire and Rene Zellweger's British accent in "Bridget Jones Diary".  All pull off amazing performances with very authentic accents.  What are your favorite accent performances?

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1 hour ago, Toto said:

I just watched a short film on TCM highlighting some of the best accent work by actors and actresses in films.  The narrator of this short film trains actors/actresses in accents.  Some of his favorites (and mine!) include the amazing accent work in Dr. Strangelove by Peter Sellers who plays three different roles in the film (a bland, mild-mannered president, a creepy ex-Nazi scientist, and a calm disinterested Englishman), Vivien Leigh in a Streetcar Named Desire and Rene Zellweger's British accent in "Bridget Jones Diary".  All pull off amazing performances with very authentic accents.  What are your favorite accent performances?

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Im Sure there will come Other Nominees a-knocking but Off-Hand; Cloud Atlas.

 

 

Exquisite and Transcendental in SO many ways

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1 hour ago, Toto said:

I just watched a short film on TCM highlighting some of the best accent work by actors and actresses in films.  The narrator of this short film trains actors/actresses in accents.  Some of his favorites (and mine!) include the amazing accent work in Dr. Strangelove by Peter Sellers who plays three different roles in the film (a bland, mild-mannered president, a creepy ex-Nazi scientist, and a calm disinterested Englishman), Vivien Leigh in a Streetcar Named Desire and Rene Zellweger's British accent in "Bridget Jones Diary".  All pull off amazing performances with very authentic accents.  What are your favorite accent performances?

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Ahnnnnd, Im Back.

 So THESE Are Weird, Unique Nominees but (with)in that Lovely t.v. show Whats My Line

 With Their Respective Guest Appearances Fredrick (sp.) March and Art Carney put on a dialecticians (apologies for this comparison here. And i can Definitely come back around and change the wording if You wish, Toto) but Respectively Carney and March put on a Dialectitians wet dream with their respective exquisite accent calisthenics 

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2 hours ago, unwatchable said:

That's a great question. I'll have to think on it a while, but what comes to mind immediately is Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice.

Meryl Streep's accent work in Sophie's Choice was amazing which she pulled off along with an incredible dramatic performance.

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--Meryl Streep in A Cry in the Dark and Out of Africa.

--The Boston papers thought that Laura Linney was the one who nailed the South Boston accent in Mystic River.

--Jean Smart, who grew up in Seattle, did an absolutely authentic Southern accent on Designing Women. Probably the best Southern accent ever by a non-native.

--Matthew Rhys is another British actor with a natural-sounding American accent.

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After watching the brillantly done HBO miniseries Band of Brothers when it was first broadcast back in 2001 and which told the story of the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division during WWII, I was astonished to learn that one of its leads, actor Damian Lewis, was/is in fact a native Londoner. Now HIS midwestern American accent was impeccable in this series, and since then I've run across a number of his later roles in which I've thought his American accent was also flawless...

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Chiwetel Ejiofor in "12 Years a Slave" who played the slave Solomon Northup. Throughout the film, Ejiofor maintains a near-perfect American accent although he has British roots in real life.  Also, a really moving acting performance by Ejiofor.

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2 hours ago, Det Jim McLeod said:

Robert Duvall's Southern accent in Tender Mercies (1983) won him the Oscar

Tender Mercies (1983)

:o  Could have sworn it was his acting that snagged it!  ;)     Anyway............

DON CHEADLE'S Afrikaner's accent in  '04's HOTEL RWANDA  was very well done, and TOM HANKS'  snobbish rich boy speech gave Jim Backus' Thurston Howell III's accent a run for the(*ahem*) money.  ;) 

Sepiatone

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I believe one of our most distinguished actresses is Helen Mirren. Her father was from an aristocratic Russian family, so she knew how to speak Russian from an early age. However the two films she made one year apart from one another in the 1980's. 

After she was offered the role of Russian Commander Tanya Kirbuk in Peter Hyams film 2010, and before she departed London for Los Angeles, she consulted with a Russian woman who worked with the BBC who gave her dialogue lessons in Russian.

In 1985 she made the film White Nights with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines. Again she was cast to play a Russian by director Taylor Hackford. In this part, her character Galina Ivanova was the fictional head of the Kirov Ballet and Baryshnikov's character's old lover.

Both roles she sounded very good with the adapted Russian accent.

White Nights premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival on November 8th, 1985. Luckily for me, my best friend at the time was a journalism major at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois and while there he wrote about film in that college's newspaper. He obtained tickets to attend a private screening at the Art Institute of Chicago and I was able to go along with him. After the film had been shown, the film's director and actress Helen Mirren appeared and answered questions about the film for about an hour. I was again lucky enough to approach Ms. Mirren at one point and ask her about her accent not only in the film but also in 2010 the year before. It was the only question asked to her about the accent and she really thought that was very kind of me to ask her so that she could elaborate. Oh, and she was quite beautiful in person!

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This is a great topic but a tough one, Toto. I can think of more astonishingly bad accents than I can good ones, but in addition to those already mentioned Rod Steiger was very good with accents.  He had a knack for German that could be a little terrifying, frankly.  Even James Mason's Rommel sounded exactly like the soft-spoken Brit we know and love, but since no one else around him had a German accent (probably a wise directorial decision) it wasn't that jarring.

Speaking of southern accents, I'm reading The Star Machine right now and found a memo from Darryl Zanuck, dated May 26, 1941, to Jean Renoir, who wanted Tyrone Power for a film he was preparing to direct called 'Swamp Water'.  Zanuck wrote "When you learn more about Power's work, you will realize he has a voice which could never be adaptable to this locale.  His voice is a quality voice and every effort we have made in the past to adapt it to 'backwoods' requirements has completely failed."  😄

 

 

 

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All I can think of contributing to this discussion is more Streep.

Her "Sophie's Choice" is remarkable.  Polish.  English with a Polish accent. German. German with a Polish accent.

I always found her "Out of Africa " accent fascinating.  I read a review which said the accent was not authentic, but never having heard English with a Danish accent, what do I know.....the reviewer said it was non-specific European,  whatever that means.  German, Dutch, Danish....

Her English accent in "Plenty" is quite good, and fully sustained throughout the entire film, which isn't always the case with some actors.

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12 minutes ago, Roy Cronin said:

I always found her "Out of Africa " accent fascinating.  I read a review which said the accent was not authentic, but never having heard English with a Danish accent, what do I know.....the reviewer said it was non-specific European,  whatever that means.  German, Dutch, Danish....

Yes, I'd agree with that.  My fraternal grandparents were from Denmark and sounded nothing like that, but an authentic sounding Scandinavian accent is extremely difficult to pull off.  Most people overdo it.   I just watched the dismal Bear Island (1979) with Vanessa Redgrave and Richard Widmark playing a Norwegian couple. I actually thought Widmark's accent was better than hers, but that's not saying much.

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Sometimes the accent plays the actor instead of the other way around. A particularly gruesome example is Rob Morrow in Quiz Show. In community theater productions of Tennessee Williams it's not uncommon for women who have grown up in the South to adopt extremely thick "Suthun ay-ac-see-unts."

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Was Morrow's Boston accent for the Goodwin character not good? I can't tell the difference. Then again, I saw the movie when it came out in '94 and I don't recall seeing it since, so, it's been a long time.

Heck, it's been so long, I don't even remember this scene.

 

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Just now, unwatchable said:

Was Morrow's Boston accent for the Goodwin character not good? I can't tell the difference. Then again, I saw the movie when it came out in '94 and I don't recall seeing it since.

The problem was that the performance was all accent and not much else. Morrow worked so hard on the extremely peculiar JFK-style accent that that's about all you get. A little flavoring of it here and there would have worked much better.

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I'm going to add the great British accent work in Spinal Tap by Christopher Guest.  This was especially difficult since most of the lines in this film were improvised.  Spinal Tap is really funny.  It's way out there but still reminds me of actual rock documentaries.  Great parody.

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