Good acting takes many forms. Some actors build character from the outside using make up or costume. Others work from the inside, looking for motivation and backstory. Actors can also use accents to show their skill – think of Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice
, Gael Garcia Bernal in The King
, or Brad Pitt
. Others use accents for comic effect, like Peter Sellers' silly French one as Inspector Clouseau. And some, like Tom Cruise as a German in Valkyrie
, don't even attempt one. But for every Streep there's a dozen Keanu Reeves. Here's a list of the most abysmal attempts at accents.
Having the former Andy Hardy
star Mickey Rooney play Audrey Hepburn's buck-toothed and bespectacled Japanese landlord Mr. Yunioshi has to be one of the worst casting decisions ever. Rooney delivers one of the most cringe-inducing accents and performances of all time here. Rooney exaggerates the accent to offensive (even racist) proportions. His Mr. Yunioshi screaming down the stairs, "Miss Horry Gorightry," is almost enough to ruin this delightful romance.
Rooney may have had the single most offensive accent but Keanu Reeves
has to take honors as the actor who most consistently fails at accents. You'd think that someone would realize his inability to say anything more convincing than "Whoa," but alas he keeps getting cast in roles where he's asked to not only emote but also to assume an accent. His offenses were too numerous to limit to one film. Most of the time Keanu's bad accent stands out but at least in Dracula
it helped to make people like Winona Ryder
© Warner Home Video
Some American actors should just never try playing Brits, and especially not legendary heroes like Robin Hood. Kevin Costner's
accent came and went throughout the film. You keep hoping Alan Rickman (with a real British accent) as the Sheriff of Nottingham would just kill him and put us out of our misery. The only good thing is that Costner made Christian Slater's
accent sound good…well, almost.
© Magnolia Home Entertainment
The title alone is asking for trouble but then casting Demi Moore
as a British businesswoman in the '60s just opens the floodgates for ridicule. The film attempts to excuse her wavering British accent by saying her character is an Oxford-educated American. Director Michael Radford apparently instructed her "to do an accent like Terry Gilliam's who is an American who has lived in Britain for years." He should have instructed her to play all her scenes in the nude and then no one would notice the accent at all.
"Just relax, darlin'. This is the Big Easy. Folks have a certain way o' doin' things down here." Including giving everyone a fake Cajun accent and having Dennis Quaid
end most of his exchanges by calling the person he's talking to, "Cher." The film's still fun, but the accent makes locals cringe.
© Universal Home Studios
should have been asked to give her Oscars back after this disastrous turn as an L.A. socialite with a dark secret. Her strangely clipped, aristocratic accent is a complete distraction and ends up just sounding affected and snobbish.
© Good Times Video
Technically, John Wayne didn't try to use a Mongolian accent to play the Mongol Emperor Genghis Khan, but the sight of the iconic western star in Asiatic eye-makeup and Fu-Manchu moustache was laughable. Then he tried to deliver overwrought prose like, "I regret that I am without sufficient spittle to salute you as you deserve," or "She is woman, Jamuga, much woman. Should her perfidy be less than that of other women?" Take that pilgrim!
© Walt Disney Pictures
All right, we all love Dick Van Dyke but as Bert the charming chimney sweep in this Disney classic, his accent is far from realistic. Maybe you can justify it by saying that it's a comic role in a children's film, but even then it's still bad. His attempt at a British cockney accent was deemed so awful that the term "Van Dyke accent" is used in England to describe failed attempts by Americans to sound British. 'Nuff said, guv'ner?
© MGM Home Entertainment
Years before he was a star, Humphrey Bogart was a studio player who took on whatever roles they handed him. Here he plays an Irish horse trainer. Fortunately, Bette Davis' performance as a dying woman distracted everyone from Bogie's atrocious attempt at an Irish brogue. Mercifully, Bogart became a star with such a distinctive voice that he was never again asked to assume an accent.
© 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Okay, Arnold's accent is real but that doesn't mean it can't be bad. In this film he must have angered the writer who retaliated by giving him the most difficult lines to read in his fractured English. A prime example: "She was moohrdered, mootilated, and mohlested…" The Terminator had it right; limit his dialogue to just a few words. "I'll be back."
Special Category: Out of Town New Yorkers
These New York natives didn't bother to cover up their accents even though they were far from home and sent back in time: Al Pacino in Revolution, Harvey Keitel as Judas in The Last Temptation of Christ, and Tony Curtis in The Black Shield of Falworth. Youse think I need dem accents? Nah!