Pretty much everything we write about is influenced by Bill Simmons so let’s just drop the charade and flat out copy something he mentions. In his latest mailbag a reader asks him what the worst movie accents of all time are. The reader suggests Nic Cage’s southern accent in Con Air, Irish Maggie’s Irish accent in Caddyshack, and “Jon Voight’s South American child molester accent in Anaconda” (by the way, Anaconda is right up there with the worst movies ever made). Simmons adds Kevin Costner’s accents in JFK (Cajun), 13 Days (Boston), and Robin Hood (British). Simmons also points to DiCaprio in Body of Lies (Southern), Jack Nicholson in The Departed (Boston), Keanu Reeves in Dracula (origins unknown), Tom Cruise in Valkyrie (origins unknown), Don Cheadle in Ocean’s 11 (British), and James Van der Beek in Varsity Blues (Southern).
Immediately after reading this I gasped that Simmons failed to mention the worst accent in all of cinema. I figured what we’d do is try to come up with a list of bad accents and try to pin down the three worst ones, which will include the far and away winner (or loser) that Simmons failed to come up with. But before we do that, some things need to be said about the ones already listed.
I thought the Irish girl in Caddyshack was actually Irish, which means her accent was real and therefore not a candidate for the worst movie accent. Why would such a minor character like hers necessitate an Irish accent? The story is completely unaffected if she is Irish or from Nebraska or something, so why would she fake an Irish accent? Whatever the case, I can’t fully enjoy Caddyshack until I know if the actor playing Maggie is actually Irish or randomly faking that accent.
I feel like if someone stops trying to do the accent half way through the movie they can’t be considered ‘the worst movie accent of all time’. Case and point, Costner tries to be British for the first 30 minutes of Robin Hood and then just gives up. The 30 minutes when he was trying he was absolutely butchering the British accent, but the fact that he stops trying redeems him to a degree. Think about it, would you rather watch the movie while Costner talks like an American and everyone else is British or would you have rather had to suffer through him trying, and failing, to put on the accent? It’s weird that Robin Hood doesn’t have an accent and everyone else does, but I feel like it would be insufferable to have to listen to the whole movie if Costner had continued to speak with his awful British accent. The same goes for Nicholson in The Departed. He has the accent for the narration in the beginning of the movie and the few scenes after that, but then gives it up. So the fact that they spared us from their awful accents for most of the movie redeems them and so they can’t be listed as the worst accents in movie history. Nicholson gets me to the next point as well.
You are always more offended when someone screws up your accent. I didn’t really notice Nicholson’s poor Boston accent until Simmons pointed it out. Simmons is from Boston so of course he’s going to know when someone screws up his accent. Meanwhile, he’ll miss poor southern accents while I’ll get them right away because that’s my accent. But there is another larger point that is this: I attempt to do accents that aren’t my own for fun or to lovingly tease people. I particularly do British and South African accents. I think my impressions are good, but my special lady friend who is of British decent and grew up in Zimbabwe and South Africa insists they’re terrible. So to me, Cheadle’s British accent in Oceans 11 isn’t that bad. Likewise, DiCaprio’s accent in Blood Diamond is exactly how I sound when I do that same accent so I thought it was fine but I saw that movie in South Africa and the audience laughed when he opened his mouth for the first time with that accent.
The point is that this is all terribly subjective to a degree we’re all only truly experts on our own accent. However, the one thing we can objectively say is that the southern accent Keanu Reeves “treats” us too in Devil’s Advocate was the worst accent in the history of movies or any other medium of entertainment. I’ve lived here all my life and I have no idea what he thinks we talk like, but that ain’t it. It is light-years worst than anything I’ve ever heard, ever. Also Charlize Theron is his wife in that movie and butchers a southern accent in her own special way (but she’s super hot and South African so we all forgive her).
With all this in mind, go to the comment section and list any bad movie accents that have been omitted and try to come up with what you think are the top three bad movie accents.