If you’ve been an Anglotopia reader for a while, you might remember one of my first articles focusing on bad British accents by American actors. Well, now it’s time to do the reverse and focus on a few Brits whose American accent never fully develops, no matter how many times they play an American. Typically, a bad American accent has two forms: either the actors attempts a Southern accent, where the pronunciation of words is supposedly the same as it was in Britain before the American Revolution; or they go as deep and gravel-like as possible (because the deeper your voice is, the tougher you sound). Without further ado, here are my pics for the worst offenders.
1. Nicola Bryant
Doctor Who fans familiar with the classic series will recognize Ms. Bryant as companion Peri Brown, who spent a short time traveling with the Fifth Doctor and was the primary companion for the Sixth Doctor. Supposedly a college student from California, producers opted to cast the Surry-born Bryant, quite possibly for her looks (her first appearance has her in a bikini and she’s rarely without a low-cut blouse). Throughout her time in the TARDIS, her American accent slips constantly, most evident in the pronunciation of decidedly-British words and her vowel sounds. Since leaving the show in 1986, she has not taken on other American roles, and there’s probably a good reason for that.
2. Ewan McGregor
Every time I hear a bad American South accent on television and film, it’s readily apparent that the actor’s knowledge of the South is limited to the stereotypes they’ve seen in other films and television programmes. Ewan is no different in the movie Big Fish, where he plays a younger Edward Bloom, a Southern man adept at telling tall tales that eventually prove to have a grain of truth. I would say that it’s just because I know he’s Scottish, but I ask you to review for further evidence Black Hawk Down, The Men Who Stare at Goats, and The Island (which is most noticeable considering his clone speaks with an American accent, while his L.A. “sponsor” uses his natural Scottish accent).
3. Liam Neeson
I have a lot of fun attempting to imitate his brogue, but his attempts to do an American accent always fail. Perhaps the earliest example comes from the movie Darkman, in which Neeson played Peyton Westlake, a scientist whose attorney girlfriend ends up getting him left for dead by a mobster, only to become a vigilante. Another egregious example comes in the Taken films, where he plays former CIA operative Bryan Mills, a role which made me wonder when the CIA began hiring Irishmen. It’s essentially gotten to the point where, like Sean Connery, Neeson doesn’t try. It’s better for us all, because his own voice is awesome.
4. Colin Salmon
Despite my love of his performances in many films and television roles, Colin Salmon is another British actor who cannot do an American accent. Having to watch him attempt American FBI Agent Paul Budiansky, he helped solidify my theory that there are only two types of American accents most British actors can do. Some actors just seem to equate a scratchy voice to sounding like a tough guy, and that’s exactly what Salmon does for the film. It doesn’t get any better for his turn as James Shade in Resident Evil: Retribution or as Walter Steele on Arrow.
5. Cary Elwes
There’s a bit of irony that Elwes once argued that he made for a believable Robin Hood because he could speak with “an authentic English accent.” While he’s been acting in America for decades, the American accent is seemingly one thing he can’t pull off despite repeated roles in films such as The Chase, Glory, Liar Liar, and the Saw franchise. Apparently, at one point his agent told him to lose his English accent, but it just doesn’t seem to take. Even in his interviews he doesn’t quite pull off an American, even though he clearly tries. Good night, Wesley, perhaps you’ll kill it tomorrow.
Which British actor has the worst American accent? Share your thoughts in the comments below!