Hollywood is always getting it wrong. Whether it’s a movie full of historical anachronisms, or a film set in a city where it obviously wasn’t shot, it’s clear that accuracy is not really all that important in most filmmaking. Nowhere is this as obvious as when a lead actor is cast to play a role that requires an accent that they just can’t seem to execute properly.
10. Charlie Wilson’s War – Julia Roberts
9. Devil’s Advocate – Keanu Reeves
8. Friday Night Lights – Lucas Black
No one could accuse Lucas Black of doing a bad southern accent, since his native Alabama lilt is his single most defining characteristic. However, it’s very different from how people speak in West Texas, where this football movie takes place. To Hollywood, one southern accent is the same as the next, so might as well save money on a dialect coach, right?
7. Young Guns – Emilio Estevez
New York native Emilio Esteves plays the famous outlaw Billy the Kid in this ill-conceived brat-pack western, and puts on a very sad approximation of a generic southwest accent. The irony of this debacle is that William Bonney (later known as Billy the Kid) was also born in New York to Irish immigrants. He spent much of his youth in New York and Indiana, and most likely did not have a southern accent at all.
6. The Green Mile – Tom Hanks
You gotta hand it to Tom for tackling this role, because those Louisiana accents are just really difficult to get right. The southern Louisiana accent almost sounds like a cross between the deep south accent and the New Jersey accent. This is evident if you listen to enough Credence Clearwater Revival (see: “Proud Mary”: “…big wheel keep on toynin’, proud mary keep on boynin'”). Tom did give it the old college try, but it just didn’t ring true. And he did so well with Forrest Gump (sigh).
5. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – Jude Law
Although some English actors can do American Southern accents very well, Jude Law is just not one of them. His role as Billy Hanson had him portraying a Georgia accent that is sadly very British sounding at times. Especially at one point when he’s telling Kevin Spacey, “Gimme twenty dollars, I need it to get f***ed tup” Americans never turn their “D’s” into “T’s” when mashing words together, if anything, the opposite is true.
4. Ghosts of Mississippi – Alec Baldwin
The New York native put his everything into this emotional thriller about assassinated civil-rights leader Medgar Evers. His attempt at a Mississippi accent is threadbare though, and seems to come and go, becoming more obvious on some words and completely absent on others.
3. Varsity Blues – Paul Walker
Although most people give James “I DON’T WANT. YER LAHF.” Van Der Beek credit for the worst accent in this film, Paul Walker’s is actually worse. Except for his trademark staccato elocution, Van Der Beek’s portrayal of a North Texas accent is pretty dead-on, whereas Walker’s thinly disguised California surfer accent is pretty obvious. Seems like he could have spent a few more hours with the dialect coach, and Van Der Beek, maybe a few less.
2. Con Air – Nicolas Cage
Set aside the horrible name of this equally horrible movie, and you’ll still be cringing at native New Yorker Nic Cage’s awful travesty of an Alabama accent. He reportedly worked with a dialect coach before filming, which makes his complete and utter failure even sadder.
1. Gone With the Wind – Leslie Howard
The quintessential film associated with the South was full of British actors. Three of the four main characters, Vivian Leigh, Olivia de Havilland and Leslie Howard were all English. Vivian Leigh pretty much set the standard for southern movie accents with her portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara, and although it was weaker, Olivia de Havilland at least made an attempt at matching her in her role as Melody Hamilton, while Leslie Howard, in his role as Ashley Wilkes, sounds nothing but English. It’s odd that no one stopped to wonder why this supposedly Southern gentleman sounded like he came from across the pond.