or an actor playing a Briton is one of the hardest parts of the job finding the accent.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets it right. For every Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones (flawless), there exists a minimum of misjudged vowels and so-so consonants when aliens try to sound authentic.
With Moon Knight set to hit screens soon, criticism has already swirled around Oscar Isaacs’ attempt at a London accent.
Fortunately for him, he is not the first to make a mistake. Here is our list of the worst offenders: Cover your ears …
Dick Van Dyke, Mary Poppins
The place where accents come to die. Dick Van Dyke’s infamous broken Cockney twang winds his way around the British Isles before landing somewhere in the Atlantic, but he carries it off with such a brio that you forgive him for it.
After the film came out, Van Dyke defended his portrayal of the chimney sweep Bert, saying he “worked with an entire English cast and no one said a word” about how bad it was. However, he has since apologized (at Bafta’s in 2017, no less), for exposing the audience to the “most gruesome Cockney accent in the film’s history.” Listen, listen.
Don Cheadle, Ocean’s Eleven
For no apparent reason, American Don Cheadle chose to play his character Basher Tarr as a Briton, despite the fact that the vast majority of Ocean’s franchise takes place in the United States.
Cheadle plays the electronics expert of the theft and tries to sound like a London criminal – and even saw more than a hundred hours of Michael Caine appearances to bring his accent to life. Unfortunately for him, it was dead on arrival.
Charlie Hunnam, Green Street Hooligans
Sometimes even the British fail to bring out British accents, and the dubious recognition goes to Geordie Charlie Hunnam, whose turn as Cockney in the American film Green Street Hooligans fell a little bit.
Tune in and get ready for the spectacle of Elijah Wood being trained in the nuances of rhyming slang by a man whose voice cannot be clearly attached to a place. Better luck next time?
Shia LaBeouf, nymphomaniac
What do you get if you put together America wild card Shia LaBeouf, a violent sex movie and a Cockney accent? The answer seems to be: a mess. During Lars von Trier’s bizarre film, LaBeouf quarrels between American and Cockney to create a pan-Atlantic catch-all dialect that proves to be more than a little distracting to listen to. Probably more distracting than the sexy itself.
Karl Urban, The Boys
As a Lord of the Rings alumni, one would think that Karl Urban would be able to get a British accent. And he can. But in the ultra-bloody superhero satire The Boys, he goes for a bizarre Cockney hybrid that ends up being more than a little confusing. Is that Cockney? Is that his attempt at tough-boy Brits? Or is it really a creation that he himself has created? The jury is still out.
Keanu Reaves, Dracula
Hollywood hotshot Keanu Reaves has proven time and time again that he can kill it on the big screen – and actually kill the guys responsible for his dog’s death. But unfortunately, a British accent is still on his hit list. In the retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula from 1992, Reeves plays the nice guy Jonathan Harker opposite Gary Oldman’s titular vampire.
Unfortunately, although the film generally received positive reviews, the accents came in for a particular toast. Not one to revisit – or actually revive.