American actors playing Shakespeare...?

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by superbot, Sep 16, 2009.

  1. superbot

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    Apparently the American actor Nicholas Cage is against the idea,claiming it just doesn't sound right.Personally it sounds much more stilted to me when Americans try to do Shakespeare attempting an English accent.What are the pro's and con's?...
     
  2. Principessa

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    First off,
    Nicholas Cage is a bipolar whackadoo. Secondly, I don't think they sound any worse than all the Brit and Aussie actors who try to do a Brooklyn, NY or southeast American accent. Third, I thought Laurence Fishburne did pretty good as Othello.
     
  3. DiscoBoy

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    I think Meryl Streep could single-handedly play every role in any Shakespearean play and still be nominated for and awarded an Oscar for her performance(s). :rolleyes::tongue:
     
  4. Bbucko

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    There was a touch of genius in Jessica Lange's acting in Titus.
     
  5. hoolibubba

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  6. Northland

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    I had trouble getting past that joke. When did Cage become an actor? All I've seen him do is prance around on film looking like a damned fool, which isn't acting.
     
  7. nudeyorker

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    I think that a good actor, with a qualified vocal coach can do any role and accent within their range. Meryl Streep was mentioned; she has understood the importance of vocal training for a role. By no means Shakespeare but Hugh Laurie's vocal training has paid off brilliantly in his portrayal of Dr House.
     
  8. SilverTrain

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    I found his work in "Birdy" adventurous and interesting.

    Of course, I liked him in "Valley Girl" as well.

    Lately, though, he just seems kinda like a tool.
     
  9. JustAsking

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    Are there any American actors who do a good job with British roles? I watched some of Emma with Glyneth Paltrow and she didn't ring true to my untrained ear. Neither does Anne Hathaway in Becoming Jane.

    I find it fascinating that Hugh Laurie does such a great American accent. I am very good at placing accents, however, I Laurie's accent is hard to place regionally. It is very flat and non-regional. However, one could watch the TV show House and never once suspect that he is not an American.
     
  10. Bbucko

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    Though I'm not a fan of hers generally, I thought that Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary was completely convincing.
     
  11. JustAsking

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    On the other hand, Donald Sutherland's accent in the recent Pride and Prejudice movie was dreadful even to my American ear. I was almost embarassed for him. What's the deal with casting him for Mr. Bennett when everything else about the production was superb?
     
  12. pleasureboy

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    Actually from a true linguistic standpoint, Shakespeare would have sounded most like he were from West Virginia or Kentucky than from London. Of course I personally wouldn't like to hear Jeff Foxworthy playing Romeo so I can understand the urge to us an RP accent.
     
  13. Bbucko

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    Didn't see it. But it sounds really awful. Sutherland's got a beautiful voice but a very American one. It seems to me as though England has plenty of talent without needing to import him.
     
  14. Ethyl

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    Totally disagree. It isn't necessary to imitate an English accent (though it can be done with proper coaching). I once dated the Artistic Director/actor of a Shakespearean theatre and he's mesmerising to the ear as well as the eye. His approach? "Less is more". Costumes and stage sets are minimal and no accents are attempted. His shows sell out on a regular basis.
     
  15. SpoiledPrincess

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    I find Gwyneth's English accent impeccable, however Renee's was all over the place. I have no problem with an American actor playing Shakespeare, he's as likely to be able to imitate what we believe to be an accent of that time as an English actor is.
     
  16. jason_els

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    Shakespeare belongs to the world. I expect to see his plays performed in just about every language under the sun. It doesn't matter if they're performed with an accent or not. Do his Italy-based plays require an Italian accent? Hell no. What difference does the accent make if the play is performed outside the playwright's native land? Nobody in the American version of Lloyd-Webber productions affects a British accent of any sort nor should they simply because the dramatist's English. As they say, the play's the thing; not the author or the country it came out of.

    And if you think American's can't do Shakespeare, you haven't seen Joseph Manckiewicz's Julius Caesar. Brando is stunning as Marc Antony and he's playing with some true aces of Shakespearean theater who more than hold their own. Eleven minutes that will blow you away.
     
    #16 jason_els, Sep 17, 2009
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2009
  17. superbot

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    Er, Shakespeare was a Brummie!!
     
  18. JustAsking

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    There are so many layers to Shakespeare that what you say here is true. However, I do think there is something about the words being spoken in the original language and accent that captures the cadence and vowel-play of Shakespeare.

    A good example is some great poem that is translated into another language. All the imagery and references are there, but one important aspect of the original poem is lost.

    On the other hand, in my naivete, I relate to Shakespeare when it is spoken by an actor who seems to own the words, as if he is saying them for the first time. Truly great acting makes the archaic words sound completely believable even to a modern ear. This particular Brando clip does it for me. Isn't this believable?
     
  19. Calboner

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    Even though Stratford and Birmingham are in different counties? Anyway, his players would have spoken with London accents, I believe.

    We know a fair amount about the phonetics of English speech in Shakespeare's time, in that dialectologists have reconstructed which vowels were assigned to which syllables, how they were differentiated from each other in quality, which consonants were pronounced and which ones dropped, and so on. But this still gives no very good idea of the auditory Gestalt that the accent presented to the ear. A person who is acquainted with a variety of accents can recognize them, or at least can tell when someone is speaking with an unfamiliar accent, within a few syllables, sometimes in an instant. What we think of as "an accent" is not just a matter of individual sounds but of qualities of vocal timbre and intonation. On these points, we know almost nothing about how the players of the Globe Theatre would have sounded.
     
  20. pleasureboy

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    One thing we tend to forget is that Shakespeare was in fact the Blue Collar Comedy of the day. His was not an audience of the elite, but the working classes -- well all the classes of London. His humour was actually quite vulgar in many respects. Many of his actors would have also spoken in something more street than elite.

    But seriously the best preserved dialect to those common in Elizabethan times is that of the Appalachian region of the US -- Hillbilly basically.

    Imagining it in that dialect kind of takes the refined edge off of Ole Willie doesn't it lol?
     
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