British "foreign" accents

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by B_hijack, Apr 18, 2010.

  1. B_hijack

    B_hijack New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2010
    Messages:
    143
    Likes Received:
    1
    Gender:
    Male
    Whenever Hollywood has a large number of cast members who speak some European language, they often use British accents.


    Star Trek - The Next Generation: The "French" Jean-Luc Picard has a British accent.

    HBO's Rome: They all have a British accent. Octavian's is particularly thick.

    Enemy at the Gates: All of the Russians speak Proper English.

    300: Anthony Hopkins plays Ptolemy without having to study any dialect.


    Why is this done? Are British accents more prestigious? Is it less distracting for English-speaking audiences to hear, say, German or Russian accents?

    I remember watching Maximillion Schell in Judgment in Nuremberg and thought he did just fine. I loved how they had him start speaking German and then switched to English; it was barely noticeable. Here is a sample. Angelina Jolie's accent in Alexander was supposedly irritating to audiences.

    The other alternative, besides accent fidelity, would be subtitles. I'll confess, I don't care for subtitles.

    Can anybody think of any other movies where non-English characters use a British accent?
     
  2. Mr. Snakey

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2006
    Messages:
    24,702
    Likes Received:
    25
    Speaking as American, most Americans find a British accent very appealing. More so than the other accents. The phrase the kings english comes to mind. America has had a long love affair with British movies, music, comedy and culture for many years now. It is only natural the movie industry reflect that.
     
  3. arthurdent

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2006
    Messages:
    2,936
    Albums:
    5
    Likes Received:
    339
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    High Wycombe (GB)
    Could it simply be that most of the non-English characters to which you are referring, are played by British actors speaking with their natural accent?

    Patrick Stewart, Max Pirkis, Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law and Joseph Fiennes are all British actors.
     
  4. TurkeyWithaSunburn

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Messages:
    3,543
    Albums:
    5
    Likes Received:
    252
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Denver, Colorado
    That would be my theory too.
     
  5. Mem

    Mem
    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2006
    Messages:
    8,087
    Likes Received:
    8
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    FL
    I think they feel that the English accent makes everyone sound more regal and important. Imagine if that Rome series was done with an American accent or a Jersey/NY Italian accent.
     
  6. cklover

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2006
    Messages:
    1,362
    Albums:
    1
    Likes Received:
    4
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    New England
    There are so many super-talented British actors who play non-starring character roles too...the accent means different things to different American ears, but I've always loved the enunciation, precise grammar without seeming stuffy, maybe that clipped, efficient speech...the more Brits, the merrier as far as I'm concerned!:smile:
     
  7. SomeGuyOverThere

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2004
    Messages:
    1,496
    Likes Received:
    5
    Gender:
    Male
    Apart from the obvious that many of the actors are actually British anyway, the other would be that the Received Pronunciation "British" accent was developed to be very easy to understand. Very few people over here actually sound like that - I actually do, which is quite funny because I'm Scottish. I find that people from anywhere but England think I'm English, (though the Coloradans tended to think I was Australian) but people who have actually lived in England and know the accents can't place me at all because I sound stereotypically English rather than from anywhere in particular.

    The Received Pronunciation (RP) accent was developed IIRC for radio by the BBC. The initial reception was terrible and you had to speak clearly to be understood, so presenters were trained in RP. Now it's not used so much and often the news readers will speak with their actual accent.

    I speak in a sort of RP accent because I spent some of my early years at the British School of Paris where we were encouraged to speak with the generic RP "British Accent". If I'd been brought up in my actual homeland my accent would be an Aberdonian accent. Mercifully I wasn't, as the Aberdonian way of speaking sounds like you've shoved a haggis down your throat and are trying to politely hide it while speaking.


    Footnote: And if anyone is wondering, Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Island are Countries but they are all part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island which is a Sovereign Nation. "Great Britain" is the main island of the archipelago (on it are Scotland, England and Wales) and is often used as a short hand to refer to the UK.
     
    #7 SomeGuyOverThere, May 24, 2010
    Last edited: May 24, 2010
  8. SilverTrain

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2008
    Messages:
    4,582
    Albums:
    8
    Likes Received:
    404
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    USA
    It's Nothern Ireland, yes? (forgive the Yank with the spelling obsession)

    As to the OP, surely the main point is the wealth of British actors with vast reserves of talent, range and charisma. Often these actors do adopt a "foreign" accent (e.g., German, Russian, et. al.). However, on many occasions they just use their own accents even when playing a "foreigner". Both are practices which American actors (and Australian, French, German, etc., etc.) employ all the time as well. Nothing new under the sun, then, really.
     
  9. Jason

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2004
    Messages:
    9,926
    Likes Received:
    639
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    London (GB)
    Yes it's Northern Ireland.

    Americans are often surprised at just how regional many of the British Isles accents are. Pretty much every city has its own form, while in the countryside the Victorian observation that each county has its own accent still has some merit. The situation has been modified by people moving around, but not as much as you might imagine. It is still possible to place many people simply by their accent. There are also class-based accents.
     
  10. rob_just_rob

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2005
    Messages:
    6,037
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    Nowhere near you
    The best was Sean Connery in Highlander. Supposedly playing a Spanish character, he didn't even attempt it, lol.

    And on the flipside, Kevin Costner as Robin Hood. Completely incongruous accent there.
     
  11. B_crackoff

    B_crackoff New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2010
    Messages:
    1,742
    Likes Received:
    0
    You haven't seen Russel Crowe as Robin Hood then! It switches throughout the film - Irish, Scouse, a very vague Yorkshire, & a wee bit of Brummie! He should have kept the accent he used for Gladiator.

    I think that Jake Gyllenhall uses a Brit accent in Prince of Persia.

    To the OP, I think that they use British actors to play the enemy - a lot, whereas the US actors are the swaggering carefree charismatic heroes.
     
  12. B_hijack

    B_hijack New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2010
    Messages:
    143
    Likes Received:
    1
    Gender:
    Male
    No, but it still irks me. I watched the [very disappointing] finale of LOST last night, and I noticed that the Iraqi soldier, Sayid, had a British accent. People never seem to question the authenticity--although I believe that this actor, Naveen Andrews, is British.

    Why would an American actor choose to use a British accent when playing, say, a German? It seems to me that one accent is as difficult to learn as the other. Jude Law played a young Russian soldier in Enemy at the Gates and he had his usual brit accent. There is a clear bias here, but why? Are proper British accents more pleasant?
     
  13. Sergeant_Torpedo

    Gold Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Messages:
    1,409
    Likes Received:
    4
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    UK
    I think this happens because educated and upper class (real or assumed) mainland Europeans are well educated and choose standard or received English (Britain has many regional and class accents) rather than the North American version.


    I do love it though when Hollywood directors make RADA educated Sheakespearean actors from Britain speak like Cockneys in the 1930s. On a recent Law and Order episode the English nanny sounded like Eliza Doolittle. What a hoot. And it would seem kind of weird to hear a continental royal speaking English with a New York accent.

    Leave our speech style and diction alone! Ha!
     
Draft saved Draft deleted