Perfecting an accent is hard, but once you’ve made the choice, you need to stick with it however bad it is - see Robert Downey Jr. in Dolittle.
"It's a passable Welsh accent, which is good for me," the actor said on The Graham Norton Show recently.
"I wanted to do something different after Sherlock and Chaplin and I'd read about this nutty doctor from the 19th century, Dr Price, so I based my character on him."
He later admitted that mastering the accent was “one of the most mortifying things” he’d ever attempted.
And most film critics wished he hadn’t. “His line readings are all over the map. Can he no longer speak human?,” mused one review.
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At least RDJ stuck to his guns though, as these actors clearly decided that maintaining their foreign dialect throughout the duration of an entire production was just too difficult.
Sean Connery – The Untouchables
Why, Sean? You played an English spy as a Scot, you played a Russian submarine captain as a Scot. But for some reason, the Bond legend thought that he’d give an Irish brogue (via Chicago) a whirl for this brilliant 1987 gangster pic.
At least he did initially. As the film progresses, it’s like he realises that despite being a fantastic actor in a great role, he was wrong to test his accent comfort zone and slips back into his Edinburgh twang.
The Academy didn’t mind – he won an Oscar for his performance.
Kevin Costner – Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Costner is a great movie star, but he’s as American as the Stars and Stripes. The legend goes that he originally intended to portray Robin with an English accent but it was nixed when director Kevin Reynolds heard the results.
If you watch the film, the actor clearly doesn’t want to let go of his initial plan and at first there’s a British tinge to his delivery. Obviously his director’s directive was eventually acknowledged and by the end you may as well be watching Robin of Yosemite Forest.
Christopher Lambert – Highlander
A Frenchman as a character called Connor MacLeod – what could possibly go wrong?
Lambert was a fairly late replacement as the hero of this cracking 80s B movie and it wasn’t until he had signed his contract that the filmmakers realised he could barely speak English, let alone with a Scottish accent.
He gives it a go – sort of – but it’s best for all concerned that they pretend it never happened.
Halle Berry – X-Men
Debate rages amongst comic book fans over whether Ororo Munroe – aka Storm – should even have an African accent, as despite being the daughter of a Kenyan princess, she was actually brought up in Cairo and Harlem.
Berry does seem to attempt some kind of generic African accent, even if it dips into West Indian, but she doesn’t really commit to it. By the end, it’s gone – and by the time X2 came around three years later, it was ditched altogether.
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When a younger version of the character was reintroduced in X-Men: Apocalypse, Alexandra Shipp reintroduced an accent.
Michael Fassbender – X-Men: First Class
There’s no doubt he’s one of the best actors working today, but although he’s of German-Irish origin, Fassbender’s accent as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto definitely errs more and more towards the latter as the mutant prequel progresses.
The star himself has a – sort of – explanation for what he was trying to do, telling IGN, “I’m kind of using my own accent and taking out as much Irish-ness as I can…Because he’s not English and he didn’t really have any sort of history in England. But I think he is well-educated… so I’m just trying to play a more neutral version of my own accent.”
Jason Statham – The Transporter
Frankly, it’s been impossible to tell what kind of accent the Stath has been going for ever since Snatch.
As the eponymous hero here, it’s like he’s making some kind of political statement and suggesting America never truly got their independence from the British – at least if his Yank accent is anything to go by.
It probably is more difficult to deliver lines in a different dialect while kicking people in the face, which is why Jase stops trying.
The filmmakers, the film company, hell everybody realised that it wasn’t worth bothering for the sequels and so the Transporter underwent an accent retcon for the remainder of the franchise.
Keanu Reeves – Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Everybody loves Keanu, but hearing him enunciate “Be-you-da-pest” (that’s Budapest to you and me) in what is supposed to be an English accent is one of the most excruciatingly hilarious things ever committed to celluloid.
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The star must have been deeply excited to take on the role of Jonathan Harker, a classic literary character, but doing British was just too hard and it shows on-screen.
Thankfully, he seems to stop trying as the film goes on – not that his performance gets any better.