6. Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep’s prestigious reputation in the film community speaks for itself. She has been nominated for an Academy Award an insane 20 times. She has proven time and again that no role is a challenge. Her ability to embody real life characters and draw breathtaking emotion from the fictional ones has always been something to marvel at.
Streep is also an expert in the nuance of dialects and accents. The fact that two of her Oscar wins have come for roles in which she adopts an accent that is vastly different to her own speaks volumes. The three films she has won for are Kramer vs. Kramer, Sophie’s Choice and The Iron Lady.
In Sophie’s Choice she played tragic Polish immigrant Sophie Zawistowski, performing a notoriously authentic Polish accent. In The Iron Lady Streep played former English Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and won audiences over not only because of her spot-on English accent but for accurately incorporating all of Thatcher’s mannerisms, speech patterns, sounds and body language into the character.
Streep can of course adapt to the many American dialects also with her displaying a brilliant Southern accent in August: Osage Country and Californian (and a scarily accurate Julia Child) in Julie & Julia. She also showcased her talents further in The Bridges of Madison County by delivering a terrific Italian accent.
7. Peter Sellers
Peter Sellers is of course renowned for his ability to adopt several accents. This ability has afforded him a multitude of roles that would otherwise evade him. His consistent career has made him an acting icon in Britain, and the world over, and his comedy chops and dialect expertise helped him reach that title.
One of Seller’s most famous roles is of course Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther series. The bumbling French detective endeared Sellers to a plethora of fans and helped make him a comedy icon.
However, his most impressive dialectal work is perhaps best displayed in Stanley Kubrick’s treasured comedy Dr. Strangelove. In the film Sellers plays three roles, each with their own accent. The fact that at times these characters often interact with each other highlights the contrast between the voices and emphasizes the man’s great talent. In the film he displays his own accent (English) as Captain Mandrake, Midwestern American as President Muffley and German as Dr. Strangelove himself.
8. Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo is undoubtedly one of the greatest actors of his generation and with The Revenant he finally got to put that Oscar on his mantle piece. DiCaprio even managed to lose the heart throb persona and become one of the hardest working and most talented performers to ever grace the screen. His talent has also been confirmed by the prestigious directors that flock to work with him, from Martin Scorsese to Alejandro G. Inarritu.
Part of what makes DiCaprio such a compelling actor is his ability to become the character he is playing. He throws his all at a role; adopting every aspect of that character and making them seem real. He has displayed his ability to draw out the subtle differences between American dialects in such films as The Departed, Catch Me If You Can, The Aviator and The Great Gatsby.
However, his crowning achievement in dialect work is his near-spot-on delivery of an African Creole in Blood Diamond. African dialects are notoriously difficult to master for non-African actors. Attempts by respected actors have often left them a laughing stock. Therefore, it is even more impressive that DiCaprio is able to do so well at accurately performing a nuance African dialect.
9. Christian Bale
Christian Bale is a cinematic icon thanks to his roles in Christopher Nolan’s films (in particular his Batman films) and other iconic performances such as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. He has a notorious reputation as a passionate artist with a short temper and it is perhaps this part of his personality that makes him so compelling to watch on screen.
Despite taking mostly American roles, Bale is actually from Wales. You can often see his native accent displayed in many of his early roles but he has made a name for himself in America with his uncanny ability to adopt any American accent. He has delivered a brilliant Boston accent in The Fighter, a brilliant New Jersey accent in American Hustle, an authentic New York accent in Newsies and a preppy middle-class accent in American Psycho.
Bale has also mastered many English dialects such as Northern in Velvet Goldmine and working-class London in The Prestige. Even more impressive is his delivery of an Italian accent in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
10. Kate Winslet
An acting giant of her generation, Kate Winslet has made a name for herself by delivering subtle performances backed-up with a lot of emotional depth. She has become a screen icon thanks to her role in The Titanic but it is in the smaller roles she has taken where the actress has really displayed her enormous talent.
Committed to the art of filmmaking, Winslet has never let barriers of any kind step in the way of her getting a role. A large part of taking down these barriers is working extensively with dialect coaches so she is able to hit the subtle nuances of any given accent. Before we delve into some of the more challenging accents she has approached, it is important to note that Winslet is English. This is important because she has, convincingly, played an American on a number of occasions and has mastered the accent so well you’d be forgiven for thinking she was native to the US.
The most challenging accents she has conquered on film surprisingly came a little later in her career. In The Reader, she displayed an impressive German accent. She then moved on to deliver a truly magnificent Australian accent in The Dressmaker. Finally, she made waves with her portrayal of Steve Jobs’ Polish assistant Joanna Hoffman in Steve Jobs.
Author Bio: A movie lover from England with a passion for writing about cinema. Luke’s movie watching career has taken him from watching Jackie Chan movies on school nights to graduating with a masters degree in film studies.