5. Cameron Diaz – Gangs of New York
Gangs of New York was a wildly popular film starring some of the most prolific and talented actors of our time – Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, John C. Reilly, and, bafflingly, Cameron Diaz. While Diaz did a fairly admirable job considering the heavy-hitters she was up against, her accent left much to be desired. She spends half of the film talking with a loud, overexaggerated Irish brogue which all but disappears in scenes where she’s speaking quietly.
Diaz is not the only offender in this sprawling film portraying the tensions between Irish immigrants and Americans in 1800’s New York. Aishling Phelan, of the Irish newspaper The Independent, wrote in 2014, “Playing Leonardo DiCaprio’s Irish love interest in Gangs of New York, actress Cameron Diaz sounded just like her normal self as she attempted to emulate the dulcet Irish lilt. Acting legend DiCaprio was even worse and forgot his character in many parts of the film, sounding like he was just plucked from his native Los Angeles.”
Luckily for Gangs of New York, it had a flawless Daniel Day-Lewis to carry it through it’s 168-minute run time, dazzling all of us with his acting abilities and distracting us from the film’s flaws.
4. Dick Van Dyke – Mary Poppins
There’s no arguing that Mary Poppins isn’t a classic, charming, creative children’s movie that’s been beloved for over 50 years. That being said, Dick Van Dyke does a ridiculously silly Cockney accent throughout the entire film that he seemed to adopt with absolutely no practice or training. Despite the film’s massive popularity Van Dyke has gotten plenty of grief for his accent over the years.
Speaking to a crowd at the Princess Grace Foundation Awards in Beverly Hills while picking up his Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014, he said, “People in the UK love to rib me about my accent, I will never live it down. They ask what part of England I was meant to be from and I say it was a little shire in the north where most of the people were from Ohio.”
In the past, Van Dyke has added that since all of the other actors he was working with on the Mary Poppins set were British and none of them corrected him, he assumed he sounded fine. Why Julie Andrews remained silent, we may never know.
3. Keanu Reeves – Dracula
In the past few years Keanu Reeves has really hit his stride. With the success of the John Wick movies, Hollywood has finally recognized what role Reeves plays best – the quiet, brooding action hero. Unfortunately, Reeves still has a few terrible dramatic performances under his belt and one of them is definitely his long-reviled role in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula.
To say that he slips in and out of his terrible British accent in this film would be a massive understatement. Reeves seems to regularly forget that he’s supposed to be British halfway through his lines, which are delivered lifelessly. Judging by the accent he occasionally slips into, it starts to feel as though his Bill and Ted character has been transported to 19th century Transylvania.
One other thing that makes Reeves’ performance particularly difficult to watch is the fact that he’s paired up against a tremendous Gary Oldman, who manages to pull of a Transylvanian accent without sounding cheesy, a truly difficult feat if you’ve seen most other Dracula films.
2. Julia Roberts – Mary Reilly
When Julia Roberts is at her best, she is anything but subtle. From Pretty Woman to Erin Brockovich, Robert’s most powerful performances have involved her playing strong, outgoing women who aren’t afraid to speak their minds.
In Mary Reilly, her character’s main function is to serve as a quiet, terrified observer of the events surrounding this re-imagining of Jekyll and Hyde, and she is wildly miscast. Her acting is stiff and she is completely immemorable in this waste or a role. Unfortunately, the only thing many people do recall about this film is Robert’s awful Irish accent, which is inconsistent at best and at worst sounds like she’s from the Florida panhandle rather than Dublin.
Amazingly, Robert’s obtained this accent with the help of a dialect coach, who was either woefully unfit for the job or somehow in on the joke.
1. Kevin Costner – Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Coming off of the wild success of Dances With Wolves, it’s not surprising that Kevin Costner decided to tackle another period drama immediately following it. What is surprising is that he thought he could pull off a British accent, which has since gone down in history has one of cinema’s worst attempts.
It’s tough to say if this is even a fair assessment though, considering he all but abandons the accent for the majority of the film, opting instead for just speaking as quietly as possible so no one can even tell exactly what dialect he is going for.
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is a violent, unnecessary film that takes itself far too seriously. The best thing that can be said for it is that it led to the infinitely more entertaining Robin Hood: Men in Tights, which was a parody film but still had the insight to cast an actual British man in the titular role.