20 January 2017 | 7 °C

The 12 Dodgiest London Accents You’ll Ever Hear

By Stuart Black Last edited 12 months ago
The 12 Dodgiest London Accents You’ll Ever Hear

You’d think being able to do the odd accent was an essential part of being an actor, but when it comes to sounding like a Londoner, it seems odd accents are all some actors can do. From wayward Westminster to wonky Cock-er-nee, here are the very best of the worst.

Don Cheadle in Ocean’s Eleven

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled off was convincing Don Cheadle he could sound like a grimy London criminal. He can’t. Though the results are hypnotic and we’d love a spin-off movie all about Basher Tarr please. Apparently, Cheadle watched 100 hours of non-stop Michael Caine performances to hone this masterpiece of bad mouthwork — but ended up taking his name off the film’s credits.

Charlie Hunnam in Green Street Hooligans

You have to pity poor Elijah Wood — the little lost American is here being coached in how to talk tough by a man whose accent is so ludicrous it would cause rival footy fans to guffaw Bovril through their nostrils. And since you ask, Hunnam is a Geordie, though there’s not a trace of anything from anywhere in the British Isles in anything he says.

Mischa Barton in St. Trinian's

You’d never believe she was born in Hammersmith, would you? Perhaps Barton should have taken her own advice as former St. Trinian's head-girl and PR guru to the stars JJ French: “Keep from talking, that’s the game.”

Shia LaBeouf in Nymphomaniac

The paper bag-wearing plagiarist’s name is an exact anagram of Bulshif Aieaoe — which is what you’ll be screaming after listening to his misfiring Londonese in Lars von Trier’s naughty and not particularly nice sex flick. (There's a bit more here — but be prepared to cringe).

Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor in Cassandra's Dream

“What are we saying?” asks a deeply confused Ewan McGregor at the start of this trailer for Woody Allen’s misguided London-set crime caper. And no wonder he’s so befuddled; between him and on-screen bruvva Colin Farrell, the two chew through about six different accents in these three minutes alone. As Farrell says by the end: “I’m starting to fink I don’t know you Ian.” (There's bmore here).

Keanu Reeves in Dracula

Hard to know which is worse: Keanu's phoney accent or acting so wooden they could have used him as the stake to impale the vampire. He is possibly the most frightening thing about Francis Ford Coppola's soppy take on Bram Stoker.

Russell Crowe in A Good Year

The Crowe chooses a plummy public school accent to play condescending banker-wanker Max Skinner. It’s not that far off, but Crowe needs to be included on this list for his repeated crimes against accents (his roaming dialect in Robin Hood led him to storm out of this interview when Mark Lawson gave it faint praise).

Forest Whitaker in The Crying Game

The real twist of this otherwise cracking London thriller is not that she was a he — but rather that Mr Whitaker is not an undercover American agent who couldn’t quite do the accent. He just couldn’t quite do the accent.

Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins

Predictable perhaps, but DVD still sets the gold standard for full-blooded, half-cocked Cockney. And at least he has a bit of charm.

Dominic West in The Wire

This is the only honourable mention on the list as it involves a Russian doll-like nesting of accent work. Dominic West, originally from Yorkshire, shed that accent to take on the concentrated posh he learned at Eton. Then in The Wire he came to play the part of Jimmy McNulty, a working class Baltimore cop who then has to go undercover as an upper crust Brit. The resulting off-kilter accent is a very nice take-down of Americans failing in their cloth-lipped attempts to impersonate us. Take that Nicolas Cage.

Last Updated 08 January 2016

Kirk

Poor old Dick Van Dyke gets it in the neck every time while Audrey 'garn' Hepburn in My Fair Lady continues to get away scot-free.

PGA1982

Ahem, but why is Ben Whishaw's RADA-trained mockney effort from London Spy not on this list? I have lived in London for each of my 33 years and I have never heard anyone, ever, talk with that accent.

Pamela Bartle

Unless an accent is paramount to the part, actors should just speak their normal tongue...so they don't sound hidious

Andy Brice

As long as an actor's accent stays consistent with itself it can work. In the real world people have all sorts of unusual mishmash accents depending on where they've grown up and with whom.

Neil Harrison

Possibly the very very very worst london accent in a film is spoken by an actual Londoner.. Terence Stamp in "The Limey". Watch it and weep. Cringe worthy.

Cora Swift

Um, I thought mischa Barton was supposed to be American in St Trinians...

dm10003

Semi-relatedly, when Brits do their Muppety idea of an American accent in my face it's all I can to to not roll my eyes and laugh. I'm afraid that if I protest the insult that it's clearly meant to be I'll hurt their delicate feelings.

MoreGoodies123

Aww...Dick van Dyke is a legend, times were different, and it's not like people were so well-traveled then that the audience really understood if an accent was authentic. I give him a huge pass on this! He was very entertaining and in the end, the whole thing was enchanting. 💕