St. Patrick’s Day is once again upon us. The time of year where Americans celebrate Ireland’s legacy to the world: its myths, legends and the fact that a country that’s only about the size of Indiana somehow produced enough immigrants to be responsible for 36 million Irish-Americans.
And while Ireland welcomes our long lost sons and daughters and encourages their drunken revelries, it has but one humble request of its diaspora:
“Please don’t do the accent!”
As Russell Crowe clearly learned the hard way in the recent Winter’s Tale, imitating a convincing Irish accent is tricky at best when Irish Spring commercials are your only research source.
Here are the five worst offenders in Hollywood.
1. Richard Gere in The Jackal
The Jackal was a late-’90s Richard Gere vehicle back when that was something you could propose with a straight face. The film had many flaws, it remains the only movie to feature Bruce Willis, Jack Black and a giant, automated anti-tank gun and still somehow manage to put me to sleep. The movie’s most glaring flaw however was Richard Gere’s portrayal of an infamous, cold-blooded former IRA sniper…that sounded like the Lucky Charms elf.
For the uninformed, the IRA are a notorious paramilitary/criminal organisation based out of Northern Ireland, responsible for decades of bombings, assassinations and thousands of misspelled tattoos, so you might see how Gere rocking up sounding like an extra in Darby O’Gill and the Little People might sound a little out of place.
Imagine if James Gandolfini had chosen to portray Tony Soprano with a thick hilbilly drawl and you’ll have some idea of how wide of the mark this attempt was. It’s almost as if the soft-spoken, vegetarian Buddhist wasn’t cut out to play a menacing ex-terrorist
2. Gerard Butler in P.S. I Love You
P.S. I Love You was a bestselling Irish romance novel that was a adapted into an American movie by someone whose only familiarity with the country was the bottle of Jameson they were clearly fed as a baby. Also let’s not go into specifics of why I know so much about this movie, ok?
The main male role was played by the Scottish Gerard Butler because 300 sure made a lot of money and lot of Americans consider Scotland and Ireland to be more or less the same place anyway. This is incredibly offensive because the countries actually couldn’t be more different from one another. One is a rain-soaked country full of red-haired Celtic alcoholics with a deep, historical Protestant/Catholic divide and the other is…never mind.
Butler’s attempt at the accent has never been so wide of the mark and he’s the guy that portrayed King Leonidas, legendary war-leader of the ancient Spartans with an unapologetic Scottish brogue.
While there’s really no excuse for Butler’s performance, considering that his family is actually Irish, he did mitigate things somewhat by later issuing a full apology to the country for his actions. This is admittedly a step in the right direction, but Butler won’t be fully exonerated until he publicly apologizes for The Bounty Hunter.
3. David Boreanaz in Angel
I know it’s hard to believe but there was a time when the idea of a tortured, 200-year-old vampire falling in love with a high school girl didn’t automatically make us want to vomit. This was because Joss Whedon realized that brooding, angst, and love triangles in vampire stories were ok as long as they were balanced out with a healthy amount of ass-kicking and witty repartee. Boreanaz played the aforementioned tortured, bicentennial vampire seeking redemption in Buffy and his own spin-off series.
This was a show that featured werewolves, demon muppets and karaoke-singing demons and still the least believable aspect of it was Boreanaz’s take on a Galway accent.
Somewhere around the end of Buffy’s second season the showrunners decided to flesh out Angel’s backstory to feature his youth as a drunken hooligan in 1750s Ireland. Unfortunately, the conversation between the writers and the guy who actually had to do the accent onscreen was a rather one-sided one that I imagine went something along the lines of:
“Hey David! You can do an Irish accent right? I told the guys you could do an Irish accent. In fact this whole episode we’ve spent the past week writing hinges on the fact that you can do an Irish accent. Cool? Thanks. Bye!”
Like Gerard Butler, Boreanaz gets points back by recognizing his limitations and requesting that he never have to do the accent again in future episodes. It was a request that I’m assuming everybody was happy to grant.
4. Gabrielle Anwar in Burn Notice
Never say that Man Cave Daily isn’t an equal-opportunities mocker of things that really aren’t all that important in the grand scheme of things.
The second, suspiciously well-groomed and well-educated, ex-IRA operative on the list (for future reference the list of roles available to Irish people in Hollywood are “drunk,” “former paramilitary,” and “drunk former paramilitary”) is Gabrielle Anwar’s portrayal of Fiona Glenanne, a former IRA bank-robber, arms dealer, and love interest in the spy series Burn Notice.
Fiona is actually supposed to be from my hometown of Dublin which was news to me since she sounded more like a Wookie attempting to do a Sean Connery impression. The accent was immediately dropped after the first episode because Anwar’s American accent is much better and it’s pretty hard to do off-the-books spywork when you sound like Chief O’Hara from the old Batman TV show.
Unlike Boreanaz and Butler, she refused to acknowledge that her accent fell short of the mark and in fact, actively campaigned for it to be brought back. She seems to have assumed that test audiences hadn’t responded well to it out of some sort of anti-Irish discrimination rather than the fact that she sounded like a rejected audition for Leprechaun 4: In Space.
5. Tom Cruise in “Far and Away”
It’s easy to make fun of legendary Xenu-botherer Tom Cruise…Hmmm, I’m almost positive I had a qualifying statement for this sentence.
Oh yeah! But the one thing you can’t accuse him off is phoning his performance in. Whether it be secret agent who really likes to run, sports agent who really likes to run or whoever he played in Vanilla Sky (I’m almost positive he liked to run) he really gives it his all.
Such was the case when he played Paddy McPotato…sorry, I mean Joseph Donnelly, in Ron Howard’s notorious directorial misstep Far and Away. An epic tale of an Irish couple’s voyage to America that featured fewer Irish actors in main roles than your average tanning salon commercial.
Other, lesser actors would have been satisfied with just a bad attempt at an Irish accent but Cruise really put some effort into it and blew us all away with the worst Irish accent ever captured on film.
Not only did Tom Cruise not sound like a turn-of-the-century Irish man, he sounded like no human being to ever walk this earth. The first time I saw this movie I thought it was the inspiring story of one man’s attempt to make it in America with chronic speech impediment.
Co-star Nicole Kidman tried to keep up with Cruise with her own terrible accent but she still sounded like a lifelong Dublin native in comparison. The movie is almost worth watching just to see how many ways one man can mispronounce “Joseph.”
So please, this Paddy’s day, consider the fact that if these five professional actors couldn’t do it properly, you probably shouldn’t give it a go either. Also please don’t mention the phrase “lucky charms” to an actual Irish person as being savagely beaten often offends.
Richy Craven is an Irish freelance writer and semi-professional idiot. You can check out more of his stuff over at Cracked, A Series of Terrible Decisions or keep up with his ongoing quest to find gainful employment on Twitter.