Accents: that bane of actors throughout the world both in theatre and in film. They can sell or sink any performance. However, there is no accent more maligned, more butchered, more viciously fucked up on film than the Irish accent.
It's Hollywood tested!
As some point or another most actors (particularly American) have tried an Irish accent, to varying degrees of success. Today, or tonight depending on where you are at the moment, I will run down the top five best, and worst, Irish accents on that great silver screen we love so much.
Best: 5) Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot
Lewis, despite living a few miles south of me in Ireland and professing a great love for Ireland, is, like St Patrick, not Irish. He's British. Lewis won an Oscar for playing Christy Brown and this film is one of the finest to ever come from Ireland, and the most heartwrenching. The accent Lewis delivers is good and would reach much higher on the list if it weren't for the speech difficulties of Christy himself. It's easier to hide mistakes (though I doubt Daniel Day-Lewis made any) behind this.
Worst: 5) Kevin Spacey in Ordinary Decent Criminal
Kevin, Kevin, Kevin... so talented and yet you let the ball drop hard here. The entire accent is so bloody lazy. He sounds like a Leprachaun on an American tv movie! Ordinary Decent Criminal is actually a Hollywood remake of another film called the General, made two years earlier, which detailed the crimes of one of Ireland's most infamous crime lords; Martin Cahill. This new film loosely tells the same story, but in a Hollywood way. Complete with a Hollywood Irish accent. Despite the accent's faults it just comes across as lazy and Hollywood, meaning it'll never be the worst. Or the most offensive.
Also see: Richard Gere in The Jackal.
Best: 4) Cate Blanchett in Veronica Guerin
Cate Blanchett is, much like Daniel Day-Lewis, a mark of quality in the movie world. Veronica Guerin, while a flawed film, is a Hollywood film which deals with modern Ireland and Blanchett's accent leaves behind the old Hollywood School of Accents in favour of a modern, and fundamentally sound, Dublin accent. While not absolutely perfect it is almost spot on. There isn't really much more to say other than that this is the second film in the top five Best to be based on a true story!
Worst: 4) Tom Cruise in Far and Away
Tom Cruise, the masterful actor himself, comes striding in to number four. Why? Some of you may think that Spacey's accent and Cruise's are similar and much the same. Well, the problem with Tom Cruise's accent, in fact with his whole character, is that it's everything that the Irish in film were when people were still making Irish jokes on a regular basis (that stopped in the late 80s after someone sent around a memo saying we were getting pissed off). The Cruiser's accent is louder than any other, and more burned into the Irish consciousness than any of the accents which will be mentioned later. Tom Cruise; setting the Irish back thirty years.
See Also: No-one quite compares to Tom Cruise.
Best: 3) Paddy Considine in In America
Sadly finding clips of this film has proved difficult (I couldn't even find bad or useless clips!) which is a shame considering the quality of Paddy Considine's performance in this Jim Sheridan film is fantastic and his accent is truely flawless. From here on in it's top quality stuff ladies and gentlemen! Considine's pitch-perfect accent lets the performance shine through and the entire character works where Cruise and Spacey fell apart. Strangely, this is, once again, a film based on a true story. There's clearly something going on here...
Worst: 3) Sean Connery in The Untouchables
No Worst Accents list would ever be complete without Sean Connery. His casting as Irish characters is part lazy casting and part shit acting. Scotsmen have been cast on numerous occasions as Irish in films because, basically, Hollywood casting agents can't tell the difference. How would you feel if I said English and Americans sounded the same? It'd be outragous! They're worlds apart (despite the similar lineage). Yet time and again the Scots get parts as Irish characters. Sean Connery has himself said that he believes the Scottish accent is the most lyrical and beautiful, and this is why he keeps it for every role. I think he just isn't capable of doing anything else.
See Also: Billy Connolly in The Last Samurai
Best: 2) Brad Pitt in Snatch
It may look like I'm giving Brad Pitt an unfair boost over Lewis (considering both accents are difficult to pick up) but the big difference to remember is that Mickey has a real accent, whereas Christy had a speech impediment. Of course, the Traveller accent isn't considered Irish traditionally, but the Travellers consider themselves Irish, and the majority live, or come from, Ireland. Either way, Pitt's accent is one that is the antithesis of Tom Cruise's. It's also one of the first representations that people remember of the Irish accent done well in film.
Worst: 2) The Mercenaries in Sin City
Unfortunately I don't have this film, and the internet, after a long and fruitless search has yielded no names to attach to these attrocious accents. However, this being Spill, I'm sure most of you know the scenes (regardless of the video and times I gave above). This crime against acting comes with a short anecdote. Twice I heard in reviews that, when this scene came up, the entire cinema began laughing. In a film that has been built on it's adult content, intense drama and stylised visuals, to have your audience crack up laughing and for that moment to be more remembered than the rest of the film is terrible. The Oirish accents here assault the film like a Terry Gilliam short and break what the film had already set up, meaning that based on the damage they cause, they earn second place.
See Also: Well, any Oirish accent in a film that's bad enough to make people laugh. So the rest of the this Worst list.
Best: 1) James McAvoy in Inside I'm Dancing (Also known as Rory O'Shea War Here)
... if I had known beforehand that it would be so difficult to find a fictional story, in film, with non-Irish actors playing Irish characters, acting with decent Irish accents, I might have changed things around to make this list easier to complete. As it is however, we come to the best of the best (according to this young man's opinion) of Irish accents in film. Bucking the trend of Scottish playing Irish being a bad thing, James McAvoy swoops in on a battery powered wheelchair, delievers a brilliant performance, nails the Irish accents perfectly, and shows Billy Connolly and Sean Connery how to act. It's hard to see whether or not this film would have been half as good as it is had McAvoy fouled up the accent with his own heavy Scottish accent. Not only does this film show a great lead performance but the two other main characters from the film (Siobhan and Micheal) are played by British actors. And the accents are flawless. This film should be passed around Hollywood studios to show that; if you can't get an Irish person, you can still get a talented person. Also it's a great film!
Worst: 1) Pierce Brosnan in Evelyn
Oh the shame, the shame! Pierce Brosnan, an Irishman, cannot do an Irish accent. While some of you may believe that his isn't the worst Oirish accent in the list, or in cinema, Brosnan catches the top spot for not only managing to screw up the accent and make it a parody of itself but for undermining the film, the character and true story. Yes, the places have switched and a fictional story gets into top spot in the best, and a true story the top spot in the worst. It may be cheating to put an Irishman in this list, which has so far been non-Irish, but I think it'd only have been cheating if I put one in the Best list. The worst part of it all is that he's Irish, and so Pierce Brosnan earns the title of Worst Oirish Accent in Film.
See Also: Thankfully Irish actors since have been able to give an Irish accent, so no-one
So the list is complete. The top 5 Best and Worst Oirish accents in film. Feel free to add more to the list.
Ps. This is my first ever blog, yes you saw me pop my cherry, so do point things out where I can improve. Talk to you later!