From semtex to shamrocks to talking spuds, the green has always been well represented on the big screen. As we head towards St Patricks Day, Alan Corr takes a look back at the worst and best of Oirish accents on the silver screen. Begosh and, indeed, begorrah!
Movie makers just can’t resist our quaint ways and tragic days but if there is one thing da stars can’t seem to get right it’s the old Irish accent. It seems that the only time that American actors - and it’s mostly American actors - open their mouths when playing Paddy is to change leather brogue. To be sure and, while I’m at it, to be sure.
So here it is - TEN’s brogues’ gallery of the worse examples of the gift of the gab being garbled. And to be fair, we also lift the lid on the actors who have a lovely Irish lilt.
The worst . . .
Tom Cruise in Far and Away
Sweet holy Jaysus. Just just . . . this tale of two Irish immigrants seeking their fortune in 1890s America was a pile-up at Oirish cliché central. In fact, it might have been created by those cute hoors in Bord Failte to coax dewy-eyed yanks over to the Emerald Isle with their lovely crinkly green backs. Tom was always going to be cruising for a bruising as local lad done good in the New World but boy, that accent was as broad as the Shannon ("You're a corker etc...) but in no way as majestic. And no Tom, we don’t like your feckin' hat.
Sean Connery in Darby O'Gill and The Little People
“The name is McBride, Michael McBride . . . “ cue fiddles, bodhrans and leaping Leprechauns. Way back in 1958, former coffin polisher and future secret agent Sean Connery tried his hand at playing the Gael in this Disney romp. He’s Scottish, right? A fellow Celt should have at least have been pretty handy at the Irish burr? But no, Sean’s got a licence to ill treat the old Irish accent here.
Gerard Butler in PS I Love You
Kiss me arse indeed! Just when you thought this slice of sentimentality from the maven of make believe Cecelia Ahern couldn’t get any cheesier, Gerard Butler rears his potato head to purée our proud Irish bark. Strange, really as Gerard is another Scot who might have been expected to have a decently burnished brogue? To be fair, he later apologised for mangling our murmur.
Kevin Spacey In Ordinary Decent Criminal
Kevin Spacey - He is President Frank Underwood, he was Verbal in The Usual Suspects,, he re-energised the Old Vic in London . . . yup, the man is a pretty amazing actor but nailing the accent of a Dublin criminal escaped him in Thaddeus O'Sullivan’s wayward Ordinary Decent Criminal. Spacey seems to take a 32-county tour of our septic isle but still manages to go full blown American every few minutes.
Brad Pitt in The Devil’s Own
Brad goes rogue with a brogue as an IRA bomber in this thriller. He plays Francis “Frankie” McGuire - he's an IRA man on the lam who actually finds shelter in the home of New York city cop Tom O’Meara (Harrison Ford). The movie plays fast and loose with the facts of the Northern Irish conflict and while our Brad in't quite the pits (geddit!!!?) when it comes to playing a bold Belfast boy, does he lay it on thack, sorry, thick. If anything his 'pikey' accent in Snatch was miles more understandable.
. . . and the best
Alan Rickman in Michael Collins
Little did we think that we'd be bidding farewell to the great man this year. One of the most beloved actors of his generation, he sadly passed away in January. For Irish audience's he will best be remembered for his turn as Dev in Neil Jordan’s historically wonky but hugely enjoyable drama about Ireland’s Greatest Hero. Rickman’s every weary word as Dev sounded like a withered wreath and he also turned in an excellent performance as the cartoon villain of the piece (fine by us). We reckon Julia Roberts as Mick’s girl Kitty Kiernan was looking on taking notes. The movie is currently on re-release in cinemas for its 20th anniversary.
Cate Blanchett in Veronica Guerin
Well, it is Cate Blanchett, one of the finest actors working today. Her portrayal of crusading crime journalist Veronica Guerin is nothing short of enthralling and her northside Dublin accent has the stamp of verite and authority.
Kate Hudson in About Adam
We journey to the other side of the river for Kate Hudson’s role as Lucy Owen, a thoroughbred suburbanite on the hunt for Mr Right in Gerard Stembridge's enjoyable romantic comedy. Kate cuts it in a movie largely made up of native Dubs and it makes her portrayal all the more impressive.
Maggie Smith in The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
Smith plays anguished Dublin northside spinster Judith Hearne with an accent that wouldn't get her thrown out of a Dorset Street boozer for fakery. It's a towering performance of pain, dashed hoped and romantic doom and not once does the Dame's accent slip into sham-mockery.
Will Poulter in Glassland
The award winning Glassland not only proved that 23-year-old Londoner Will Poulter is not only one of the most promising young actors in the world (step forward his turn in The Revenant) but he can also `do' accents including an uncanny Dublin brogue. If you haven't seen it yet, make sure to check it out. Honourable mention also goes to the divine Toni Collette who stars as a Dublin mother struggling with addiction.
Julie Walters in Brooklyn/Rachel Griffith in Mammal
Honourable mention also goes to Julie Walters for her turn as the no-nonsense Irish boarding-house keeper, Mrs Keogh in the Oscar nominated Brooklyn. Sure isn't her Mammy from Mayo and it shows. The accent was perfect. Rumour has it that a tv spin-off featuring Julie is being considered.
A late addition to the list and another win for the ladies. The Muriel's Wedding actress and Oscar nominee stars in this story of a grieving Dublin divorceé, Margaret who develops an unlikely and intense bond with a homeless teenager played by Love/Hate's Barry Keoghan (yes, yer man who killed the cat). By all accounts, she completely nails the accent. You can judge for yourself when it hits cinemas at the start of April.