We appear to be in the midst of a vocal vibe shift.
Maybe it was that “use the voice” meme from Dune, or maybe the pandemic has officially reduced my brain to a husk of its former self. And yes, I know accents in Hollywood are nothing new. Still, I must ask… Has anyone else started to feel like a lot of celebrities have been doing funny voices lately?
A New York Times profiles of the industry’s go-to dialect coaches notes that it was Meryl Streep’s Oscar win for 1982’s Sophie’s Choice that introduced audiences to the concept of vocal authenticity as a sign of artistic accomplishment. More recently, writer Ryan Bradley notes, the explosion of “prestige TV” has also sparked an increased demand in Hollywood for precise vocal work.
But that’s not really what we’re talking about here. Lately, it seems as though a new actor goes viral every other week with an uncanny (or just plain strange) accent. Some, like Amanda Seyfried’s virtuosic take on Elizabeth Holmes’ faux baritone in Hulu’s The Dropout, are bizarre by design. With some others… it’s harder to say.
Here, for your perusal, are some recent favorites.
Lady Gaga, ‘House of Gucci’
Of course, we must start with this legendary performance in an otherwise less than spectacular movie. (As my brilliant colleague Kevin Fallon put it in his review, “The rest is for Target.”)
As for Gaga’s performance, however? What is there to say except… Talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show-stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique, completely not ever been done before, unafraid to reference or not reference, put it in a blender, shit on it, vomit on it, eat it, give birth to it.
As a noted maximalist, it should come as no surprise that Lady Gaga put her entire stilettoed foot into becoming Patrizia Reggiani. (And talking about becoming Patrizia Reggiani.) And yes, an accent coach might’ve admitted the final vocal work sounds a little more Russian than Italian. But I’ve gotta say… I loved every second of it.
Julia Garner, ‘Inventing Anna’
When the trailer for Shonda Rhimes’ latest Netflix production went viral, Julia Garner’s fake German-Russian heiress accent as Anna Delvey was all anyone could talk about. One person who gave her seal of approval? The scammer herself, who recently told the The New York Times, “She got it right away.”
Inventing Anna might be mostly a messbut Garner’s performance is an elocution extravaganza—a chaotic feast for the ears that drives home the character’s confounding unknowability.
The actor detailed how she thought through the accent in an interview with W magazine. “Anna’s posing as a German heiress, but actually she’s Russian, so first I had to learn to speak in English with a proper German accent, and after that learn a slightly Russian accent to add underneath,” she said. “Then you have the element that she probably learned English from the Brits, because she’s European, but she’d also lived in America and loved to watch gossip Girl. So the musicality of her speech was American.”
Garner also described a meeting with Delvey in an interview with Town & Country—and she confirmed Delvey asked to hear her vocal work.
“She’s like, ‘Please, let me hear it,'” the actor said. “It got very meta.”
Jesse Plemons, ‘Jungle Cruise’
speaking about his Jungle Cruise performance ahead of the film’s release, Jesse Plemons told The New York Times‘Kyle Buchanan, “God, I really went for it with that one. We’ll see what happens. It’s as big as I’m capable of being.”
And oh, friends, did he mean it. The accent itself is a strange ducal affair, a German accent that might or might not just be code for “generic villain.” But it’s also just something to behold.
Tom Hanks, ‘Elvis’
It’s difficult to describe what accent Tom Hanks is doing in the trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming biopic elvis. If someone can name that accent, please let me know, because the question has been living rent-free in my head for weeks. (One might say it’s… always on my mind? Sorry!)
Elvis Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, was born in the Netherlands before joining the Army and, later, working at carnivals. Hanks doesn’t quite sound Dutch, or really anything, in the trailer footage. Perhaps once the film hits theaters, all my questions will leave the building.
Amanda Seyfried, ‘The Dropout’
We all knew that whoever played Elizabeth Holmes in new girl creator Elizabeth Meriwether’s Theranos series, the dropout, would have to figure out how to do “The Voice.” Seyfried delivers not just on the voice but on all fronts; her take on Holmes somehow feels both comically inhuman and, in more vulnerable moments, almost painfully relatable.
well, that voice!
speaking with The Daily BeastMeriwether said she wasn’t sure how Seyfried pitched herself down.
“She came to the rehearsal and sat down at the table and had the voice,” Meriwether said. “I was like, ‘Whatever you did, this is amazing.'”
“It wasn’t that important to me that it was, like, exactly right,” she added. “I think I was much more interested in her making it her own… If the voice were really funny the whole time, I think it would really have taken away from the emotional stakes of the story.”
Jared Leto, ‘We Crashed’
Alongside Lady Gaga, Jared Leto’s Wario-esque accent work in House of Gucci was something to behold. And this year, he’ll follow it up with another big vocal performance—his best impression of Israeli-born billionaire and WeWork founder Adam Neumann. But will anything beat his best line from last year—in which his bumbling designer character called one of his creations “a memory wrapped in lycra?” Doubtful, but I welcome any attempt to top it!
Mark Rylance, ‘Don’t Look Up’
Mark Rylance’s muted, carefully inoffensive speech patterns in Don’t look up believe his tech-billionaire character’s not-so-well-hidden true nature as a ruthless capitalist willing to literally risk the earth’s demise in pursuit of even more wealth. He’s played megalomaniacal moguls before (see Ready Player One) and like Holmes in The Dropout, the voice is key to understanding the character as someone who’s never really themselves in front of others. It’s also just… very unsettling!
Uma Thurman, ‘Super Pumped’
Another recent accent debut: Uma Thurman as Ariana Huffington in Showtime’s Uber saga Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber. Thurman appears near the top of the show’s trailer, and it’s easy to see why—her voice, like the rest of her, is unrecognizable.
Thurman confirmed she’d met Huffington several times in a recent interview. Although she said she does not know the author and businesswoman well, she said she liked her and put her “whole heart” into playing her.
“I worked on it really hard, Thurman said. “Great comedians have nailed it and impersonated her better than I ever will, and I knew that too. I was trying to make sure I wasn’t making a parody of it.”
Nicole Kidman, ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’
Kidman’s no stranger to accent work, as anyone who pored over The Undoing well knows—and for Nine Perfect Strangersshe really committed to that Russian accent as she prepared to play a spa owner.
speaking with Harper’s Bazaar, Kidman said she stuck with the accent throughout the shoot, whether or not cameras were rolling, because “it felt good, it felt right.”
Her castmates praised the move—although Regina Hall did admit the experience was “a little surreal, to be honest.”
“She walked in and she was Russian!” Hall said. “I didn’t hear Nicole’s real voice until we wrapped. She didn’t break.”
Added Melissa McCarthy: “She’ll try anything. She’s not afraid to be weird or vulnerable or harsh in any given moment.”
Oscar Isaac, ‘Moon Knight’
The latest to set the internet on fire? That might just be Oscar Isaac’s British accent, as seen in the upcoming Marvel Disney+ series Moon Knight.
The voice belongs to just one of Isaac’s characters’ personas in the show—Steven Grant. speaking with Empire magazine about the character choice, the actor said, “I stand by the sound of Steven 100 percent.”
The actor also hinted that the—erm, shall we say imprecision?—of his regional dialect might actually be intentional. “That voice is about where Steven’s from, where he’s living now, and some of his believed heritage,” Isaac said. “It’s not an idea of what Brits actually sounds like.”
Color us intrigued!
https://www.thedailybeast.com/amanda-seyfried-in-the-dropout-julia-garner-in-inventing-anna-and-the-golden-age-of-wild-accents?source=articles&via=rss Amanda Seyfried in ‘The Dropout,’ Julia Garner in ‘Inventing Anna,’ and the Golden Age of Wild Accents