Accents Are Hard

And these men shouldn't do them.

Tori Anne Barson/Getty Images Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Oscar Bait

The legendary theatre practitioner Konstantin Stanislavski once wrote that, “All we ask is that an actor on the stage live in accordance with natural laws.” Sadly, it seems that this wisdom has flown out the window when it comes to accent work. In two movie trailers that dropped yesterday, Oscar-nominated 6’2” actors Adam Driver and Will Smith have trampled over these “natural laws” with regard to their dialect choices.

Let’s start with Driver. The Girls actor, who recently starred with a horse in an inter-species erotic thriller of a perfume ad, is starring as Maurizio Gucci in Ridley Scott’s upcoming film House of Gucci. The accent he’s doing is non bene, sounding like he has just decided to put the emphasis on different syllables. On the other end of the spectrum, Jared Leto, who is playing Paolo Gucci, sounds like he learned his accent from playing MarioKart. Luckily, no one will even know it’s him.

Blowing them all out of the water is Lady Gaga, playing Patrizia Reggiani, who sounds as Italian as a free limoncello shot at Joanne Trattoria. It probably helps that Gaga herself is an Italian girl from New York and has presumably met at least one Italian person in her life.

Closer to home, Will Smith is playing Richard Williams in King Richard, a biopic not about Venus or Serena Williams, but about their dad. To which I say, “Sure?” Smith, who is notoriously bad at accents, has decided to not use his own voice for the part, but instead imitate Williams’s. I’m not sure if that qualifies as an accent or a dialect, but either way, it sounds kooky.

He’s made his voice lighter and more delicate, which is true to Williams. What is not true to Williams is sounding mostly like Will Smith.

A keen friend of mine pointed out that Smith’s Williams voice sounds like Will Smith doing a Jimmy Stewart impression. Listen close at 0:55 in the trailer and you’ll hear it. “So, hwhatya think?” More like Mr. Smith Goes To The Tennis Court, am I right?

Driver and Smith have committed the fatal flaw of having very recognizable voices, for which I cannot fault them. It’s almost Brechtian that they are refusing to let you forget that you are watching a performance. Or maybe they’re just bad at this facet of their jobs.