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KatawaGrey's avatar

Why is it that Australian actors never seem to play Australians (except when they are acting in Australians films)?

Asked by KatawaGrey (21360 points ) February 6th, 2011

I am watching Mad Max for the first time. I didn’t realize it was an Australian film. I think it is the first time I have seen a film where Mel Gibson speaks with an Australian accent. Off the top of my head, I can think of three other Australian actors, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman, who almost never speak with their native accent when acting in American films. Why do you suppose this is?

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23 Answers

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Geoffrey Rush, an Australian, plays one in The King’s Speech. Having said that, you’re right. Most Australian actors take on American accents for movies made here and British ones for those in England. It’s purely economically driven. There are more movies made in the US and UK than in Australia. The markets are larger here.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@hawaii_jake: It just seems odd to me because I see plenty of British actors playing Brits in American films and the Scots, well, I can only remember one movie where Gerard Butler didn’t have a Scottish accent. It just seems odd to me if someone is playing a role where it’s not necessary to play an American. I just wondered why the poor Aussies have to nix their accents. I’m quite a fan of the Australian accent.

BarnacleBill's avatar

@KatawaGrey, too funny you asked this question; I’ve been thinking the same thing. I watched Flipped last night, and the young man that played the male lead, Callan McAuliffe, is Australian, and played an American.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@KatawaGrey I’m also a very big fan of Australian accents. They can be very hot. I still think it’s a matter of economics. The American and British markets are larger.

SmashTheState's avatar

It’s a form of Amerikan cultural imperialism, or ”CocaColonization” as the French call it. Hollywood produces the most offensive, reactionary, nationalist tripe imaginable; it’s the propaganda arm of the Amerikan Empire. In Amerika, your race is considered the largest part of your identity, so Hollywood uses race as a shorthand for a character’s personality: all the French are cowards in striped shirts and berets, with poor hygeine; all the British are either rich, snobby elitists with butlers and 1920 Bentleys or poor, stout, grubby men in corduroy mackintoshes who eat nothing but fish & chips and rob betting shops for a living; all black people are gun-toting gangstas with weightlifer muscles and poor English skills; and Australians are hearty, blue-collar naifs who walk around with buck knives and rawhide clothing, living on a diet consisting entirely of Foster’s and barbecued shrimp.

Amerikans are so used to the stereotypes Hollywood has invented, that they simple won’t accept a role which defies them. If the role calls for something other than Crocodile Dundee, then Hollywood directors will require Australian actors to drop their accent lest it confuse the sub-normal troglodytes who buy tickets to see Hollywood’s excreta.

ththththth's avatar

Being an Australian actor who is currently involved in an internship here in the USA… well I’m not %100 sure what to think… I have studied extensively (both in Australia and in the USA) ... In Australia all the people who run schools from the VCA to NIDA and WAAPA (not to mention other smaller schools) have all told me that if i wish to make it in the USA then I have to have a USA accent (whatever that means :-?) and even the talent scouts and casting directors that they have brought over have said the same thing!!! .... In short they drill it in to us so that (i speak on behalf of my Aussie friends in the industry here) we feel as though we cannot make it over here unless we subscribe to the USA’s accent!

I too think this a joke. However if I am to earn a crust I feel as though I have to put my trust into the people in this industry who have the power to control my career (to an extent!)

So I lay the blame mostly on the “Hollywood machine” ... Which though it never perpetrated my own studies within the USA (and still thankfully does not) is ‘I believe’ the root of the cause… and perhaps those that follow it blindly… .... As only my colloquialisms really seem to give it away ;-)

KatawaGrey's avatar

@SmashTheState: Let me save you some trouble. I’m an American who is currently getting her degree in Media Production. I plan on contributing quite heavily to “Hollywood’s excreta” as you so eloquently put it. Perhaps this will make you want to stay away from my questions or perhaps avoid me if we ever meet in person?

@ththththth: Interesting. I wonder why that is. I mean, like I said, I don’t see many Scots who disguise their accents.

A humorous note: On occasion, I have seen a British production wherein British actors have had to play Americans. The accents are always spot on, but I find that the actors aren’t quite sure what part of the US they are pretending to be from. One character may have a Northeastern accent in the beginning of the production, a midwestern accent half way through and then have the faintest Southern drawl at the end. I’m sure this is meant to poke fun at the American accents and it certainly makes me chuckle. I would imagine that Americans who try to have English accents butcher them just as well. :)

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aprilsimnel's avatar

@KatawaGrey, I was dragged to see the first Bridget Jones picture, and Renee Zellweger had a pretty good middle class Southern English accent. She’s one of the few Americans who manages to pull it off. I’ve yet to hear an American who could do a Liverpudlian or Geordie accent!

We don’t get that many Australian films in the US, and I don’t think other countries do, either. Somehow the Australian government has to get more of their films into festivals worldwide and figuring out how to distribute more of their films abroad.

rooeytoo's avatar

Whenever I see a good made in Australia film, I ask if any USA friends have seen it and the answer is almost always no and they never heard of it. The exception recently was “Australia.” Everyone used their aussie accents in that one.

So many older Australians complain here that the country is being “Americanized” especially the kids with shows like Simpsons and 2.5 men. I know there are well made USA shows, to me it is a shame that they bring in the ones I consider not the best.

iphigeneia's avatar

There just aren’t that many Australian films, or Australian characters in English and American films. Sometimes an Australian (or any other noticeably different character) just sticks out and distracts from the real plot.

Though it’s worth mentioning that Rachel Taylor used her Australian accent in the Transformers film, even though the character was written as an American. They just tried it with her natural accent and decided it was better for the character.

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JilltheTooth's avatar

It occurred to me I didn’t actually answer the Q and it’s too late to edit.

It does seem a shame, the Aussie accent is very cool. I’m guessing it has a lot to do with the market itself. The US film industry is huge, and its products are more widely distributed on an international scale than any other country’s, so it does kind of stand to reason that Australian actors that want to have their work seen by the largest audience base work for the US productions, as whatever nationality is called for. Because the films are American and reflect that, cultivating the generic American accent would seem to be the most likely way to get the job. Yank-bashing notwithstanding, I’m not quite sure why some people feel putting an American perspective on American film products is a weird thing. Brits put a British perspective on things, French, a French one, etc. And really, has anyone seen anything out of Bollywood? Not much Yank perspective, there.

BarnacleBill's avatar

I get what @SmashTheState is saying; while it’s not true of all American theater, is true of mainstream film and in particular, American export theater. Example: a friend’s son did a college internship in Spain, in a program with mostly other students from the Mediterranean countries. He was floored when they all wanted to talk about American Prom – Do all Americans go prom? Did everyone rent a limo? Do all girls wear revealing dresses to prom? Did parents not go to, or arrange Prom? Was it required to have sex on prom night? Their frame of reference was strictly based on American film.

I’m always amazed at foreign films I see, and I know that’s the tip of the iceberg compared to what I don’t see. Likewise, there’s a lot of wonderful American film that even Americans don’t see.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It just amazes me how the Brits (House) and Australians (Gibson) can so completely drop their accents—or how they can so completely adopt an American accent.
A tiny bit off the subject if I may…I briefly dated an Arab exchange student when I was in college. He smelled funny and had a very thick accent. But one time, just goofing around, he threw down his version of an “American accent” on me…I was stunned. It was 100%, perfect Texan and so very disconcerting coming from him!

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MissAnthrope's avatar

[Mod says:] Hey, folks.. please remember that the topic of this question is why Australian actors seem to rarely play Australians. Feel free to start another question (preferably in Social) if you would like to debate anti-Americanism, crappy US films, or otherwise. Thanks!

ththththth's avatar

@JilltheTooth accents in Bollywood are westernized to a big extent though mostly from the UK USA and Australia… I would just feel bad going there and not knowing enough about the Hindi language to feel comfortable (in that case… otherwise I could and probably afford to eat affluently as an aside from the daily grind which I have to admit is a bit more diverse in this industry as oppose to any other i have worked in….

gailcalled's avatar

For the same reason that Meryl Streep has been cast as Margaret Thatcher in an upcoming movie about her. The drawing power of the star and the assumption that American viewers are
below average.

“You’ll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American Public.” (Attributed to PT Barnum or HL Menken.)

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