The Nine American Actors Who Have Done the Most British Accents

Johnny Depp in The Libertine

The main (and indeed, only) character in my new short 20 Matches hails from Vienna. When casting the film, I sought out actresses from Austria and Germany rather than endure Americans attempting a Viennese dialect. I just didn't have the time. Conversely, when casting Foreign Correspondents I chose an American actor, Corin Nemec, to play my Englishman, not only because he was the best-known of all the actors who read for the part, but because he was the best, period. Different M.O.'s for different circumstances. Anyway, in this spirit, I bring you the nine American stars who have not necessarily done the best British accents – or the worst, for that matter – but simply the most.

  1. Johnny Depp: British in 12 films. This guy's the all-time champ. To wit: Sweeney Todd, From Hell, Mortdecai, Corpse Bride, The Libertine, Sleepy Hollow (even though it was set in 1799 New York), Alice in Wonderland, The Tourist – and of course, four Pirates of the Caribbean installments and counting. Bonus points for his Scottish brogue in Finding Neverland and his Irish lilt in Chocolat.
  2. Gwyneth Paltrow: British in 6 films. Depp's Mortdecai costar also went British for that film, and more famously in Shakespeare in Love, Sliding Doors, EmmaPossession, and briefly in Steven Spielberg's Hook.
  3. Angelina Jolie: British in 5 films. For Angie we've got two Tomb Raider movies, Maleficent, The Tourist, and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.
  4. Robert Downey Jr.: British in 5 films. You'll recall his two Sherlock Holmes movies and Chaplin, but do you also remember Restoration and Richard III?
  5. Scarlett Johansson: British in 4 films. I was also surprised that she had already done so many, but there she was in The Other Boleyn Girl, Girl with a Pearl Earring (she played Flemish, but sounded English), Under the Skin, and The Prestige.
  6. Anne Hathaway: British in 4 films. The actress who shares her name with Shakespeare's wife was thoroughly mocked for her shifting accent in One Day, less so for her work in Becoming Jane, Nicholas Nickleby, and Les Misérables (playing French, sounding English).
  7. Natalie Portman: British in 4 films. Once again we have The Other Boleyn Girl, as well as the critically panned Your Highness (where you can see words that I've actually written, hidden in the title sequence), V for Vendetta, and whatever you want to call what she did in Star Wars Episode I.
  8. Julianne Moore: British in 3 films and 1 TV series. There's The End of the Affair, A Single Man, An Ideal Husband... but apparently she also appeared as her own British-accented evil twin back when she was on the soap opera As the World Turns.
  9. Renée Zellweger: British in 3 films. Of course you know the two Bridget Jones movies, but she also played Beatrix Potter in Miss Potter. Reese Witherspoon and Gillian Anderson also tie for 3. Really, though, the dark horse in this race is a Canadian. That would be Mike Myers, who's played Englishmen in four movies (the Austin Powers series, obviously, but also a cameo in Inglourious Basterds) and donned a Scottish brogue in... six?