We see big Hollywood stars acting with an accent all the time, yet we rarely realize the amount of work that goes into getting an American actress to speak a few lines of perfectly accented French or instructing a born-and-bred New Yorker to deliver all of his lines with a flawless southern accent.
Actors from all over the world are often required to master an accent or dialect, both on the silver screen and when playing a character with an accent on television. It might not seem complicated, but it can take a lot of preparation to get an accent just right.
So just how do Hollywood stars prepare for a part that requires acting with an accent?
The Silver Screen’s Guide to Acting with an Accent
Professional dialect coaches are the silver screen’s secret to acting with an accent. Brad Pitt used one to master the Tennessee twang of his “Inglourious Basterds” character while Matt Damon underwent similar training when preparing for his role as a South African rugby player in “Invictus.”
A 2009 New Yorker article went behind the scenes to find out just what a dialect coach does. Following the work of professional dialect coach Tim Monich, who has coached Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and Hilary Swank, among others, the article reveals just how much time and effort goes into acting with an accent.
Dialect, Language & Dialogue Coaches
Most dialect coaches do more than simply coach an actor into acting with an accent. In addition to teaching accents as a dialect coach, some also work as a language coach, helping an actor master lines in a foreign language. Of course, some bilingual celebrities don’t need a language coach to convincingly become their characters.
Dialect coaches may also help actors to deliver their lines convincingly in accordance with certain details called for in the script. If a character is supposed to be suffering from an illness, for example, this should be reflected in the way in which he delivers his line.
Whether it’s acting with an accent or delivering lines in a foreign language, the key to success is practice, practice and more practice. It can take anywhere from a couple hours to weeks of practice until the actor has mastered the tricky business of acting with an accent or delivering lines in a foreign language.
Making Speech a Secondary Thought
Whether a language coach has the job of teaching a New York actor to speak like Shakespeare for a Broadway play, or instructing a French actor to deliver his lines in flawless English for a Hollywood blockbuster, the ultimate goal is to ensure that the actor’s speech recedes to the background.
That might sound bizarre given all of the work both actor and coach put into mastering an accent or language. However, the point is for the actor to sound so natural and authentic that the audience doesn’t focus on the accent, but on the performance itself.
Voice Over Techniques Ensure Authenticity
Despite the best work of actors and dialect coaches, sometimes a production requires the use of voice over techniques to provide a foreign language or accent that’s truly authentic.
In such cases, companies like Accredited Language Services, which offers expert voice over talent in more than 150 languages, provide authentic accents and foreign languages in voice over by contracting with native, lifelong speakers.
Expert voice over production ensures that the audience’s focus remains on the production — not the actor’s accent.