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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

October 14, 2010 at 4:21 PM

Accent watch: Russell Crowe

Today I went to a screening of “The Last Three Days,” the Russell Crowe thriller that comes out in theaters around Thanksgiving, and all through the first half-hour or so of the movie I kept thinking, wow, I never noticed before that Russell Crowe’s voice sounds a lot like a friend of mine. How could I have missed this, I wondered. Then, in the movie, it was established that we were in Pittsburgh. My friend, I need not tell you, is from Pittsburgh. I’m no speech expert, but it strikes me that a Pittsburgh accent is one of the more subtle American variants; not immediately recognizable. And Crowe, an Australian, nailed it — as he usually does.
I’m reminded of an interview I did a few years ago with a local dialect coach and lecturer at the U.W. Professional Actor’s Training Program, Judith Shahn, in which we talked about the year’s Oscar-nominated performances in roles that required an accent. Crowe wasn’t up for an award that year, but Shahn did mention that Australian actors in general — noting Heath Ledger and Nicole Kidman — tend to be very good at accents. (“Maybe it’s because their own accent is such a hybrid of other things.”) She also praised Meryl Streep (whose Polish accent in “Sophie’s Choice” was so good, Shahn said, Polish people she spoke to said Streep could have fooled them), Philip Seymour Hoffman (who won for “Capote” that year), and Ben Kingsley. And who did she think wasn’t very good at accents? “Kevin Costner. He shouldn’t ever be given an accent. Just tell him no, don’t do it.”

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