Actors have never shied away from mastering an accent if the part required it.
2021 was no exception, with many actors' on-screen accents resulting in awards buzz, or just general buzz (and memes).
Here’s a look at some of the most notable accents from shows and films this year.
Actors: Lady Gaga, Adam Driver and Jared Leto
Movie: "House of Gucci"
Characters: Patrizia Reggiani, Maurizio Gucci, Paolo Gucci
Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci” retells the story of Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) marrying into the Gucci family and how her ambition unraveled the namesake, eventually leading to the murder of Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver). The film, which also features Paolo Gucci (Jared Leto) as the dark sheep of the family, quickly went viral after the trailer showed a scene in which Gaga, voice lathered in a thick Italian accent, makes the sign of the cross and says, “Father, son and House of Gucci.”
Since its release, the film has garnered near universal acclaim for the cast’s performances — most notably that of Driver, Leto and Gaga. But it appears the Italian accent was the true star of the film; it sparked praise, derision, memes, stand-alone profiles and relentless questioning.
“If I’m being honest, I do feel that it’s been sensationalized that I worked on my accent for so long, and that I was in character for so long,” Gaga told The New York Times in November. The pop star later said staying in character was like “muscle memory,” adding: “I think it would have done more of a number on me had I not practiced it so much. … How could I possibly turn it off?”
That commitment, according to some accent coaches, paid off. Garrett Strommen, who runs a Los Angeles company that offers language lessons and dialect coaching, told Slate that Gaga “conveyed an Italian spirit” and nailed the best “spoken Italian.” And while Leto overemphasized some consonants that made him sound more Italian, Strommen said, Driver was far less consistent with his vowel sounds.
His ranking? From worst to best, Strommen said: Jeremy Irons, Driver and then a tie between Al Pacino, Gaga and Leto.
Actor: Kristen Stewart
Character: Princess Diana
Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in Pablo Larraín’s “Spencer” is arguably this year’s most mesmerizing cinematic performance. The biopic follows the events leading up to Diana’s decision to leave the British royal family. In “Spencer,” Stewart’s silence and actorly mannerisms are just as devastating as her hushed, breathy intonations. Gone was Stewart’s familiar American twang. In its place: Diana’s characteristic British accent.
Stewart explained in early interviews that she worked extensively with dialect coach William Conacher to mimic and perfect the princess’s accent. “The accent is intimidating as all hell,” Stewart told InStyle in October 2020. “People know that voice, and it’s so, so distinct and particular. I’m working on it now and already have my dialect coach,” she said, adding that she watched several biographies to prepare for the role.
While Diana fans were initially skeptical of Stewart’s casting, those worries were quickly assuaged when “Spencer” hit theaters — with many critics lauding her as a front-runner for the best actress Academy Award.
In November, Stewart told Howard Stern on his radio show that she was so committed to the accent that she developed TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder, two weeks before filming.
“I was rubbing my jaw all day, and the day we started shooting, it just opened up. I wasn’t even fixated on my jaw; I was just so swept up in the experience. I just sort of knew it was going to work out,” she said. “At some point, my mouth will open. It has to. … It has to!”
Actor: Kate Winslet
Show: "Mare of Easttown"
Character: Mare Sheehan
Accent: Philadelphia area
In a 2014 New York Times op-ed, writer Daniel Nester called the Philadelphia regional accent “arguably the most distinctive, and least imitable, accent in North America.” Unless, of course, you’re Kate Winslet.
In the HBO limited series “Mare of Easttown,” Winslet plays Mare Sheehan, a detective investigating the murder of a teenage girl in a fictional town in Delaware County, Pennsylvania — an area better known for its thick, distinctive “Delco” accent. In Philadelphia, or “filelfia,” people eat “struberries,” not strawberries. They cheer for the “Iggles,” not the Eagles. And, as Winslet mentions, about 11 minutes into the first episode of the hit drama, people drink “wooder,” not water.
Mastering the Delco accent, however, wasn’t without its challenges, Winslet said. The prolific actor told the Los Angeles Times in April that the accent “is absolutely up there amongst the top two hardest dialects I’ve ever done.” Learning any dialect requires an actor to make “it just disappear,” she said. “So it’s not like a voice that you hear the actor doing. It just evaporates. It’s something that I have to work on truly every day.”
Winslet added that she worked with her longtime dialect coach Susan Hegarty, who said the Delco lilt was the “only accent [Winslet has] ever done that made her throw things.” But for all of the trials and tribulations Winslet endured, the “accent nerd,” Hegarty said, has a “mind like a steel trap” and can “absorb information without it upsetting her concentration as the character.”
On the internet, fans admired how the actor attempted the Sisyphean task of mastering the Delco accent. As one Twitter user aptly summarized: “Kate Winslet is fantastic, even when she struggles a bit with the DelCo accent.”
Actor: Nicole Kidman
Show: "Nine Perfect Strangers"
Character: Masha Dmitrichenko
Accent: Russian American
Nicole Kidman never once broke character during the filming of Hulu’s “Nine Perfect Strangers.” In the miniseries, based on Liane Moriarty’s novel of the same name, Kidman portrays Masha Dmitrichenko, a Russian wellness host who uses unconventional methods to help a group of nine people at her exclusive resort, Tranquillum House.
In August, during a Television Critics Association panel, Kidman joked she was “crazy” on set, adding she was so committed to the role that she would “completely ignore” anyone who called her by her first name.
“I’d only respond as Masha,” she said. “I wanted a very calm healing energy to emanate all the time, so I remember going over to people and sort of putting my hand on their heart, holding their hand, they would talk to me or use my name Nicole when I would completely ignore them.”
The Academy Award-winning actor said it was the “only way I could actually relate to people.” Otherwise, she said, it felt like she “would be doing a performance.”
Like the Hulu miniseries itself, Kidman’s accent was met with mixed reviews from critics and fans alike. “It’s a feature of her acting,” Mia Mercado wrote in The Cut, “a little Easter egg that sounds like she has two accents in her mouth each fighting for airtime.”
Actor: Benedict Cumberbatch
Movie: "The Power of the Dog"
Character: Phil Burbank
Accent: American English
Like Kidman, Benedict Cumberbatch religiously committed to his character in Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog.” The Western drama follows rancher brothers Phil (Cumberbatch) and George Burbank (Jesse Plemons) in Montana during the early 20th century as the two meet a mother (Kirsten Dunst) and her son (Kodi Smit-McPhee).
For his role, which critics have lauded, Cumberbatch told Variety he went full method acting, never breaking from his character or his snarling American West accent. He even learned how to castrate bulls and play the banjo.
“Everything you see in the film, I learned,” he said. “‘Learned’ is a big word. I did it and I experienced it. I did everything you see in the film.”
It isn’t the first time the English actor has shown an impressive command of the American elocution. In 2016, Bustle ranked five of Cumberbatch’s on-screen American accents throughout his career, placing his leading role (and voice) in “Doctor Strange” at the top of the list.