The Best and Worst Of Hollywood Southern Accents

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Let’s set the ground rules shall we? You cannot be a native Southerner and make this list. The list is reserved for actors and actresses who worked with a dialect coach to achieve the twang. We’re assigning letter grades to the best and worst Southern accents in Hollywood, just for fun.

Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump

Southern Accent Grade: A-

Which Hollywood accent is mimicked more than Tom Hank’s in “Forrest Gump?” Very few if any. One-liners from Gump are still repeated everywhere, bad Southern impression or not.

The classic film is based upon Winston Groom’s 1986 novel which frequently refers to the lead character’s distinct accent.

Tom Hanks patterned his accent after the real voice of Michael Connor Humphrey’s, the child actor who played Forrest Jr. Ask a few genuine Southerners and you get different opinions. Some will say Hanks lays it on too thick, others say he’s spot on.

There’s no consensus on Hanks as Gump. I think he’s good and that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Kevin Costner as Jim Garrison

Southern Accent Grade: C-

Costner and his inconsistent southern accent play paranoid New Orleans prosecutor Jim Garrison in Oliver Stone’s “JFK.” The courtroom scenes are dramatic despite Costner’s poor impression of a Southern gentleman. Costner slips in and out of the accent throughout the films lengthy run time. You notice in the pinnacle scene, Costner repeats, ‘Back and to the left, back and to the left,” void of accent.

Nicolas Cage as Cameron Poe

Southern Accent Grade: F

I’ve seen “Con Air” at least a dozen times. Still can’t determine if Nicolas Cage is messing around. Playing an Alabama convict, Cage goes over the top in his drawling impression. He apparently spent time with a dialect coach prior to filming. Sorry Mr. Cage, but it didn’t work.

Kelly Macdonald as Carly Jean Moss

Southern Accent Grade: A+

Hard to believe Kelly Macdonald was born in Scotland after hearing that accent in “No Country For Old Men.” The Southern voice is thick and accurate during Macdonald’s award winning performance. There’s genuine acting talent in the star of Boardwalk Empire, Brave, Choke and The Girl in the Cafe.

Keanu Reeves as Kevin Lomax

Southern Accent Grade: F

What do you expect from a Canadian? Few Southern accents have been poorer in the history of cinema. Keanu Reeves playing a hotshot attorney from Gainesville, Florida just didn’t work out. If I were a screenwriter, I may have considered rewriting that story board to save Reeves the embarrassment.

Couldn’t the character have been from the Midwest?

Despite Reeves’ poor Southern rendition, “Devil’s Advocate” is a solid film. Thank God for Al Pacino.

Matt Damon as Rudy Baylor

Southern Accent Grade: B+

The Boston native went all in while preparing for the lead role in “The Rainmaker.” Legend has it that Damon tended bar in Tennessee for a while, working pro-bono as he learned Southern dialect from natives. He eventually hired one of the bar patrons to serve as his dialect coach.

Worked out pretty well. Damon, as usual, nailed the part.

Susan Sarandon as Annie Savoy

Southern Accent Grade: A-

Minor league baseball groupies have a voice thanks to Susan Sarandon’s performance in the cult hit “Bull Durham.” Sarandon’s character charms co-stars Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins with her North Carolina accent which sounds regional.

You see?

Not everybody can pick up the charming voice of Southerns, not even the pros. When you speak with the Southern accent, speak proudly my friends.

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