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When are dialect coaches hired for actors, and who typically makes the decision?

I've seen serious movies where stars attempt to emulate an accent with grating incompetence.

And now I've seen the opposite (a star I didn't think would have trouble with an accent, in a role in which it probably wouldn't matter either way): Among the credited crew of Paddington was a "dialect coach" for Nicole Kidman. Which seems to me bizarre for several reasons:

  1. Her native accent is Australian, which is "close enough" to British for a family movie. A cosmopolitan Australian attempting to imitate a British accent is good enough for a family comedy (maybe?).
  2. She plays a second-tier character.
  3. She has been acting in roles demanding far more accent versatility and accuracy for decades.

Is it likely that a director/producer requested the coach, or that the actress did? And if the latter I'm wondering in cases like this whether it's just an excuse to get a friend a job and/or credit? Or is it a status symbol for the actor? Or is this actress just very particular about nailing her part, regardless of its magnitude or context?

  • I'm sorry but I don't honestly think that Australian is "close enough" for British, regardless of the type of film, so I negate your first point. – Catija May 23 '15 at 18:00
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    Plus, Paddington is an iconic British character. Brits certainly know the difference and it would be silly to ignore that audience. – Catija May 23 '15 at 18:07
  • @Catija: Good arguments. I'll leave a question-mark on that one because I don't know how strong her native accent is or how bad she is at affecting a British accent without coaching. I guess my question comes from having heard so many horrendous accent attempts in far more serious movies, and from "star" actors, that I was surprised it merited attention here. – feetwet May 23 '15 at 19:49
  • Your question is really great and I think it'd be even better if you kept with the general question at hand "When are dialogue coaches brought in (and who hires them)?" rather than framing it so specifically about this example. You can definitely cite Paddington as the genesis of the question but I don't know that it's necessary to tie it in so closely. Just a thought. It's your question and you are more than welcome to frame it as you like. :) – Catija May 23 '15 at 19:52
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    Funny anecdote, I had an Irishman come in to audition for a Scottish role and he was laughing at the American actors' attempts to do a Scottish accent... but I don't honestly think his was any better, despite his claim that he was very comfortable with the accent. Even within England (or the US), accents vary widely and many actors aren't aware of what they're doing "wrong" for a particular accent they're trying to portray. – Catija May 23 '15 at 19:58
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In the case of The Man from U.N.C.L.E, the decision appears to have been made by the film's director Guy Ritchie, supported by the actors who wanted to improve their performance.

From an interview with USA Today both Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer spoke about their need to work on their accents: (my emphasis)

HENRY CAVILL (British)

Cavill speaks with an American accent as the Man of Steel. But he and Ritchie decided on a variation of Cary Grant for his super-cool spy, honing the accent at length with dialect coach Andrew Jack. Ritchie wasn't happy with it.

"Eventually, (Ritchie) said, 'You sound like a British actor who cannot do American,' " says Cavill. "He said, 'I know you can do American. I have seen Man of Steel. People who have seen Man of Steel know you can do American. But those who have not are just going to think you are crap."

They adjusted the accent to make it more American, keeping the Grant-like intonation. It was so effective that Cavill got into character by speaking.

"It was the thing that got me to the place," says Cavill. "The accent is so unique that it actually informs the way you move."

And a similar situation for Armie Hammer:

ARMIE HAMMER (American)

Los Angeles-born Hammer was originally cast alongside Cruise, thinking the Russian role was "more challenging." He initially crammed with YouTube videos and tapes of native Russians speaking English,then worked with the dialect coach.

Hammer would also grab Russian actor Misha Kuznetsov, who plays a KGB leader, on the set to run through particularly difficult passages.

"But then after a couple of weeks, it becomes so natural, in a weird way," says Hammer.

Just don't ask him to repeat the line "What is that?"

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