Film discusses the rise of British Actors crossing the pond to transform into on-screen Americans.
If you have been to see any of this summer’s hottest blockbusters, chances are that you have recognised some home-grown talent amongst the Hollywood elite. In fact, the British invasion of this year’s silver screen has been a noticeable Tinseltown trend in 2012. Some of the highest grossing films of the year, including The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-man and Brave, have all prominently featured an array of British stars. Yet what could be the reason for the successes of our own LA-bound thespians?
British success in America is, of course, nothing new, but in recent years there has been a significant shift in the role British actors have been playing in the Hollywood scene. From the stereotypical typecasting of Brits as either the smarmy, toothy charmers such as Hugh Grant in Mickey Blue Eyes or the dastardly calculating villain, such as Jeremy Irons as Scar in The Lion King, British actors are now taking centre stage in a variety of markedly ‘un-British’ roles; roles that perhaps once would have been traditionally played by American actors. The British invasion has even spread to the most American corner of popular film culture: the superhero movie. The famous comic book icons, Spider-man, Superman and Batman, are currently played by the British-born Andrew Garfield, Henry Cavill and Christian Bale, showing that with great power comes British sensibilities.
So why is it that our native artistes are nabbing these very parts that encapsulate American valour? If we take a closer look at these examples of the superhero spectacle a pattern of popularity and connections emerges. Andrew Garfield’s previous box office smash-hit prior to The Amazing Spider-man was The Social Network, a film which gained many awards including Oscar for best screenplay and a BAFTA for best director. Coincidence that this American success story led to the designation of Garfield as America’s beloved Spider-man? Furthermore, British director Christopher Nolan has featured an assortment of treats born and bred in the U.K. throughout The Dark Knight Trilogy, stars such as Gary Oldman, Michael Cane, Liam Neeson and the more recent Hollywood sensation Tom Hardy, who was cast as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Does this suggest that British directors working in Hollywood favour stars from their own country?
This could well be the case as British directors may be more aware of emerging actors working in the U.K, or may have had experience working with those actors in their earlier films, before making it stateside themselves. Nolan in particular seems to prefer to cast actors he is familiar with in his movies. His remarkable critical and commercial success in recent years, coupled with preference for British talent has opened the door for the likes of Christian Bale and Tom Hardy to become some of the biggest names in American action movies. However, due to the Hollywood star system when someone becomes hot property they are likely to appear in a string of films as a result of the producers’ wish to cash in on their popularity and the potential audience they will attract to the cinema. Once someone becomes a bankable prospect their chances of landing a star role greatly increases. Tom Hardy’s striking turn as Charles Bronson no doubt caught the eye of film-makers across the pond and two years later subsequently led to his first blockbuster breakthrough in Inception. The fame game has its firm grip on the movie industry; popularity is often the way across the bridge to Hollywood. Our shared language and way of western living makes the prospect of popular British actors also becoming American stars very feasible. This has been the case for many British screen idols, for instance Carey Mulligan, Robert Pattinson, Emily Blunt, Gerard Butler and Kate Winslet, who has had honoured U.S success, bagging herself many awards for her films such as The Reader and Revolutionary Road. Akin to Kate, Hardy since his role in Inception, has gone on to play the part of the American citizen (see Warrior and Lawless), challenging himself with the task of the foreign accent. British actors now have the flexibility within films to be not just the articulate villain or pompous, floppy-haired sweet talker, but also one of them, the Hollywood elite, accent and all!
Some Brits can pull it off, whilst others ruin the illusion by drawing our attention to their dreadful attempts at the Yankee twang. The accent: master it and your performance and status as an actor become more impressive. Personally, our very own Daniel Day Lewis deeply convinced me that he was in fact an American with his magnificent performance in both Gangs of New York and There Will Be Blood. Also, Andrew Garfield is an entirely believable American in The Social Network. However, the bad accents have the potential to turn a gem of a film into a shambles. Ewan McGregor and Gerard Butler are prime examples of Brits who can’t conceal their lovely, distinctive Scottish tones within the colourful dialect of the states. Yet, even their terrible American accents will be tolerated as long as they remain popular. Our film-viewing experience is affected furthermore by our knowledge of where an actor is from. When we become aware of their homeland it is easier to scrutinise a vocal performance, listening vigilantly for accent slip-ups.
So, should we be honoured that Hollywood is calling for our British talent or are we clinging on for dear life to keep them all in U.K productions? As a fan of the film industry I’m sure you’ll agree that cinema is a wonderful worldwide experience and it is nothing but awesome that our Brits can be involved in all that glitters and shines in Tinseltown.
Words: Leanne Dixon