American actresses playing British women: can they pull it off?

1. Anne Hathaway as Emma in One Day (2011)
The character: Emma, a Yorkshire lass, Edinburgh educated but now living down south.
Difficulty level: 9/10. It’s not only an English accent, it’s a Yorkshire accent that can’t be too strong because she’s been to Uni and has moved, so it has to just barely be there. A very tricky one, this.
Does she pull it off? Oh, yes, by ‘eck.

2. Rene Zellwegger as Bridget Jones in Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

The character: Middle class Bridget is your average English mess of a girl.
Difficulty level: 4/10. The difficulty was mainly because Bridget was the most famous woman in English literature at the time. EVERYONE had read the book and thought they knew what Miss Jones would be like.
Does she pull it off? Pretty much.

3. Gwyneth Paltrow as Helen in Sliding Doors (1998)
The character:
Helen is a London PR executive, a smart one.
Difficulty level: 3/10. It’s a fairly straightforward, slightly posh English accent Gwynnie is trying to pull of in this movie, so all she really has to do is lengthen some vowels and make sure she makes all her ‘t’s and ‘d’s nice and clicky.
Does she pull it off? More or less. You never quite forget though.

4. Angelina Jolie as Elise in The Tourist (2010)
The character: Elise Clifton-Ward is an ultra posh woman of mystery. But then the name kind of gives the posh bit away.
Difficulty level: 2/10. Ultra-posh is easier for Americans to do than everyday (we have actually researched this with real live Americans). Besides, she’d already pulled off a decent accent as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
Does she pull it off? Very much so, daaaahling.

5. Meryl Streep as Susan in Plenty (1985)

The character: Susan Traherne is a smart, ex-resistance fighter living in post-war Britain.
Difficulty level: 7/10. She may be the mistress of all accents but Meryl had a tough one on her hands here, having to not only do English but that funny 1940s clipped English. The result is somewhere between Keira Knightley and Princess Diana.
Does she pull it off? Absolutely, without a doubt, toodle pip.

6. Claire Danes as Maria in Stage Beauty (2004)

The character: A female theatre dresser becomes the first woman allowed to be an actress.
Difficulty level: 6/10. Not only does Claire have to pull off a convincing English accent, we’re also talking Restoration England so there’s an historical angle – and a wealth of real English actors in supporting roles to compare her with.
Does she pull it off? Sort of. A little overdone in parts, mind.

7. Annette Bening as Julia in Being Julia (2004)

The character: Julia Lambert is a grande dame of the English theatah!
Difficulty level: 5/10. The character is pretty over the top and it’s set in the 1930s so there’s room to over-egg the accent, which Bening does. Then pulls it right back in for the quieter bits.
Does she pull it off? To the very highest standards, as you might expect.

8. Jodie Foster as Anna in Anna and the King (1999)

The character: Anna Leonowens is a schoolmarm from 1860s England shipped out to Siam.
Difficulty level: 3/10. Old-school English is probably easier for an actress as there’s more emphasis on each word. Add to that the fact she’s talking to non-English speakers much of the time, so needs to en-nun-ceeeee-ate very clearly.
Does she pull it off? Yes. She sounds natural most of the time and a bit schoolmarmish.

9. Julianne Moore as Charley in A Single Man (2009)
The character: Charley is the aging expat London party girl next door in California.
Difficulty level: 4/10. Not particularly tricky as that sort of sexy, posh thing doesn’t seem that hard to master, especially when the character seems to have had a couple of gin and tonics at all times.
Does she pull it off? Smashingly, sweetie.

10. Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia in Stardust (2007)
The character:
Lamia is a witch, so, you know, she pretty much does as she likes.
Difficulty level: 2/10. Seeing as this is a fantasy, no one is really expecting realism, even when it comes to the accent, which, it must be said, doesn’t really have staying power and does tend to wander a little.
Does she pull it off? It’s Michelle Pfeiffer! She can do no wrong (but does still sound American…)