Nothing is more agonizing than watching actors butcher a Boston accent and, unfortunately, there are more than a few actors that fall “victim” to this act. Take legendary actor Jack Nicholson and co-star Vera Famiga from The Departed, for example. Did anyone really believe that Nicholson had a native Boston accent or that Famiga was a professional psychiatrist? How about Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting? Williams may have won an Oscar for his role as Sean but his accent was certainly not award winning. Other victims of the Boston accent curse include George Clooney in The Perfect Storm as well as Sean Penn and Tim Robbins in Mystic River, all of whom struggled to portray a convincing Beantown accents. Luckily for these A-listers, the accent botch hasn’t affected their careers or stopped revenue from their big blockbuster hits, but it has brought to question how people in the industry prepare for Boston-based roles. Actors can’t just acquire Mark Walberg’s or Matt Damon’s hometown accent from a speech coach; although some of them seem to be under that impression.
For anyone aspiring to act in a film where your local accents are a key part of your role, do read on. A Boston accent isn’t just about mastering the term, “wicked pissah,” dropping your r’s or learning the cliché “pahk the ka in Ha-vud yahd” throwback. Though these may help you sound like you’re from Beantown, you need to determine which Boston accent you are shooting for before you start dropping your r’s. Do you want to sound like a Kennedy, a fisherman from Gloucester, or like you drink “be-ahz” at Murphy’s Law in Southie? If you think you can master Affleck’s, Damon’s or Walberg’s homegrown native tongue, you’re probably giving yourself too much credit. There are so many different ways to sound like a Bostonian, and it’s disturbing that these “victims” couldn’t figure one out. Watch this clip with Ben Affleck teaching Jimmy Kimmel about the many different Boston Accents.
There are ways to fake a Boston accent but the best Boston accent is the homegrown kind. Three films – The Fighter, Grownups and The Town are in production right now in our own backyards. All have native tongues aboard such as Walberg and Affleck, who have posted casting calls stating “looking for authentic Boston accents”. We can’t say whether or not there will be more victims of a bad fake Boston accent, but we hope to see local actors get their “Wicked Pissah” voices heard. Tell us what you think about local Boston accents on the big screen.