With St Patrick's Day nearly upon us again let's look at possibly the most maligned accent in cinema history. Hollywood's take on it has hardly changed since Old Mother Riley was packing them in. They're still peddling the kind of whimsical Oirish brogue that sends shudders down the spine. But which actors have committed the greatest crimes against the poor Irish accent? We here at the Stuff Dreams Are Made Of blog have investigated on your behalf:
(1) Barry Fitzgerald in Going My Way (1944)
Half man, half leprechaun, Barry Fitzgerald was the original DNA of blarney Oirishness, popularising all its worst cliches in a host of films from Bringing Up Baby to The Quiet Man. Surely his greatest crime, however, was insufferable priest-fest Going My Way, the kind of pro-Catholic propaganda Joseph Goebbels would've been proud of, where even Bing Crosby singing Too Ra Loo Ra Loo is surpassed for sickly Irish fakery by Fitzgeralds's old ham.
(2) Kevin Spacey in Ordinary Decent Criminal (2000)
In truth I could've nominated the entire cast of this treasure trove of bad Irish accents. It's so bad even the real Irish actors sound fake. Spacey's smug, lazy attempt at it goes from awful to non-existent depending on the scene. But the worst thing about this half-arsed cousin to John Boorman's The General is that it was not only written by an Irishman, Gerard Stembridge, but directed by one too, Thaddeus O'Sullivan. They should be very ashamed.
(3) Pierce Brosnan in Evelyn (2002)
'Where's moi dawtur!' Oh lord. Speaking of Irish people knowing better, the generally underrated Pierce Brosnan does heinous damage to the accent in this sentimental drama. It's based on a true-life story but, believe me, no-one living or dead ever spoke with an accent as ripe as that. All together now: 'Oi am Desmond Doile! Faader of Evelyn Doile!' It's excruciating, it really is.
(4) Tom Cruise in Far And Away (1992)
Hang on, though, who's this? 'Oi am Joseph Donnelly! Of the family Donnelly!' Ah yes, no list of bad Irish accents would be complete without this special-needs attempt from plucky Tom Cruise in Ron Howard's epic saga following every Irish cliche as they journey from bailiff-burning cottages to Amerikay's bustling streets. 'All they have left is their dream,' voice-over man tells us. 'But America was built one dream at a time.' That's all right then. Hilarious.
(5) Colin Farrell in Alexander (2004)
Ironically in Oliver Stone's much derided epic the Irish accents are authentic for once (Jared Leto excepted) but the results are every bit as woebegotten. Of course the idea is sound in principle. Why not cast Alexander The Great and his closest warriors with Irish actors? The usual American or classicly-trained English accents are no more authentic after all. Well, so much for theory. In practice Farrell's career-sinking performance is undermined all the more by the accent, his would-be lofty eloquence neutered by its flat cadences.