Foreign Actors You Probably Thought Were American
One of the most impressive masks a foreign actor can wear involves pretending to be American. Impressively, the actors and actresses on this list hid their natural accents for roles. One actress used an American accent so much she completely lost her Australian dialect (page 10).
1. Idris Elba
Idris Elba’s first American TV role was Baltimore drug kingpin Stringer Bell on the HBO’s The Wire. The Brit played in American action films, like DC’s The Losers and MCU’s Asgardian Heimdall, and sci-fi films Prometheus, Pacific Rim, and Star Trek Beyond. He used his natural accent in BBC One’s Luther and miniseries Guerrilla.
Next: This actress found her niche with action roles.
2. Famke Janssen
Famke Janssen’s first notable role was Xenia Onatopp opposite Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond in GoldenEye, adopting a Russian accent for the part. Using an American accent, the Dutch actress rose to prominence in X-Men. She also starred in the Taken trilogy, The Blacklist, and The Blacklist: Redemption.
Next: Mystery surrounds this star’s background.
3. Keanu Reeves
The Matrix star has never fully revealed the details of his citizenship. Keanu Reeves was born in Beirut, Lebanon. His mother is English and his father is of “Chinese-Hawaiian, English, Irish and Portuguese descent,” according to IMDb. Reeves’ parents split, and he eventually moved to Toronto with his mom and sister. The star explains that, at 20 years old, he got his green card and “drove across the border from Canada and came to LA.”
Next: This badass biker was born across the pond.
4. Charlie Hunnam
The British actor gained attention when he starred on Sons of Anarchy with an American accent. Charlie Hunnam picked up action roles in films like The Ledge, Deadfall, and Pacific Rim. In 2017, he appeared in The Lost City of Z and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword using his natural accent.
Next: This Oscar-winner almost had her citizenship revoked.
5. Natalie Portman
Nationality: Israeli and American
Born in Jerusalem, Israel by the name of Natalie Hershlag, Portman moved to the U.S. with her family when she was four years old. As one of the most famous Jewish celebs, the Black Swan star did not attend a Jewish awards ceremony where she would receive the Genesis Prize, aka the Jewish Nobel prize, according to Vox. The Harvard graduate did not want to support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This resulted in members of the parliament calling for Portman’s Israeli citizenship to be revoked.
Next: This breakout star tricked audiences everywhere.
6. Daniel Kaluuya
Horror flick Get Out gained international praise in 2017, with star Daniel Kaluuya winning over fans and using an American accent. Until then, he mostly acted in his home country of England. You can see him revert to his natural voice in Marvel film Black Panther.
Next: This TV star admits he doesn’t vote in the U.S. or his home country.
7. Kiefer Sutherland
Born in London, Kiefer Sutherland has a complicated history. The Designated Survivor star is the grandson of Tommy Douglas, a socialist icon recognized for launching Canada’s public healthcare system, reveals CBC. His mom, Shirley Douglas, is an actress and activist, and his famous dad, Donald Sutherland, is an actor and outspoken political critic. Although Kiefer can’t vote in Canada because he lacks citizenship, he says, “I’ve always felt I was Canadian and that’s who I am and I have no interest in changing that.”
Next: This model-turned-actress got her start in Europe.
8. Diane Kruger
Born Diane Heidkrüger, Kruger began her career as a model in Germany. She appeared in a few French films before landing in American productions like Troy and Wicker Park. Kruger may be most recognized for actually playing a German in Inglourious Basterds.
Next: Shockingly, this zombie-killer is not American.
9. Andrew Lincoln
What may help a U.K. actor transition to Hollywood? A less British surname. This was how Andrew Clutterbuck got the stage name Andrew Lincoln. He acted across the pond for years in films like Love Actually. But Lincoln didn’t become a household name until he landed the lead role on AMC series The Walking Dead, receiving critical praise for his acting.
Next: She’s portrayed so many Americans that her accent disappeared.
10. Portia de Rossi
Not only did Australian actress Portia de Rossi change her accent, but she also changed her name (from Amanda Lee Rogers) and career (she studied law in university). Gigs on Ally McBeal, Arrested Development, and Better Off Ted led to de Rossi’s fame. In fact, she eventually adopted her U.S. accent beyond her acting roles. In 2017, she reprised her role on Scandal.
Next: “The Land Down Under” produces renowned actresses.
11. Margot Robbie
The star began acting on soap opera Neighbours. She achieved major success for The Wolf of Wall Street, where she used a Brooklyn accent. From there, she acted in The Legend of Tarzan and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (using her natural accent). Now, Robbie is best known as Harley Quinn in the DC Extended Universe.
While fans know the character for her New Jersey-New York dialect, Robbie sticks with a non-regional American accent for her adaptation.
Next: The fifth highest-paid TV star isn’t even from America.
12. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Americans know him as Jaime Lannister in the award-winning HBO series Game of Thrones. But Nikolaj Coster-Waldau got his big break in the Danish film Nightwatch, reports IMDb. Born in Rudkøbing, Denmark, the actor makes $1 million per episode with the GOT franchise, receiving Emmy, SAG, Critics’ Choice, and People’s Choice awards along the way.
Next: You’ll know this Australian actress from an American wedding movie.
13. Isla Fisher
Nationality: Australian and British
Born in the Arab country of Oman to Scottish parents, Isla Fisher lived in Scotland before settling down in Perth, Australia. She primarily identifies as Australian, and her accent reflects this, although she spends a lot of time in England. Fisher has long hidden her native accent. She’s best known for Wedding Crashers, Confessions of a Shopaholic, and Now You See Me — all with an American accent.
Next: This British actor appropriately began with Downton Abbey.
14. Charlie Cox
Charlie Cox began acting while living in the U.K. and appeared on Downton Abbey, too. His first regular TV role was Owen Sleater on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, where he spent two seasons.
Unless you’re familiar with his earlier roles, you probably know Cox best as Matt Murdock, “The Man Without Fear,” on the Netflix series, Daredevil. This show was the first of the Marvel projects on the streaming network, beginning quite a phenomenon. He also plays the character in the miniseries, The Defenders.
Next: Being cut from a film didn’t stop this Irish actress.
15. Ruth Negga
Nationality: Irish and Ethiopian
Born in Ethiopia, Ruth Negga was actually raised by her Irish mother in Limerick, Ireland. The actress appeared in British series but received greater recognition on Agents of SHIELD. Negga filmed 12 Years a Slave — she was ultimately cut — and Warcraft. The actress finally earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress as the star of historical drama Loving.
Next: She co-starred in one of the most “American” TV shows ever.
16. Kim Cattrall
Nationality: British and Canadian
Although Kim Cattrall was born in Liverpool, England, she’s a Canadian citizen who doesn’t even live in the United States. Cattrall moved to NYC to study acting, receiving her big break in 1997 when she was cast as sassy, stylish Samantha in Sex and the City. Due to her complex past, Cattrall describes herself as a “Liverpool-born, Canadian-raised New Yorker.”
Next: Hearing this actress speak without a Boston accent is surprising.
17. Yael Stone
Stage actress Yael Stone has both a unique name and origin story. Her father’s family is from Czechoslovakia, and she began acting as a child. Before moving to the U.S. for work, she appeared in a few Australian films and TV series.
As luck would have it, Stone was cast in Orange Is the New Black shortly after moving to New York. Her character quickly became known for her distinct accent, which was thought to be a mixture of Boston and Brooklyn. For fans who have only seen her on the Netflix hit, hearing her native accent can be a jarring experience.
Next: This actor makes it hard to tell which accent is real.
18. Sacha Baron Cohen
Like his wife, Fisher, Sacha Baron Cohen is known for his interesting voice. Because of the characters he’s played throughout his comedic career, Baron Cohen has adopted many accents over the years, and some fans may be confused about his true voice.
Born and raised in London, England, Baron Cohen rose to fame with the film Borat, where he played the eponymous man from Kazakhstan, which he followed with Brüno, who is Austrian, and Admiral General Aladeen in The Dictator, who hailed from a fictional Middle Eastern country. It’s hard to keep up with the accents and characters Baron Cohen takes on, so you’d be forgiven for not knowing where he was from.
Next: A “sixth sense” gave this actress her big break in America.
19. Toni Collette
Actress and singer Toni Collette was born and raised in Sydney, Australia, but fans of her most popular works may not know this. Like most on this list, she began performing in her home country but soon transitioned to Hollywood, where she’s starred on film, TV, and stage for many years.
Dating back to 1999, Collette was nominated for an Oscar for her role in The Sixth Sense, kicking off her tenure in American cinema. She received acclaim for turns in popular U.S. indie films such as Little Miss Sunshine and The Way, Way Back. But perhaps her most significant role is the lead in Showtime series, United States of Tara, where she played the many different personalities of a woman with dissociative identity disorder.
Next: BBC jumpstarted this famous actor’s career.
20. Dan Stevens
The Brit began his career on stage and in BBC adaptations. However, Dan Stevens got his big break as Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey. In fact, many of his roles show off his natural accent, but Americans who aren’t Downton Abbey fans know him as David Haller on X-Men’s Legion.
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