For many years, the lure of Hollywood’s fame and fortune has brought in actors from all over the world. For better or for worse, the vast majority of films are written about American characters, so the vast majority of actors who play them are required to be American, or at least sound like an American in order to nab the roles. This means that actors who normally speak with a non-American accent are forced to hide it or put on an American accent to sound authentic. I’m not saying anything you don’t know; I’m just setting the scene here.
Sure, some accents are terrible. They’re fooling no one. But for every terrible Ewan McGregor American accent, there is one who had us totally convinced. Some of these actors have been so convincing in so many different roles throughout their careers that we didn’t even know they had another accent at all. Unless you are celeb obsessed. Let’s face it, you probably are. But for the rest of us, we just assumed they were American. In Hollywood, we can pretty much go ahead and assume everyone is American. Speaking of accents, you ever watch a show and think to yourself, “are these guys speaking in an accent?” but you have been binge-watching so hard that you can’t even detect an accent anymore? Yeah, isn’t that so weird?
All of the actors on this list are well-known to all of us. At least we thought we knew them well. We’ve watched them play so many American characters that we either always assumed they were American or, somewhere along the way, we forgot the way that they normally sound. For a few of these actors, it might have happened that you were watching an interview and were shocked by their natural voice, whether it be Australian, British, South African or from some place else. These are the rest of them, the best at masking their true voices, the 16 actors you never knew had accents. But they do. They have accents.
17. Hugh Jackman, Australian
If you thought Hugh Jackman was American, you were actually wrong. He’s Australian. His real voice sounds more like Crocodile Dundee than Wolverine, which is actually Canadian, but I don’t think anyone told Hugh Jackman that. I never once heard Logan say “aboot,” which everyone knows is how Canadians say hello. The guy was totally just speaking American English. I suppose that many people think Jackman is British because those two languages are so often confused, probably. But yeah, Jackman does use an American accent in most of his roles, but the guy totally is Australian. His real voice is hilarious.
16. Stephen Moyer, British
Stephen Moyer is an actor who is best known for playing the vampire Bill Compton in HBO’s popular TV show True Blood. You might be shocked by this, but he is not a southern boy from the United States of America; he is actually from Essex. The fact that Moyer played the southern character Compton for a total of six years, had many fans convinced that he was actually American. But nope, he ain’t. Nah. He ain’t. Another interesting (and probably shocking to most) fact is he also isn’t close to the age he plays on the show. I think he’s actually like 60 years old.
15. Ryan Kwanten, Australian
Another actor from HBO’s popular show True Blood, Ryan Kwanten (Jason Stackhouse), also hides his natural accent—he is Australian. So True Blood fans everywhere were being told a lie every episode that they watched. Their lover boys were not good ol’ southern men (well, Kwanten technically is) but foreigners from a distant land. Kwanten has said that doing an American accent is actually no big deal, and all part of the job, “I had been working in the States for eight years, and I was so used to hearing the word, ‘Action,’ and jumping into a form of the American accent.”
14. Sacha Baron Cohen, British
Maybe it’s because Sacha Baron Cohen uses so many different accents in his bits, but people are often surprised to hear him speak in his natural west-London accent. Even though the majority of Baron Cohen’s work has him use his natural voice (or a variant of it), since Bruno and Borat are the much more popular characters of Baron Cohen’s in North America, people expect a different voice from him—although it is difficult to say what type of voice is expected. There’s a large part of me that wishes his actual voice was Borat’s voice. I would really keep up on his life story. I would download Instagram and follow him on Instagram. He would be like the Kazak Kardashians. I guess we always knew Baron-Cohen had an accent, we just didn’t know which one.
13. Daniel Day-Lewis, British
One of the greatest living actors, Daniel Day-Lewis is not American. It’s true. It makes sense that Mr. Daniel is perfectly able to capture the intonations of the American accent because he’s as close to perfect as an actor gets. Like I know that Day-Lewis is English, but if he came up to me and acted like an American, I’d have to believe him. He’s so convincing. It’s amazing that the London-born actor is not only able to portray an American accent, but able to pick up some of the more iconic American accents there are, from Southerners to New Yorkers to friggin’ Abraham Lincoln. Wait, how do we even know what Lincoln’s voice sounded like? Over the past 20 years, Day-Lewis has starred in a large number of significant American movies which has led many to forget the early years of his illustrious career, the portion that he spent speaking in his natural English accent.
12. Charlie Hunnam, British
The star of the hit FX TV show Sons of Anarchy, Charlie Hunnam is not American, even though he’s surely been claimed numerous times. He’s actually from Newcastle, England. His performances as Jax in Sons and Raleigh in Pacific Rim, might have you thinking that he’s a Yankee, but he’s just really great at turning off his British accent. For many actors in Hunnam’s shoes, there is something a little off in their voice, a hint of difference, but not for Charlie. He’s got the voice down pat, and, not only that, he plays a hardened biker from Murica and passes with flying colors. That’s when you know you’re really good.
11. Colin Farrell, Irish
Colin Farrell has been in the game a long time, so there’s a good chance that you already knew he was an Irishman, especially if you’re a fan of Scrubs. But for those who didn’t already know, Colin Farrell is Irish. While he has done a significant amount of work using his natural voice, he often uses an English accent or an American accent for his biggest films. This has made it a little confusing for fans, leading many to think the actor is English, a right slap in the face for those from the Emerald Isle. Actually, you know what, you probably should have known Farrell was Irish. Shame on you.
10. Andrew Lincoln, British
If you’ve seen Love Actually, you’re probably thinking, well duh! But, for the rest of you, Andrew Lincoln, Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead, is from London. He’s not the American stud he plays on the zombie show. Part of the reason he seems so American is that he changed his last name to Lincoln from the original name, Andrew James Clutterbuck—about as English as a name gets. For the fans of Walking Dead that don’t watch his interviews or the bloopers or follow him around listening to his conversations, learning that Lincoln is not an American might be surprising. It’s okay. I’ll give you a moment. It can be tough losing one of your own, I’m not judging.
9. Christian Bale, British
Some might think that Christian Bale‘s real voice sounds just like it does in The Dark Knight trilogy. No, not the cool raspy voice that everyone loves, the normal American one. But Bale is actually English. Can you believe it? An Englishman playing a great American hero like Batman. What’s the classic saying? “They’re taking all our jobs”? While his lesser-known early work showed off his natural voice, the work that made Bale the A-lister he is today. Films like American Psycho, The Machinist, The Fighter and The Big Short, all had him use his “fake” American accent. Even though we like to rip on his voice in The Dark Knight trilogy, there is no mocking of his ability to shed his English, beating true-voiced Americans for some of the most sought-after roles in Hollywood.
8. Hemsworth Brothers, Australian
You might be surprised to learn that the Hemsworth brothers were not genetically engineered in a lab that created perfect human specimens. You might also be surprised to learn that these freaks are not Americans. Nope, neither of them. These ridiculous humans are from the great outback, Australia. The fact that Chris‘ biggest role, Thor in Thor and The Avengers, has him don a British accent might confuse many of his fans, assuming they are part of the population that can tell those two accents apart. Liam (left) is most famous from The Hunger Games franchise or Miley Cyrus—both American, letting him show off his own ability to leave his Aussie flare behind. Both brothers have quite the knack for changing their voices, but I have a sneaking suspicion that even if they only spoke in Klingon they would still be crammed into any movie that needed eye-candy.
7. Hugh Laurie, British
Even though Hugh Laurie had quite a successful career on British TV with hits like Fry & Laurie, Blackadder and Jeeves and Wooster, the Oxford native is best known around these parts as Dr. House in House. It was the American doctor character that made Laurie so filthy rich and also had North American audiences convinced that he’s an American. There are some stories that even the show’s producers were unaware that Laurie had an accent. It takes a special type of stupid to not know someone has an accent when they are talking in their normal voices. Unless Laurie only spoke to them as an American. I guess they may not have spoken with Laurie, but that couldn’t be possible, right? Even though they never needed it, the show even left the character’s backstory a little open to allow for him to have a non-distinct American accent.
6. Eliza Taylor, Australian
The star of the CW’s hit show The 100, Eliza Taylor (Clarke Griffin) is not who she appears to be on the show. Taylor has shown that she has the ability to switch off her natural Australian accent and put on an American flavor. It seems that Australians are unable to use their natural voices on American TV and film, asked either to mute them completely or switch it to an English accent, the universal foreign language. Seriously, whenever Hollywood wants to show that a character is foreign to the American audiences, they make them British. What’s with that? This is most likely because it sounds somewhat foreign but it is still understandable. Hmm, sidetracked. Yes, Taylor is Australian. Her name is also close to Elizabeth Taylor.
5. Henry Cavill, British
Superman is not American. Comic fans are seething right now. “We know he’s not an American buddy; he’s a Kryptonian.” No but seriously, Superman might as well just use the American flag as his cape, he’s so American, but not the guy who plays him, Henry Cavill, nope. Cavill is actually from the U.K. and speaks with a British accent, something fans of the show The Tudors will remember. Actually, a lot of his work has him speak in a British accent, but when you play a character as monumental as Superman, it tends to overshadow the rest of your resume. I guess when you’re so jacked your costume doesn’t need muscle modifications, the filmmakers won’t care where you’re from.
4. Matthew Rhys, Welsh
Fans of the show The Americans will recognize the star Matthew Rhys as the Russian spy portraying an American. In reality, Rhys is a Welsh actor pretending to be a Russian spy pretending to be an American average Joe. I’m not 100% sure about the spy part, but he is certainly Welsh. Because Rhys’ American accent is so convincing, it is really jarring to hear him speak in his natural voice, and the Welsh accent is already so distinct as it is. The whole thing is rather funny. There are so many different levels of language inception going on here that American audiences would never even second guess his American-ness.
3. Naomi Watts, British/Australian
This is a woman who was born in England, lived for many years in Australia and does the vast majority of her roles with an American accent. It can be difficult to distinguish where Naomi Watts is from by her natural accent, both Aussie and English influences are in it, and she usually says she is both English and Australian. Keeping that in mind, it’s all really quite amazing that she is so capable of putting on a rather flawless American accent for her work. Maybe the only criticism her accents have ever received is for her Russian accent in St. Vincent, which was a little brutal, but an honest attempt nonetheless.
2. Heath Ledger, Australian
You hear The Joker speak and you would never guess that Heath Ledger actually spoke with a natural Australian accent. For almost his entire career, Ledger hid his Australian accent and used either a British or an American voice, accents he was incredible at switching between. It might be that his American accent in Brokeback Mountain was the most impressive and the most convincing of them all. Actually, come to think of it, his performance in Candy uses his natural voice—so go watch that and see Heath and how he really sounded. Or just picture an Australian accent. It’s pretty standard really.
1. Nicole Kidman, Australian
Another Australian tricking us all, Nicole Kidman has been giving fans the runaround for years. When Kidman first made a name for herself, she began using an English or American accent and it has stuck within most of her work still to this day. Now Kidman’s been around long enough that most movie fans have heard her speak naturally a few times, but, again, she’s been around long enough that people could forget. Let this be your reminder then; Kidman is not an American and she never has been. Actually, I think she does have an American citizenship, so I take that back. Kidman never used to be an American.