Eleven Mediocre Southern Accents From Movies and How They Should Really Sound
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Southern Accents

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Emma Stone in The Help

The accent: Jackson, Mississippi
In the movie: Stone takes her first onscreen crack at an accent other than her own in The Help and the result is a cookie-cutter Southern drawl that she should keep in her back pocket in case she ever plays a character from Louisiana, North Carolina, or Georgia. Stone deserves credit for avoiding the caricature, though. As they say, never go full hillbilly.
In real life: Faith Hill was born in Jackson and grew up in a small town twenty minutes away. As is clear in this mid-nineties footage of her, Hill was dropping her gs and turning her Is into ahs in the distinct dialect of the deep South.

: 3 out of 5 diphthongs
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Nicolas Cage in Con Air

The accent: Alabama
In the movie: In Con Air, Nic Cage delivers what is widely agreed to be the worst Southern accent in Hollywood history. As much as it sounds like he whipped this thing out on the first day of filming, Cage actually spent time in Alabama trying to master it. It didn't work. If you listen with your eyes closed (always advisable when a Nic Cage movie is on), it sounds like he's using the "talk like your mouth is wired shut" strategy.
In real life: Senator Jeff Sessions shows that a real Alabama accent is softer, less mush-mouthed, and far more dignified than Cage's.

: 1 out of 5 diphthongs
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James Van der Beek in Varsity Blues

The accent: North Texas
In the movie: Oh, Dawson, why do you insist on pronouncing every single syllable in every single word? And it sounds like you only realize that your character was from Texas at the end of this mini-monologue when you turned "life" into "lahhhhhhfe." But hey, at least it's better than your attempts at crying.
In real life: All JVDB had to do in order to learn the small-town Texas twang was study Matthew McConaughey. In the years since leaving Texas, McConaughey has added some surfer to his rancher, but he's always had that smooth, Southern drawl that screams out high-school quarterback.

Accuracy: 2 out 5 diphthongs
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Kevin Costner in JFK

The accent: New Orleans
In the movie: Is Costner trying to sound like former New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison, the man he's playing, or is this his impression of a 12-year-old girl with a cold? We can't tell!
In real life: Watching the real life Jim Garrison makes Costner's accent even more confusing. Still, it's not a surprise coming from a guy whose list of awful accents is as long as Waterworld.

Accuracy: 1 out of 5 diphthongs
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Terrence Howard in Hustle & Flow

The accent: North Memphis
In the movie: Like most movie accents, Terrence Howard's Memphis gangsta dialect is terribly exaggerated, mane. So exaggerated, in fact, that he sounds much more Southern than he should, mane. One thing he got right, according to this Memphis dialect expert, is the constant use of the word mane, mane.
In real life: The gentlemen in Three Six Mafia were born and raised in the same Memphis neighborhoods where the fictional DJay did his pimping. Juicy J even served as Howard's dialect couch. As you can see in this video though, he and DJ Paul don't have much of a discernible accent at all. Note to Hollywood: A character from the South doesn't have to sound like Foghorn Leghorn.

Accuracy: 3 out of 5 diphthongs
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Renée Zellweger in Cold Mountain

The accent: North Carolina
In the movie: Zellweger won an Oscar for her portrayal of the scraggly Ruby Thewes in Cold Mountain, which must mean her accent is more than a hammed-up cartoon version of every Southern accent recorded before it, right? It's not.
In real life: Unfortunately, no North Carolinians used their webcams to record themselves during the Civil War, so it's hard to tell just what people sounded like then. What we do have though is a modern version. Clearly, Renée should stick to the British.

Accuracy: 4 out of 5 diphthongs
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Christian Bale in Public Enemies

The accent: South Carolina
In the movie: In Public Enemies, Bale plays an FBI agent from South Carolina with the most southern name ever concocted: Melvin Purvis. Since there aren't any recordings of Purvis available, Bale based his accent off of the agent's son. Knowing that, we can assume this about Melvin Purvis's son: He speaks with a Southern drawl about 50 percent of the time and a vaguely British accent the rest of the time.
In real life: Look, Ms. Teen South Carolina might not be able to articulate a coherent thought, but she can sure talk like she's from South Carolina.

Accuracy: 1 out of 5 diphthongs
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Nic Cage in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

The accent: New Orleans
In the movie: Oh, look, it's our old friend Nic Cage again, this time running around New Orleans accosting kids who are trying to have a good time. Cage has said that his character wasn't supposed to have an accent to show that he could be from anywhere. But watching the movie makes it clear that he's absolutely supposed to be from New Orleans. Clearly, Cage just thought the accent was too hard.
In real life: Allow these everyday folks with bad hair to show you all the different ways NOLA residents can talk.

Accuracy: 1 out of 5 diphthongs
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Matt Damon in The Legend of Bagger Vance

The accent: Savannah, Georgia
In the movie: It's a shame that the most notable things to come out of this collaboration between Matt Damon, Robert Redford, and Will Smith are the most embarrassing moment in Damon's career and his terrible Southern accent.
In real life: Like Pam Beasley, Damon's attempt at a Savannah accent was clipped and choppy, rather than smooth and, as the Nard Dog says, like molasses spilling out of your mouth.

Accuracy: 2 out of 5 diphthongs
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Anna Paquin in True Blood

The accent: Louisiana
In the movie: True Blood isn't a movie, but a list like this couldn't exist without Sookie Stackhouse's awful accent. (And, just for kicks, here's a supercut of her castmates working out their Southern accents while calling her name.) Anna Paquin has two main problems with her attempts at sounding like a Southern girl. First, she's all twang and no drawl, and second, she speaks with the kind of Louisiana accent people in Hollywood use when they're making fun of hillbillies while driving Maseratis on their personal Go Kart tracks.
In real life: Miss Louisiana 2011, Hope Anderson, hails from Monroe, Louisiana, not far from where the fictional Bon Temps would be located, and unlike Paquin, she manages not to sound like she regularly sits on the porch picking her banjo.

: 2 out of 5 diphthongs
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Colin Firth in Main Street

The accent: Savannah, Georgia
In the movie: Yes, Colin Firth just won an Oscar, but that doesn't mean he's the right man to play a Texas businessman searching for a town to rescue. He is, after all, from England, which is damn hard to forget when watching the trailer. At first he sounds like he's speaking through one of those voice distorters anonymous witnesses use on 60 Minutes, then, about a minute in, he's gone completely back to Hampshire.
In real life: As Kyle Chandler proved in five years of Friday Night Lights, you can do a Texas accent without doing a TEXAS ACCENT.

Accuracy: 1 out of 5 diphthongs


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