Actor Chris O’Dowd’s Bad American – and Irish – Accent
(This post has been edited below, January 4, 2019)
Actor Chris O’Dowd is originally from Ireland and so has an Irish accent, or so one would think. He has been cast to play Americans in a few movie roles, and his American accent is terrible.
I’ve written about O’Dowd’s unconvincing American accent in a few previous posts, and I thought I’d make one dedicated to that topic only.
Some of the information below is new for this post, but a few of the reviews were pasted in earlier threads, such as this one, where I put in a lot of quotes by many different movie reviewers who commented on how terrible O’Dowd’s American accent was in the 2016 movie “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children.”
I’ve read O’Dowd say in interviews that when he auditions for most parts, he reads his lines with an American accent.
O’Dowd has said in interviews that when he read for his role of the Nathan Rhodes character in “Bridesmaids” (which is, by the way, the only good role and movie he’s done thus far in his career, and in which 99% of his acting was competent), that director Feig, or Apatow, or whomever was associated with that movie, told him to skip the American and just stick to his normal (Irish) accent.
O’Dowd’s Iffy Irish Accent
Before I proceed with commenting and providing links about O’Dowd’s horrible American accent, be aware that Irish people don’t find O’Dowd’s Irish accent in movies and television shows accurate, either.
As to O’Dowd’s “Irish” accent in the “Bridesmaids” movies, a lot of Irish people online said it didn’t sound wholly Irish to them.
Here is one article about it, that dates from September 2017:
Here are excerpts from that page:
…But there’s always been one question perplexing Irish people when they’re watching [O’Dowd as Nathan Rhodes in “Bridesmaids”]:
What sort of accent is he going for here? Seriously, what is going on?
In an interview O’Dowd did with Access Hollywood in 2011, it seemed like there’s a fairly simple answer:
Chris says that he uses his normal Irish accent throughout because Paul Feig loved his work in The IT Crowd:
I went in and did it with an American accent, like I do in most auditions. It went fine, but the director knew some of my work, so he asked me to do it with my accent and it worked out better.
~(end O’Dowd quote)~
Producer Judd Apatow was a fan of keeping the Irish accent as well, as Chris told IFTN:
Judd also liked the idea of me using my real accent. He didn’t want the film to be in anyway a formulaic love story so throwing in a little curveball like the accent helped combat this
~(end O’Dowd quote)~
Grand? Case closed.
You can’t honestly watch this scene and say that it’s Chris’s full blown Irish accent
(You Tube Clip with O’Dowd as Rhodes from Bridesmaids- you can view it here)
“Her haaair started falling out” [quote by Rhodes from the movie]
It’s a strange cross between American and Irish – surely not O’Dowd’s famous Roscommon lilt in all its glory? Perhaps it’s a subconscious attempt to make it just that little bit more understandable for a US audience. All speculation, of course.
But every Irish person who has ever watched Bridesmaids agrees that there’s something off
[page has several examples, with Tweets from various people on the page, such as]
[Tweet by ]Doireann Kavanagh @DoireannKavana1
Is Chris O’Dowd talking with an Irish accent or attempting an American one? Very hard to tell #Bridesmaids
[Snip several tweets by other people]
Like, we kind of know he’s supposed to be Irish but… no.
It gets interesting when you analyse American viewer’s reactions – they just think he’s rocking a full Irish accent and not a hint of an American twang
…[Tweet by ] @tattookidstyIes
Watching Bridesmaids and loving chris o’dowd’s Accent! Just looove irish accent! ah
…But the real takeaway here is that:
-Loads of Americans think he has a 100% legit Irish accent in the movie
-O’Dowd and the whole crew are adamant that it’s a legit Irish accent
-No Irish people can watch it and believe that this isn’t a massive conspiracy theory to gaslight us all
Below the “Bridesmaids” clip on You Tube where O’Dowd, as Rhodes, is talking to the Annie character, here is a comment left by someone about O’Dowd’s accent in that movie clip:
(comment by) Lorvi
I wonder if they asked him [O’Dowd] to “americanize” the accent or if he just decided to do it. Sounds really strange hearing him do this half-irish half-american thing after getting used to him on IT Crowd and in interviews.
As for me, the first time I saw “Bridesmaids” (on cable television around spring or summer 2015), and I heard O’Dowd’s accent, I had no idea who he was at that time, and I assumed his accent must have been Canadian.
I wanted to verify that, so I went to Google and typed in something like, “Cop Bridesmaids movie Canadian” to see what would turn up.
I, of course, eventually came across sites that said O’Dowd was from Ireland, not Canada, but damn if his accent in Bridesmaids didn’t sound vaguely Canadian to me (not Irish, and not American).
Then I thought, well, maybe his character was born in Ireland but moved to the United States some years later, which means, his character would’ve retained some of his original accent, but it would’ve become slightly Americanized if he’s lived here long enough.
Ultimately, though, I was (and still am) mystified about his accent in that movie.
O’Dowd also later said in some interview that if he tries out for a role, that there better be a good reason for the director and whomever to want him to ditch his Irish accent and go American. (I placed excerpts from that interview under the “Foreign Accent in Get Shorty” heading in this post on this blog)
But does O’Dowd really have a choice in what accent a character he’s auditioning for will take? I don’t think so, not unless, like in the case of the “Bridesmaids” movie, that those behind the film are fine with changing the character for him. I don’t think an actor usually gets to make the final decisions in things like that.
I think the truth is that because O’Dowd is unable to do a steady, convincing American accent, that the film-making people tell him don’t even bother with one, and they tell him to just stick with his native (quasi- Irish) accent.
(I say “quasi” there, because the Irish I’ve seen online say O’Dowd’s Irish accent doesn’t sound totally Irish to them.)
Film makers, I believe, would rather have O’Dowd do his natural accent because his put-upon American is just terrible, and the audience would find it too distracting (as I know has happened to me in movies I’ve watched where he’s supposed to be playing an American).
Other than the fact that O’Dowd is not a very good actor, I’m willing to bet that his inability to do a quality American accent is another reason he does not get offered more movie parts.
(Any time I’ve visited O’Dowd’s IMDB page, I’m stunned at how empty it is – he doesn’t get offered many parts, or if he is, he’s not accepting many.)
I cannot imagine there are tons and tons of American-made movies with parts for native Irish speakers to play Irish characters.
Couldn’t Do A Convincing Tigger Voice?
One article points out that O’Dowd was initially up to do the voice of “Tigger” in a recent live-action movie (with computer generated characters) but was “quietly replaced” by another voice actor.
(You can read that May 2018 article here: It looks like Chris O’Dowd has quietly been replaced as Tigger in the new Christopher Robin movie)
My guess as to what happened with that Christopher Robin movie:
O’Dowd was probably incapable of doing a good, convincing Tigger accent (and Tigger never did have an Irish undertone to his speaking voice), and so the studio and director didn’t want to risk him to the vocal work, because he’d probably end up injecting Tigger with a vague Irish sound, which wouldn’t be right for the character.
As I noted on another blog post, it’s pretty unprofessional for a TV and movie actor who accepts roles as Americans to do a poor job of an American accent.
There’s no excuse: it’s your freaking profession.
O’Dowd has lived in the United States for almost a decade now, he’s lived in the Los Angeles area for years now, where I’d assume there must be many voice coaches offering their services, but he’s apparently not availing himself of them.
If you’re going to be an actor playing Americans for American-made movies to be shown to American audiences (among others), you should get your ass back to acting classes, or hire a vocal coach.
It’s just sheer laziness – or is it incompetence? – that this Irish-born actor, O’Dowd, is not trying to improve his American accent?
I’ve found O’Dowd’s poor and inconsistent American accent to be terribly distracting. Every time he opens his mouth in a scene in which he’s supposed to be playing an American, and I hear the awful mimicry of an American accent, I find it difficult to focus on the content of his lines and to therefore follow the storyline.
What Others Say
Some of the comments below may come from professional movie critics, while others are from regular, everyday people.
Source: NeoGAF forums: Worst American accents by foreign actors?
comment by Hilbert, Mar 12, 2017
Chris O’dowd in “Friends with Kids” is just terrible. I usually can’t even detect bad American accents, but this was incredibly bad.
Comment by Anonymous, November 4, 2016
it’s a “nobody told Chris O’Dowd he is unable to do an American Accent” episode
Said another Anonymous commentator from that same page:
how did he [Chris O’Dowd] manage to fuck up an irish accent in “mascots”?
From the Movie Chat forum > Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Discussion:
He didn’t do it badly, but it was so distracting to me, knowing what his real accent sounds like. It’s funny how these characters in the main family HAVE to be American. If these actors just kept their original accents, it’d be easier for me to handle. There are families out there with people from all over the world.
(To see additional movie critic, or Average Joe, comments about O’Dowd’s terrible American accent in the movie “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children,” please see this post – the following is just one example):
The only bump, as far as casting goes, is Chris O’Dowd as Jake’s father, Franklin. The decision to have O’Dowd adopt an American accent is a mistake and his performance feels as though he is fighting against his Irish brogue in every scene in which he appears.
Via Blue-Ray site:
by Brian Orndorf, October 2012
Bruce’s [played by Chris O’Dowd] insincerity (andO’Dowd’s brutal American accent) is more disturbing than humorous, infusing the picture with an unintentional grip of mental illness that comes to paralyze the helmer’s storytelling judgment.
–(( end excerpt ))–
Next up – O’Dowd is on this list in this video below for his horrible American accent as character “John Thomas” from the American TV series “Girls,” a television show which is set in New York, United States of America.
I honestly did not know O’Dowd was supposed to be American in this show. The first time I saw clips from “Girls” on You Tube – his accent in “Girls” sounds very close to his accent in “Bridesmaids”- so I assumed at first listen his character on this “Girls” show was supposed to be Irish.
But no, I later found out that O’Dowd’s character on “Girls” was supposed to have been born and raised in New York. But does O’Dowd sound like an American in his role of this character? Hell no.
Edit, January 4, 2019
O’Dowd has yet to learn this:
by Todd Gilchrist
When audiences think about actorly transformations, their first thoughts are often of weight lost or gained, hair grown or sheared, and mannerisms shed or adopted.
But even if their silhouette doesn’t quite match a level of physical deterioration commensurate with their character’s malady, or their demeanor isn’t quite befitting of, say, an 18th century courtesan, an actor’s voice can be tremendously persuasive in convincing viewers that they are believably inhabiting a specific time or place.
“It all starts with the voice,” says Bradley Cooper, whose gruff delivery as Jackson Maine in “A Star Is Born” has earned him multiple lead actor nominations from critics groups across the globe. “That’s your way in because you can hear yourself as you’re talking, and it’s the best way to believe an imaginary circumstance.”
Actors often prepare exhaustively to learn and approximate the speaking rhythms of a specific time period, geographic location or even social class, but they are often assisted by dialect coaches who intimately understand the mechanics of speech, and find ways not only to introduce them effectively to a new accent, but break them of old habits in the process.
Chris O’Dowd is in this video for having an awful American accent:
If I come across any more links, videos, or comments on O’Dowd’s terrible American accent, I would like to edit this post to add that content.