Date: Tue, 2 Aug 1994 12:47:00 EDT From: "David A. Johns" Subject: Forrest Gump Mike Picone said: # Also, whoever coached Tom Hanks seemed to be using a composite # speech model that included the dropping of post-vocalic /r/ in a # way that is upper-crust and is not characteristic of rural # Alabama. And his vowel qualities usually strayed from what one # would expect to hear coming from an Alabamian. Since he's # supposed to be `slow', some of this, I suppose, may be an attempt # at creating an idiolect, but it seems more likely to me that, # once more, it is that Yankee audience that is in mind and must be # served up something that resembles their stereotyped perceptions # of Southern speech. Could it be that getting an accent right is just too difficult to expect an actor to be able to do? I was thinking about this last week as I watched Martin Sheen make a fool of himself trying to put on an old-fashioned, upper class southern accent to play Robert E. Lee in _Gettysburg_. At first I was just annoyed by the exaggeration of a few characteristics of the target accent -- sharp falling tone contours on stressed syllables, stressed auxiliaries (and no contractions), rising clause-final intonations, etc. -- but then I started wondering about how Sheen would actually learn to do it right. Wouldn't he have to have a native speaker on hand to model every single line? And wouldn't that native speaker have to be a pretty good actor himself in order to get the phrasing right for the required context? I think it's worth pointing out too that Hollywood butchers more than just southern accents. In _Gettysburg_ Sheen's accent sparkled in comparison to the pitiful attempts at Maine accents by "Joshua Chamberlain" and his soldiers, and surely we can't forget the horrible parody of a Boston accent by "Charles Emerson Winchester III" on _M*A*S*H_ (David Ogden Stiers is actually from Peoria, I believe), or John Hillerman's ("Higgins") rendition of RP on _Magnum PI_. I agree that poorly done accents are irritating, but what's the solution? Surely we can't restrict roles to actors who are native speakers of the characters' accents -- can we? David Johns Waycross College Waycross, Georgia