The casting of the villain in Hollywood movies has often had political motivation. During the Cold War the bad guys were frequently communists and sported Russian accents, after 9/11 they became terrorists from the Middle East. However, there has always been a tendency to cast British, or rather, English actors in the role of the cold, calculating, evil genius, often to counteract the all American hero.
The stereotype doesn’t exist with us Brits as a race, it’s all about the perception of the English accent and the assumption that our dialect resembles that of the Royal Family. This is known as ‘Received Pronunciation’, or RP, and can be defined as ‘the speech of educated people living in London and the south-east of England,’ often creating an air of imperialism, from a time when the British almost ruled the world.
There seems to be an unwillingness from Hollywood to cast their own in the role of the bad guy. The lead character almost always has to be seen as perfect and embodies the characteristics of the stereotypical hero. In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Alan Rickman’s superb portrayal of The Sheriff of Nottingham was evil, vicious and ruthless. The hero? Kevin Costner, with his heavy American accent. In the Lion King, Mufasa and Scar are supposed to be brothers. Mufasa, the ‘good guy’, is American, voiced by legendary actor James Earl Jones. Scar, the ‘villain’ is English, voiced by Jeremy Irons. In The Avengers, a whole plethora of fantastic American and Australian actors play the lead roles, battling to save the world from the evil Loki, played by English actor, Tom Hiddleston.
Perhaps the most quintessential bad guy of them all was Sir Christopher Lee, who sadly passed away a few days ago, with the news of his death announced today. From his earlier Hammer roles as Dracula and Rasputin, and Scaramanga in ‘The Man With The Golden Gun,’ to his more recent portrayals of Saruman in ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’ films and Count Dooku in ‘Star Wars’ episodes II and III, Lee’s ability to demonstrate evil on-screen was unsurpassed. At the age of 93, with his imposing frame and that instantly recognisable baritone voice, Lee was a true cinematic legend. Of all the English baddies, he was the greatest.
Rest in Peace sir… You will be missed.
Photo credits: Sir Christopher Lee. Taken from Virginmedia.com
A baddie and a hottie all at the same time! Ah yes, the heavens shall shine brighter now that they have his star in the sky to be certain! RIP in deed. Also RIP to Ron Moody, quite the character himself.
Absolutely! The Bloke is gutted about Ron Moody too – he cites Oliver in his top five films of all time because of him!
He was one of the best.
He certainly was… The Bloke and I are going to have a film marathon this weekend in tribute…
Two fine actors have their stars in the sky. One American who played many baddies was Vincent Price. I had the pleasure of knowing him, and he is sorely missed as well.
You knew Vincent Price? You can’t leave it at that haha! How did you know him?
He was a friend of the actors I worked for, Eddie Albert and Margo.
Very sad news, indeed. One of the finest actors to ever have lived.
2015 has been an awful year. Leonard Nemoy, Sam Simon, Terry Pratchett and now Christopher Lee.
Still, 93-years-old. He certainly made the most of those years.
Absolutely! And what a life indeed!
Rest in peace.
Absolutely! I’m so sorry for the delay in replying to your comment Austin, for some reason your comments don’t always appear when I’ve approved them until later!
That is very odd. Not sure what’s up with that…
Perhaps it’s all the talk of soccer…
I did watch the US Women’s Team advance to the Semifinals of the World Cup last night. I believe jolly old England plays today…
Oh, the sheer terror of Dracula!
Absolutely! My mother is a huge fan of horror and so I watched lots of them in my teenage years. I attribute them to my fear of horror films today!
There’ll be no peace for him on the Other Side. He’ll have Peter Cushing to deal with!
I saw a picture of him, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine together… Now that’s a party I would love to have attended!
I don’t think the frequent casting of British actors as villians has anything to do with American feelings towards the British. I think in general people want their villains to be different than them. The accent does that but they’re still speaking English which is useful in American films. In British films are Americans often cast as villians?
That’s a really good question! I know that there are now a ton of English actors that use American accents when in American TV programmes (Daredevil, Arrow are a few Ive seen recently) but Im not sure about British films. I’ll investigate and get back to you…
The bad guy you love to hate. Such a fantastic actor!
He certainly was! It was his voice that did it for me – definitely perfect for evil characters!
English may be the baddies but us Scots are always portrayed as the drunken idiots!
Haha! Very true – I’ve also noticed that many Scottish accent often use English or American accents in big Hollywood films.
Aye ats cos naebidy cin ken whit war talkin aboot lol
Well you’ve just proven why haha! Although, aside from a few that I saw on Jeremy Kyle, the accent is usually quite easy to understand
Yeah it’s not difficult and normal Scottish people will realise that they need to talk properly when they are in a situation where they need to be understood by non Scots.
Rather than Rab C. Nesbitt 😉
Not always the bad guy, I still love his turn as the Duc de Richelieu in Hammer’s “The Devil Rides Out”. He will be greatly missed, nice post.
Thank you! The Bloke and I decided to watch something in his honour – I haven’t see that one so I’ll check it out!