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