Acting is challenging as one has to get in character, putting aside their personality for a while to fit into the one written. However, it’s even more complicated when actors have to perform as characters with nationalities that are entirely different from their own. An online community praises these twelve names who’ve mastered performing a spectrum of nationalities on screen.
1. Anthony Quinn
According to a member, Anthony Quinn was “Hollywood’s all-purpose foreigner for about 50 years.” From playing a Japanese role in Waikiki Wedding (1937) to going Sicilian in Last Action Hero (1933), his range is impeccable.
2. Sean Connery
While having a Scottish accent himself, Connery has managed to pull off Russian, English, Spanish, Moroccan, Egyptian, Irish, American, and Cuban roles! One user also humorously adds how he funnily disguised as a Japanese man with his Scottish accent in You Only Live Twice (1967).
3. Cliff Curtis
Described as “a true ethnic chameleon” by one fan, Cliff Curtis was a highly acknowledged name on the list. He is of Māori descent and is best known for playing as an Iraqi in Three Kings (1999), a Mexican in Training Day (2001), and a Colombian in Blow (2001). An honorable mention goes to his role in The Last Airbender (2010) as a character from the Fire Nation.
4. Yul Brynner
This Russian actor played a different nationality in every other role throughout his career. To mention a few of his roles, he was the Egyptian pharaoh in The Ten Commandments (1956), a Yugoslavian in the Battle of Neretva (1969), a German in Triple Cross (1966), and an Indian in The Long Duel (1967).
5. Zoe Saldana
She has been Kenyan in Star Trek (2009), Mexican in The Absence of Eden (2023), Jamaican in Pirates of the Caribbean (2003), and “a green alien and a blue alien,” if that counts. She is half Dominican and half Puerto Rican.
6. Oscar Isaac
This “ethnically ambiguous” actor has played a vast number of nationalities, indicating his versatility. He’s played Latino roles on several occasions, along with acting Russian in Pu-239 (2006), Greek in Agora (2009), and Italian in Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), to name a few.
7. Keegan Michael Key
The list of ethnic chameleons is incomplete without mentioning Keegan Michael Key. “If we were to go through all of his sketches in Key and Peele, he’s honestly probably played all of them,” notes a user.
8. Fred Armisen
According to a film enthusiast, Armisen has played “half the nationalities in Europe and a few he just made up.” To add on, he has also done Central and South American accents. A member recalls seeing him live a couple of years ago, where he did an “I can do any accent” bit and asked for suggestions from the audience. “He was pretty good at a bunch that I know about.”
9. Sacha Baron Cohen
This incredible actor has played English characters, including when he acted as an Englishman claiming to be Italian. As listed by a member, his other roles were American, French, Madagascan, Kazakh, Austrian, Egyptian, Italian, Israeli, and “a bunch of other vague nationalities.”
10. Gary Oldman
The English actor and filmmaker has showcased his versatility and brilliance on screen numerous times. He’s done everything from variations of British and American accents to Russian, French, and even Transylvanian!
11. Shohreh Aghdashloo
The skill to overcome an inherently pronounced accent should not be taken lightly. When mentioning Shohreh, a member remarks, “For somebody with such a thick Persian accent, she’s played a lot of roles that, while aren’t specifically another nationality, are definitely not Iranian.”
12. Ben Kingsley
Ben Kingsley has performed every nationality under the sun, from Indian, Persian, and Chilean to French, Afghani, and German. This is only part of the list, so be ready to add ten or more to the count!
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