Christian Bale's Accent in American Psycho

Antonio   Wed Jul 16, 2008 8:24 am GMT
Many native English speakers describe Christian Bale's accent in "American Psycho" as forced, robotic, or over-the-top American. As somebody commented: "Nobody really speaks like that in the US". I personally find his speech quite clear, easy to understand, and quite General American sounding.

If you are a native speaker of American English and you have seen the movie, can you please point out what exactly makes his speech sound odd to you. Is it the quality of some of his vowels? Or his intonation?

And one more question: if you met him on the street and didn't know that he is originally from Wales, would you be able to tell that he is not a native speaker of American English. If not, what would be your guess about his origins in the US: Connecticut, Midwest, California?

Thanks a lot for your help.
Antonio   Wed Jul 16, 2008 8:57 am GMT
In case you don't remember his accent, here is Bale's monolog from the movie:

And here is him talking about the movie:

(just copy and paste the link into the address box of your browser)
Guest   Wed Jul 16, 2008 9:25 am GMT
Surely can't be worse than Keanu Reeve's attempt at an English accent in Dracula.
Damian in Galashiels   Wed Jul 16, 2008 10:18 am GMT
Although he doesn't sound it one single bit, Christian Bale comes from Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, right at the south westernmost tip of Wales, as far away as it's possible to get in Wales from the border with England. Strangely enough, Pembrokeshire is called "Little England Beyond Wales" as the area is extremely Anglicised, most of the place names as very Anglo Saxon and in no way Welsh (Castlemartin, Haverfordwest, Fishguard, Tenby, Angle, Dale, Cheriton Carew, East Williamston, St Florence, Saundersfoot, etc etc...)

The Welsh Language is practically non existent down at that corner of Wales, and the furtherst away from England itself which makes it all the more odd, but the reason for that is that the area was invaded and settled in by a small contingent of Anglo Saxons way, way back in history, whereeas th rest of Wales remained firmly Celtic. Cross the border out of Pembrokeshire and go further east into Carmarthenshire, closer to England in effect, and the place names become thoroughly Welsh in just a mile or so along the roads.

Christian's natural accent is standard English English RP, and if you didn't know he came from that English bit of Wales you would think he came from the Home Counties region or anywhere in Southern or South Eastern England.

I'm not sure where is home is now - probably America somewhere, but no matter how long he lives there no way will he change his ordinary accent, no matter how well he speaks with an American accent in his films. Brits living in America make very concerted efforts to maintain their British accents, and even go so far as to enhance them, even if they stay there until their very last breath is taken.

Combine the first link posted by Antonio above, and the one I give below, and you have the God's honest perfect package!
Guest   Wed Jul 16, 2008 10:27 am GMT
His L is too light, American L is darker.

Also, he has some
1. Great lakes accent features: mask (with [E])
2. NYC, NJ features, like horrible with [A]
3. some Californian features
4. some L coloring, alcohol [with Ql], but L is very light, it sound almost
like alcohole to my ear

he created a Pan-american accent that does not exist.
it's not General American, but something fake.

It would be better to stick to only one accent, like Jim Carrey or Pamela Anderson, who replaced their cot caught merged Canadian accent with the cot caught merged Californian accent.
Skippy   Wed Jul 16, 2008 2:25 pm GMT
The accent he is going for in American Psycho IS SAE. It sounds robotic on purpose, as every action Patrick Bateman performs is calculated so he can fit in with, and hopefully surpass, his high power, Ivy League, Wall Street friends which is why he constantly works out, hardly ever eats, blows a lot of cocaine, and only listens to pop music.
Jen   Fri Jul 18, 2008 12:46 am GMT
Agree with skippy...he's sounds robotic in the movie because he's supposed to. The second link Antonio posted sounds like your average American without a particular regional accent (such as southern or northeastern)...I guess that could be called midwest?
D.H. Banes   Fri Jul 18, 2008 8:39 am GMT
I'm going to have to agree with Guest on this one, and subsequently disagree with Skippy and Jen. While the "robotic" accent plays well in American Psycho, he has carried this accent through with The Machinist as well as Terminator 4 (just saw the teaser, which is what made me interested in this subject again). He's a great actor (and very dedicated to his work)... but any American who cannot spot his accent as phony is kidding themselves. Just my 2 cents.
Guest   Fri Jul 18, 2008 11:00 am GMT
yup, his accent is fake
Skippy   Fri Jul 18, 2008 1:59 pm GMT
It sounds labored, but that's probably due to the fact that his character is from Long Island and probably grew up with an elitist-sounding, non-rhotic dialect, which he masks with a more general dialect. It is SAE, which is no longer a native dialect; thus, anyone speaking it is not speaking their native dialect and it is likely to sound labored.
D.H. Banes   Fri Jul 18, 2008 8:56 pm GMT
Skippy, like I said, his accent works in American psycho, but that appears to be coincidental. If you watch other movies he's in, you'll see that his accent is static for the most part. Trevor Reznik and John Connor certainly didn't grow up in Long Island with an elitist-sounding, non-rhotic dialect.

I really do think Guest's analysis is correct. Do you not?
Guest2   Fri Jul 18, 2008 10:11 pm GMT
<<It would be better to stick to only one accent>>

Agreed, but I think it's easier said than done as foreigners sometimes don't hear what they're doing wrong due to the fact that they may not be familiar enough with technical aspects of the accent they're going for. For example, if were going to go for an RP accent, being from the US I would probably make tons of mistakes because they are so many areas where I could go wrong.
MP   Sun Jul 27, 2008 4:04 am GMT
Listened to him being interviewed the other day, and the guy sounded like he was trying to sound like he was from new york so much for bein a woolyback.
bri   Wed Jul 30, 2008 3:43 am GMT
he grew up in many places, its a combo of a lot different accents.
Damian in Edinburgh   Wed Jul 30, 2008 7:53 am GMT
I don't think for one single minute that it matters too much to Christian Bale that his American accent may sound fake to Americans - it's bound to anyway, as he is not an American himself. It's as simple as that.

Obviously he will do his best to assume what he (or his tutor) regards as an authentic American accent - he is a professional in his work after all, and no doubt he will have received a wee bit of coaching anyway.

He was interviewed on GMTV here in the UK recently (before his unfortunate arrest in his suite at the Dorchester Hotel in London on some kind of assault charge on his mum and sister) and he spoke in a typical English English RP accent.

During the interview he mentioned the fact that he was born in Wales, but not of Welsh parentage and he has not been back to Haverfordwest for ten years.....I reckon it's just that his mother happened to be in Wales when he came onto the scene.

My only problem with him was that he frowned so much during his interview - maybe he thinks it adds to his laid back casual style Dark Knight sex appeal......I liked his hair style though.....he's following the trends.

He has other things on his mind right now, and his American accent is the very least of his problems.