Women who fake it

I recently saw a trailer for a small British movie that is due out this June called Miss Conception. This film has all the makings of your typical British comedy: There’s driving on the wrong side of the road, people drinking tea … Mia Kirshner and Heather Graham. Crikey! Mia and Heather are British? Well, no. But if I didn’t have it on good authority (via a quick trip to Google) that Ms. Graham was born in Wisconsin and Ms. Kirshner was born in Canada, I could see how an unsuspecting person would think that they were in fact from across the pond just by watching the trailer.

A millisecond into the preview, we hear both Mia and Heather sporting fairly impressive faux-English accents. It is obvious to those of us in the entertainment know (or those who have access to Google) that these women are faking it and are actually from North America, but that knowledge aside — do you find their accents believable?

Judging their entire performance based on this 60-second trailer, I can make the dubious claim that they both did a pretty good job. I couldn’t pinpoint what region of England they’re pretending to be from, but then again I’m not a linguist and never wished to be one, so I’ll leave those little details to the experts.

The shock of hearing Jenny Schecter speak with an accent got me thinking: Who else in the movie biz has mastered the art of British speak? If blindfolded and left only to depend on sound, which actors would dupe me into thinking I was talking to a gal from jolly olde England?

Here are some potential winners:

Renee Zellweger

The woman is Bridget Jones. Do I need to say more? She makes you want to incorporate words such as “mum,” “knickers” and “shag” into your daily vernacular.

Gwyneth Paltrow

Her accents in Emma and Sliding Doors and were flawless. She even won an Academy Award for her role in Shakespeare in Love, where she played a young woman in 16th-century London who falls in love with young Will Shakespeare. Gwyneth has become the go-to American actress to perform English roles. Given her dead-on accents, having a home in England and being married to English rocker Chris Martin, she might even have some people fooled that she actually is British.

Natalie Portman

In V For Vendetta, Natalie Portman plays Evey, a girl who becomes a freedom fighter against a corrupt British government. During her time on that movie, Portman said in interviews that she worked for months with a dialect coach and became so obsessed with sounding like she was English that she stayed in her new accent even off the set.

Portman then took her linguistic abilities to another level — and time period — during this year’s The Other Boleyn Girl. Who could blame King Henry VIII for not being able to choose between these two sisters? Decisions, decisions. Which leads me to my next nominee …

Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett also starred in The Other Boleyn Girl as well as Girl With a Pearl Earring, and in both period pieces she plays, well, the “girl.” Her deep, raspy voice that we have come to know in film (and now music) vanishes into a soft English accent when she tightens her corset.

Lindsay Lohan

OK, now before you say anything, let me make my case. I know she has only been in one movie (1998’s The Parent Trap) in which she had an English accent. And I know we have now come to appreciate her for such all-American cinematic gems as I Know Who Killed Me and Just My Luck, but I listed her here for two reasons:

1. She was only 11 years old when she got this role in this remake of the 1961 Disney classic, and for an 11-year-old I think the accent is pretty impressive. The original role went to a young actress named Hayley Mills who actually was British.

2. She had the dual responsibility of playing a twin, so considering the unbreakable concentration that it must have taken young Lohan to stay within the right accent, I give her her propers by adding her to my list.

So what do you think? Have any of your fave faux-British performances not made the list?