According to QI, having a British accent in Hollywood means a number of things (one being that people think you’re Australian so you get bar work) but mainly that you end up playing a villain. The archetypal Hollywood villain played by Brits tends to be characterised by psychopathic tendencies, a European accent and almost no suggestion of sympathy or ambiguity behind their motives. Here then are Impact’s top 5 Brit-bastards of all time:
5. Sir Laurence Olivier as Dr Christian Szell (Marathon Man, 1976): “I’ll just drill into a healthy tooth until I reach the pulp.” As well as doing for the dentist’s chair what Jaws did for the sea, this performance established the role of classically trained British thespians as European villains in Hollywood movies.
4. Gary Oldman as Ivan Korshunov (Air Force One, 1997): “I would turn my back on God himself for Mother Russia.” In a film that displayed some seriously Hollywood-style Russian bashing, a seriously evil Russian was required. Oldman delivered, as always.
3. Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber (Die Hard, 1988): “Mr Takagi did not see it that way, so he won’t be joining us for the rest of his life.” With characters like the Sheriff of Nottingham and Professor Snape, Rickman has been one of Hollywood’s premiere bad guy actors. His performance as Hans Gruber makes the list for having completely stolen the film from under Bruce Willis’ shoeless feet.
2. Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth (Schindler’s List, 1993): “I know that you’re not a person in the strictest sense of the word.” As the mercilessly unsympathetic and shockingly unpredictable Plaszow camp Commandant, Fiennes recreated one of the most evil men in history and probably the greatest ever non-fiction screen villain.
1. Sir Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs, 1991): “A census taker once tried to test me, I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” No one has created more of a villainous legacy with less screen time (28 minutes in a 2 hour film), than Anthony Hopkins. Undoubtedly the most cold and sophisticated psychopath in film history.