May 29, 2004

Brad Pitt in Troy: r-lessly round or r-fully flat?

Erika at Kittenishly Doomy Thoughts asks

What the hell was up with Brad Pitt's accent in Troy? It seemed to be entirely devoid of postvocalic /r/, but he didn't have any.. other.. features of r-less dialects. It sounded like some sort of affectation, but I had no idea what he was hoping to convey with it.

Could this have been what Bob Mondello was talking about on NPR when he said that "Pitt's Achilles [sounds] like the outsider he's supposed to be, even when he remembers to round his vowels"?

A lot of people are talking about how Brad Pitt talks, but so far, Erika is the only one (among those I've read or heard!) who's said anything specific and coherent about it. Here's a small fraction of the Brad Pitt accent discussion from (here and there in) FT forums:

Kithy: I'm totally going to see this. I don't care who's in it or how lame Brad's accent is...
Elle Driver: I am so gonna be there all those pretty men in skirts, I was laughing at Brad's accent during the trailer though...
Sharmila: What is UP with Brad Pitt's accent? It's not just me who starts cracking up during the trailer, right?
M One: And yes, even in the short previews, Brad's accent slippage is pretty bad. Skirts outweight accents for me though.
Talamasca: Oh good, I thought I was the only one who thought Brad's accent was lame in the commericals/trailer.
Satine O'Hara: It looks like an amazing film to me- besides Brad Pitt's accent which can be described as shaky at best...
Jcpdiesel21: I am very frightened of Brad Pitt's accent.
radguurl: ...Brad Pitt's terrible, terrible, terrible accent.
Knesaa: I rather liked Brad Pitt's Achilles also, shitty accent or no.
Cassandra423: Good thing he had those fabulous muscles to distract me from his horrible accent.
Sally Albright: From the trailer, I was concerned about his accent, but in the movie it wasn't that bad. Or maybe I become accustomed to it.
Elle Driver: I liked Brad Pitt as Achellies, but his accent was really, really bad
Binky: The accent didn't even bug all that much. I liked him. Not exactly a shining performance, but he wasn't the stand-out suckage of the film.

If I have a chance later on, I'll see if I can grab some Pitt accent audio from the online trailers -- so far all I can remember hearing, in a couple of TV ads, is the musical background for fleets of ships and flashes of battles.

[Update: Here are .wav files for Pitt's contributions to the scene in which Agamemnon confronts Achilles over possession of Briseis. Pitt is indeed consistently r-less in this scene, just as Erika says. So when Mondello said "round his vowels", did he mean "leave out syllable-final r's"?

(link) Perhaps the kings were too far behind to see.

(link) The soldiers won the battle.

(link) Be careful, king of kings.

(link) First you need the victory.

(link) You want gold? Take it.

(link) It's my gift. To honor your courage -- take what you wish.

(link) No argument with you, brothers, but if you don't release her, you'll never see home again.

(link) Decide!

There are some other interesting things about Pitt's speech in this scene, which I'll have to pick up later, as my youngest son and I are off to the zoo at the moment.]

Posted by Mark Liberman at May 29, 2004 10:09 AM