When the talkies arrived the Hollywood studios had a problem with the accents of their foreign stars. The only solution for Garbo, Deitrich et al was to make all their characters foreign. Greta Garbo’s first talking picture was 1930’s Anna Christie (“Garbo Talks!”) where she famously said “Gimme a vhiskey, ginger ale on the side. And don’t be stingy, baby”.
She went on to play the Dutch Mata Hari, the Swedish Queen Christina and the French Camille. The accent actually didn’t change, it was generic foreign. She brought the Garbo accent to one of her most famous roles, that of the Russian Anna Karenina.
Now the cinema is about to get a new Anna Karenina. What to do? Have the entire cast talking with Russian accents? (but why are they talking between themselves in English?) Use American accents? (No, too modern sounding) Solution? English accents. So Keira Knightley will speak with an English accent when she plays the classic Russian character she told Reuters yesterday at the Toronto Film Festival.
The British actress, who is promoting her role in “A Dangerous Method” – in which she also plays a Russian character – said that for her biggest role yet, in the upcoming “Anna Karenina,” director Joe Wright and a cast including Jude Law had decided to speak with English rather than Russian accents.
It’s going to be an English accent. It’s always very tricky when you are doing something that is meant to be in another language. Because you are like, what accent should it be, should you do that? Well, if you’ve got a Russian accent, why aren’t you speaking Russian? It’s an English-language film. So we have taken the decision that it’s an English accent.”