From Christian Bale to Benedict Cumberbatch: Why British Actors Nab So Many American Roles

Illustration by: Ben Lamb

A casting director who has worked on 'Batman Begins' and 'X-Men: First Class' explains why so many actors from across the pond are cast as superheroes and in other roles requiring U.S. accents.

This story first appeared in the April 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Finding the next young British star has become a huge deal in Hollywood: I've noticed a lot of agents in America will come to the U.K. to go to the theaters and drama schools looking for the next hot thing. Initially, interest may have been a question of cost because you could get a talented British actor for not-so-much money. You can look back at The Wire, which had Dominic West and Idris Elba, as one example. Dominic absolutely landed that leading role, and his accent wasn't brilliant, but they didn't care. But now it's become about just looking for the best actor. Most of the superheroes now are British. Henry Cavill is perfect for Superman, and Christian Bale was perfect for Batman.

 

 

It's about casting the role with the best person you can find, and in Britain, we grew up on Starsky & Hutch, Kojak and Hawaii Five-0; we grew up with American accents, so British actors are able to have those accents as opposed to American actors, who would only see a few British shows. In Britain, acting is very theater-based — they perform the character every night in front of a live audience, which as an exercise is very scary, but it builds up muscles in all the right places.

I remember seeing Eddie Redmayne in a play called The Goat with Jonathan Pryce. There's no "celebrity" in theater, so people put their heads down, work hard and don't have huge expectations. Having to do Shakespeare and working their way through theater pieces is really good training, and it gives them the foundations. Eddie, Benedict, Felicity, all of these actors were formed through the British drama schools — which, I'd say, are the best in the world — and the results speak for themselves.

Syson's work has included 'Syriana,' 'Batman Begins,' 'X-Men: First Class' and the upcoming 'Mission: Impossible 5.'

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