Matthew McConaughey has one of the most distinctive voices in Hollywood. He’s so instantly recognizable that his ramblings about cars and bulls made meme gold, and he’s made it impossible to read the words “alright, alright, alright” in anything other than a laconic drawl. However, in the upcoming film Bush, audiences won’t hear McConaughey speaking in his familiar Texas accent. Instead, they’ll have the tantalizing opportunity to hear him attempt a British accent.
Guy Ritchie, the director of Bush, has had uneven luck getting American actors to do British accents in his films. Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes? Pretty good. Brad Pitt in Snatch? Basically (if intentionally) incomprehensible. But Downey is an actor’s actor who was nominated for his first Oscar before he was 30; Pitt loves to transform himself into wildly different people, whether in True Romance, 12 Monkeys, or Burn After Reading. McConaughey is only ever really playing a version of Matthew McConaughey. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not, but it’s basically always him. He won an Oscar for playing a version of himself in Dallas Buyers Club. He played a version of himself as a cartoon koala bear in Sing. He played a version of himself as a bald, dragon-slaying revolutionary in Reign of Fire—which, despite being set in England, featured McConaughey doing an American accent (his character was somehow from Kentucky).
According to Variety, Bush is the story of a British drug lord who attempts to sell his empire to some Oklahoma billionaires. It stars Colin Farrell, Hugh Grant, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Michelle Dockery, and some other people to whom British accents come naturally—along with McConaughey. Yet somehow, according to all press materials about the film, McConaughey is playing the British drug lord. It’s unclear who the Oklahomans are represented by on-screen—according to IMDB, American actor Jeremy Strong (Succession) plays a character named Cannabis Kingpin Mathew, so maybe him?—but it’s hard to imagine McConaughey sounding convincingly British regardless.
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McConaughey’s history with accents, beyond doing them in movies, is limited. While promoting Sing, he appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers, where he admitted that although his koala bear character speaks with his standard inflection, McConaughey spent a year in Australia as an undergrad student and came back with an accent that he claimed to keep for an entire year.
Watching the brief attempt at an Australian accent in the clip is a reminder of how handsome and charming McConaughey was as a young man, which probably explains why nobody told him that his accent was not even close to convincing. (Even in his implausible attempt with Meyers, he has a look on his face that says, “I’m nailing it here.”)
Ritchie, meanwhile, presumably wants to make a watchable movie. Being British himself, Ritchie should clearly have an ear for a passable accent. (He’s mercifully spared us from ever having to hear his frequent collaborator, Jason Statham, attempt his hilarious American accent.) So McConaughey’s British accent in Bush must be either surprisingly good or so unbelievably awful that it’s spellbinding, the sort of can’t-take-your-eyes-off-of-it trainwreck that would embarrass even Dick Van Dyke. Either way, it sounds compelling.