Film star Mel Gibson no longer in with claim to shame after Irish actor fails to play a blinder as Scot

Brendan Gleeson and Mel Gibson in 1995's Braveheart.Brendan Gleeson and Mel Gibson in 1995's Braveheart.
Brendan Gleeson and Mel Gibson in 1995's Braveheart.
Two films with Borders links now look to be out of the running for an on-screen claim to shame.

Mel Gibson’s portrayal of William Wallace, appointed as guardian of Scotland in Selkirk in 1297, in the movie Braveheart has been denounced for his attempt at a Scottish accent ever since it came out in 1995.

It faced a challenge for the worst on-screen attempt at a Scots accent earlier this year, however, after The Professor and the Madman, also starring US-born but Australian-raised Gibson, 63, this time as Denholm teacher and lexicographer James Murray, finally secured a limited cinematic release.

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Now, though, both appear to be out of contention for that unwanted title.

Brian Gleeson in Peaky Blinders.Brian Gleeson in Peaky Blinders.
Brian Gleeson in Peaky Blinders.

It’s only been a matter of weeks since the fifth series of period crime drama Peaky Blinders hit BBC One but already Irish actor Brian Gleeson’s misfiring effort at Glaswegian twang looks to have usurped long-standing claimants such as Christopher Lambert in 1986’s Highlander and James Doohan in Star Trek from 1996 to 1992 for the title of worst Scottish accent ever heard on screens big or small.

A chip off the old block the Dublin-born 31-year-old clearly isn’t as his father Brendan Gleeson’s Scottish accent for the role of Hamish Campbell alongside Gibson in Braveheart is regularly cited as one of the most convincing ever attempted.

Ironically enough, Gleeson had previously ducked out of attempting a Scottish accent on the small screen, in the 2015 BBC Two drama Stonemouth, an adaptation of the Iain Banks novel of the same name.

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He played Powell Imrie, henchman to crook Don Murston, portrayed by Braveheart’s Peter Mullan, in that show and, though his character’s nationality isn’t spelled out, he was previouly presumed, like the rest of the cast, to have been Scottish.

Gleeson, also seen in the films The Tiger’s Tail in 2006 and Hellboy this year, decided to play safe on that occasion, though, explaining to the Sun at the time: “I made him Irish.

“The casting director said ‘look, we can make it whatever we want’. It added a different flavour to it because everyone else is Scottish.

“That’s my excuse anyway. I thought there was no point in doing a crap job with the accent. It’s such a beautiful accent. I love it so much.

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“We don’t know where he comes from. It works out better anyway.”

A crap job appears to be the unanimous verdict on social media on Gleeson’s attempt at a Scottish accent as Jimmy McCavern, fictional leader of the Billy Boys gang in Peaky Blinders.

Mori Christian, of Edinburgh, tweeted: “Why, oh why wasn’t a Scottish actor, or at least one who could do a Scottish accent, never mind Glaswegian, employed to play the leader of the Billy Boys?

“I’m so disappointed in an otherwise outstanding cast and production.

“No disrespect to the actor, but, seriously, why?”

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Laura Smith agreed, saying” I’m a bit disappointed they didn’t cast an actual Glaswegian for the Billy Boys leader.

“No disrespect to the actor playing him, but the accent was not good.”

Another fan of the show identifying himself only as Fraser posted on Twitter: “That Glaswegian accent was criminal.”

Robbie Young said: “That fake Scottish accent in Peaky Blinders is embarrassing.”

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Jenine McNab said: “The actor playing Jimmy is from Dublin. He’s a cracking actor but his accent is shocking.”

Tom Ritchie denounced Gleeson’s efforts as the “dodgiest accent since Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins”.

Jim Dunster added: “That’s the worst Scottish accent since Mel Gibson.”

Other previous contenders – besides Gibson, Doohan and Lambert – for the worst on-screen attempt at a Scottish accent include Robert Duvall in the 2000 film A Shot at Glory, Tom Hanks in 2012’s Cloud Atlas, Jessica Lange in 1995’s Rob Roy and Isla Fisher in 2010’s Burke and Hare.

All six episodes making up the latest series of Peaky Blinders, written by Steven Knight and starring Cillian Murphy and Paul Anderson, can be seen on the BBC’s iPlayer.