113

In the first 30 minutes of Star Wars IV, Leia has a pseudo-British accent. As the movie progresses she loses her accent and gets a more American-tough girl accent. Is there a reason behind this?

  • 18
    i don't think I've ever noticed that – Xantec Apr 19 '11 at 17:41
  • 21
    Please continue to ask more of these really interesting questions. :) We need more like these. – DampeS8N Apr 19 '11 at 17:55
  • 3
    I'd look at the filming schedule and locations. It seems likely that the British accent would be more pronounced in scenes that were filmed in England. Carrie Fisher probably picked up more of the accent when working with Peter Cushing and David Prowse, both Brits I believe. – TGnat Apr 19 '11 at 18:19
  • 2
    Hard to see past the fact that the actress is a pitiful exponent of that art. – David Heffernan Apr 20 '11 at 5:06
  • 3
    @TGnat -- and, perhaps, Sir Alec Guinness? – JustJeff Apr 26 '11 at 23:42
101

In the documentary Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher brings up her changing accent. It was because she was going to school in Britain and she picked up some of the local accent.

  • Aw, I would like to think it was because of plot like mentioned in other answers. – riv_rec Apr 19 '11 at 20:45
  • this is more of a real world answer. – Justin C Apr 20 '11 at 1:43
  • 29
    I think the real world is off-topic for this site :) – Mark McDonald Apr 25 '11 at 3:06
69

I had never noticed that before, but it would fit the story.

The pseudo-British accent is heard coming from just about every character that is a part of the Empire. At the beginning of episode IV Leia is still attempting to act undercover as part of a "diplomatic mission".

Once out of the undercover environment, and safely around the resistance, her speaking would shift back towards the more American accent used by most of the rebels.

  • 2
    Seems very likely. :) – DampeS8N Apr 19 '11 at 17:52
  • 4
    well, if it is supposed to be that the Empire has a British accent then in that respect it would make sense, since Alderan was part of the republic/empire. it would actually be the Americanized accent that would be fake for her character – Xantec Apr 19 '11 at 17:53
  • 5
    @Xantec people normally pick accent from the people they speak with, she used to be around government officials, now she's around rebels. – pupeno Apr 21 '11 at 13:56
38
+250

In-universe, the British accent is called Coruscanti, and it was often adopted to give the speaker an air of authority and/or political legitimacy during the days of the Empire. The difference in Leia's accent is referenced in the novel Backlash by Aaron Allston.

In the excerpt below, two Imperials are watching a holo-recording recovered from the first Death Star, one taken moments before the destruction of Alderaan:

Senator Leia surged forward. Her body language, the little of it that could be seen, was one of entreaty, pleading. When she spoke, her voice was not quite right, not quite the voice Lecersen had been familiar with for many years. Its pitch was a touch higher, and it carried the clipped tones of the Coruscanti accent, nearly identical to Tarkin's, that so many Senators and other politicians affected back in the days of the Empire, even when they were not from Coruscant. "No. Alderaan is peaceful. We have no weapons. You can't possibly—"

Tarkin's voice turned harsh, commanding. "You would prefer another target? A military target? Then name the system!"

Out-of-universe, as explained in the accepted answer, actress Carrie Fisher had been living in England and adopted a British accent prior to shooting, and gradually lost it during production.

  • 9
    Also in Episode I (yes, I know), Padme Amidala when in "Queen" mode is speaking with the same accent. She dropped it when being undercover as just Padme. – Jane S Sep 28 '15 at 22:12
  • Now I want to go read Backlash. I remember Leia being calm and self-controlled when she first met Vader, and also Tarkin. (A scene done even better by ImprovEverywhere, IMO.) Then in the quoted scene, she slips into frantic. Maybe Ms Fisher is a better actress than I thought. (Phrasing is intentional. :) ) – Codes with Hammer Sep 29 '15 at 13:39
  • 1
    @CodeswithHammer - she was calm up until the point she realized Alderaan would be the target, then she lunged forward (or tried) as she said the line above. IIRC, Vader or an officer was physically restraining her at the time. – Omegacron Sep 29 '15 at 14:21
  • @CodeswithHammer - also, if you're familiar with the Legends novels, I recommend the entire Fate of the Jedi series. It ties up a lot of loose ends from the Legends canon, which is fitting since they cut it off right after for the new Disney canon. – Omegacron Sep 29 '15 at 14:22
  • @Omegacron: I stopped reading the SWEU / Legends novels some years ago. More pressing commitments, I have had. Return to the books, I intend. – Codes with Hammer Sep 29 '15 at 15:34
10

In universe, the newly canonical explanation is provided in Bloodline: according to this book, Leia spoke that way to mock Tarkin.

Casterfo had the same sort of aristocratic accent Grand Moff Tarkin had spoken in, the one so many senior Imperial officers affected, the one she’d mocked when she and Tarkin last stood face-to-face.
- Star Wars: Journey to the Force Awakens: Bloodline, by Claudia Gray

7

Leia grew up as a princess on Alderaan, which as we all knew developed an accent similar to our "British" accent. But when the evil Lord Vader blew that planet up all traces of that accent were wiped out from the universe save for the few fledging survivors that were scattered throughout the universe at the time. And since in the Star Wars universe, traits of the people are only able to carry when there is a large group of people to carry those traits, all learned traits of Alderaan vanished with the planet. So after the planet was destroyed the accent slipped away from Leia like the other traits of Alderaan (of which I'm sure she didn't miss: the propensity to hoard, be extremely frugal, and get really sad when it rains of a Tuesday. Also a strong desire to eat meat.). And since she was a mixed native of Tatooine and Naboo, those inherent traits came back (less bun-hair, more hardass, also a desire for incest, strangely enough).

  • 31
    The destruction of Alderaan destroyed a whole culture so cleanly that it wiped the native accent from those still living. Wow, the Death Star was even more powerful than I assumed! – johnc Apr 21 '11 at 3:58
5

It's well documented that David Prowse was doing a voice for Darth Vader at the time, but that his west-country accent made him more "Darth Farmer" than "Darth Vader". It wouldn't surprise me if you could heard the occasional west-country accent coming through any of the actors.

  • 5
    "That's No Tractor..." – Oldcat Apr 10 '15 at 16:49
  • 1
    ??? I thought Prowse was never intended to be the voice of Darth Vader, and only spoke the lines during takes for the sake of timing and the benefit of the other actors. – Anthony X Jan 1 '17 at 18:21
  • 2
    I didn't suggest either way. But it's documented that he was disappointed to not have his voice used. – Rob Farley Jan 1 '17 at 22:00
5

In Episode IV, Carrie Fisher pronounces Han Solo's first name as if he were the leader of the Han Dynasty.

In Episode V, she picks up Billy Dee Williams' accent and pronounces "Han" as to rhyme with Peter "Pan."

In Episode VI, she's back to the Han Dynasty.

I think she picks up the accents of those she hears the most (as do we all).

-1

I seem to recall reading (a few years after NW was released) that Lucas wanted her to affect a British accent, but it was so terrible he told her to stop.

  • Where did you read this? – Robert Columbia Jan 14 '17 at 2:10
  • @RobertColumbia If I could recall that, I would be more specific. I believe it was in an article that came out just prior to the release of Empire Strikes Back. Keep in mind this is from an article I read in either '79 or '80. – Lynn Fredricks Jan 15 '17 at 6:23

protected by Valorum Sep 21 '14 at 14:37

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.