Unpronounceable Names: 10 Hollywood Tongue Twisters

May 11, 2011 by  
Filed under - Home, Features

Kim210Have you ever had one of those moments where you get into conversation about a particular film and an actor’s name pops up that you’re unsure how to pronounce? Oh, the shame, the ignominy of it all.

But wait, if you had my guide to Hollywood Name Pronunciation, you’d be celebrated as the veritable film boffin du jour and greybeards all over the land will nod sagely as you walk past with your head held high, confident that your tongue will have no trouble wrapping itself around some of movies’ trickiest polysyllabic appellations.


1. Saoirse Ronan – SER-SHA

Saoirse-Ronan150She’s 17 years old and she’s shared the screen with more Hollywood stars than most plebs see in a lifetime. After wowing audiences with her performance as the precocious Briony Tallis in Atonement, she went on to star in the reprehensible The Lovely Bones, a film destined to be used in film school lectures of the future as an example of how not to do it.

Her name's a veritable pronunciation nightmare but cut her some slack, she's from Ireland - a land where pronunciation and spelling were invented in two separate universes.

2. Joaquin Phoenix - WA-KEEN

JP150Master of the theatrical whisper, were you not entertained by his performance as sadistic Emperor Commodus in Gladiator? What about his turn as country legend Johnny Cash in Walk The Line? Or his defecation on his personal assistant in faux-documentary I’m Still Here?

Well you might see him again soon as he’s reported signed up for Paul Thomas Anderson’s poke at alternative religion alongside Philip Seymour Hoffman.

3. Noomi Rapace – RA-PASS

noomi_rapace150The double-hard star of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest but sadly not, The Girl Who Came Up With Catchier Titles For Her Movies), Sweden's Noomi Rapace will soon be seen alongside Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law in Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game Of Shadows and in Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel Prometheus where she’ll play the lead, Elizabeth Shaw.

4. Ryan Phillipe – FIL-LIP-PEE

rp150A source of constant confusion and not just for his odd choice of films lately - The Lincoln Lawyer we can understand but MacGruber saw him shove a stick of celery between his butt-cheeks... That's a long way from ultra-rich uber-sadist he played in Cruel Intentions.

So how do you say his name? Fil-Leep? Fillippay? No, it’s definitely Fillippee and I have proof –Jimmy Kimmel wouldn’t get it wrong to his face would he?

5. Kirsten Dunst – KEER-STUHN

Kirsten-Dunst150She's been in the public eye since childhood and the star of the Spider-Man franchse, her name’s still constantly mispronounced. For the record it’s Keer-stuhn not Ker-stuhn.

Now that that’s cleared up, we can get back to enjoying her in Lars Von Triers expected misery-fest Melancholia, out later this year and she can get back to kissing upside down superheroes in the rain.

6. Kim Basinger – BAY-SING-ER

kim150A classic pronunciation dilemma – is it Bass-singe-jer or Bay-singer? Well, it’s definitely Bay-Singer – there’s even a scene in The Simpsons where she corrects Homer’s pronunciation.

She's worked in over 40 movies including cult classics like Batman and My Stepmother Is An Alien but hasn’t really done anything particularly noteworthy since 1997’s LA Confidential for which she won an Oscar, although she did crop up opposite Eminem for 8 Mile.

7. Jake & Maggie Gyllenhaal – JIL-EN-HAUL

JMGAnother common mispronunciation – it’s a soft gee not a hard one. Jake and Maggie have been doing rather well together – Jake starring in the excellent Source Code after memorable performances in Zodiac, Brokeback Mountain and Donnie Darko (as well as forgettable ones in Prince Of Persia and Love And Other Drugs).

Maggie meanwhile recently subbed for Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight, starred as an recovering drug addict and ex-con in Sherrybaby and gave a spectacular performance in Secretary (incidentally a favourite of mine). Oh yeah, and there was that terrible shoot for Agent Provocateur in which she had all the sexuality of a Cabbage Patch Doll. Judge for yourself.


8. Zooey Deschanel – ZOE DAY-CHANEL

zooey-deschanel150She’s named after a character in Sallinger’s Franny and Zooey, so it’s definitely pronounced Zoe – the normal way rather than Zoo-ey, which sounds like she spends a lot of time curled up on the floor of a lion’s cage.

The star of numerous quirky films including Almost Famous, (500) Days Of Summer and Elf, Zooey seems to have a singing part written into every movie she’s in. Most recently seen in puerile medieval comedy Your Highness.

9. Peter Serafinowicz – SERA-FIN-O-WHICH

Sera150Serafinowicz will probably be more familiar to a TV audience for starring in a cornucopia of comedy gold like Spaced, Black Books, Look Around You and The Peter Serafinowicz Show but he has had a few film roles – the excellent Shaun Of The Dead, the acceptable Killing Bono and the downright woeful Couples Retreat.

He's also a gifted impressionist and here's a fun fact: he was also the voice of Darth Maul.

10. Max Von Sydow – VON SEE-DOH

Max150With a career spanning over 60 years Von Sydow has had more film roles than you can shake a crucifix at. Well known for his role as Father Merrin in The Exorcist (“The power of Christ compels you!”), he’s also memorably the knight that plays chess with Death in The Seventh Seal as well as a host of other favourites including Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told and Ming The Merciless in Flash Gordon. More recently, he starred in Minority Report with Tom Cruise, Rush Hour 3 with Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker and played Russell Crowe's dad in Robin Hood.

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