The new Disney Plus show Moon Knight has had people talking non-stop online since it dropped its first trailer – but perhaps not for the reason you’d expect.
Rather than people marvelling at the duo of Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke facing off against one another, or Marvel introducing the supernatural into the MCU, everyone has become obsessed with Isaac’s rather unique British accent.
It feels as though Isaac has channelled his inner Dick Van Dyke, hamming up every accentual twinge and over-emphasising the ‘Britishness’ present in his voice. It has baffled people across the globe, with memes and confusion arising out of it – even Isaac himself has poked fun in his trailer reaction; so what exactly is going on with Steven’s accent?
According to Isaac himself, the slightly unconvincing accent may be more intentional than we think.
Moon Knight accent explained: Why does Oscar Isaac have that British voice?
Speaking with EMPIRE Magazine, Isaac confidently defended his characterisation, stating that “there are reason” behind it, and that it’s more “about where Steven’s from, where he’s living now, and some of his believed heritage”.
It’s clear that Isaac is playing up the complicated mystery of the series around understanding who the man under the cowl truly is – whether that be Steven Grant or Marc Spector. As Isaac clarified, “it’s not an idea of what Brits actually sound like”.
It was actually the actor himself who came up with accent experimentation in order to further differentiate Steven and Marc, according to showrunner Jeremy Slater: “In the initial script, the difference between Steven and Marc was in attitude – it was Oscar who said, ‘What about an accent?’”
There’s clearly a method to Isaac’s accentual madness, as director Mohamed Diab reaffirmed that “anything Oscar does is deliberate”. So it appears that there is more to Steven’s hyper-cockney tones than meets the ear – but how accurate is the voice to actual British accents?
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We asked experts from the language learning and analysis platform Babbel to get a deeper understanding of Isaac’s characterisation. In-house expert Ted Mentele commented: “In recent years, portrayals of British accents on screen have been dominated by Received Pronunciation (RP) which is often the world’s idea of the ‘perfect’ British accent, despite it being a non-regionalised accent.”
It seems that in an effort to provide a more complicated, detailed performance, Isaac has adopted “a softer, southern regional accent – think neutral tones native to those from London, or the South East”. As a result, the ‘imperfections’ as Mentele calls them are what viewers have scrutinised Isaac for – but from this language expert’s perspective, “although exaggerated, Isaac’s interpretation is broadly accurate for this region”.
It’s clear that nothing is as it seems in Moon Knight and shouldn’t be taken at face value – especially Marc and Steven. According to Mentele, Steven’s personality hinges on a ‘Mockney’ accent: “Often, you can spot a Mockney accent by its skipping of T’s (like turning ‘water’ into a two-syllable ‘wa’er’) and elongating certain vowels (specifically A and E) – both of which are noticeable in Isaac’s delivery in the teaser trailers alone.”
Given that Steven and Marc are somewhat polar opposites, it’s unsurprising that the identity of Steven may over-exaggerate their Britishness as a further separation from the Chicago-originated Marc, thereby giving rise to the ‘Mockney’ accent that Mentele mentions.
Given Marc and Steven’s erratic relationship, it makes sense that the last thing Steven’s voice would be is ‘perfect’, and Isaac appears to have folded this into his separation of the two. It’s clear that Isaac has thought long and hard about how best to approach both Steven and Marc, using acting skills that at first glance, may have been written off as ‘bad’ – but just like any great mystery, that’s only one piece of the puzzle.
Moon Knight begins on Disney Plus on Wednesday 30th March, with new episodes dropping on Wednesdays – sign up to Disney Plus for £7.99 a month or £79.90 a year now. Check out what else is on with our TV Guide.