Johnny Depp recently did an interview where he spoke about his upcoming role as Tonto in the new Lone Ranger movie. In that interview, a lot of people — including quite a few physicians — were shocked at his strange English-sounding accent and hints of other accents in his speech.
Seems as though there is no known reason for Depp to have acquired an English accent because when he lived abroad he didn’t live in England, he lived in France, and while he did adopt an English accent for Pirates of the Caribbean, that was simply his job as an actor playing a part. Many actors have to either use or lose an English accent, but in Depp’s case, a few doctors — one in particular — believe that the aging actor may have a disease called FAS, or Foreign Accent Syndrome.
FAS is a very rare brain disease where the victim emerges from some traumatic event with a foreign accent. Some doctor’s think that it’s a real disease and others think that victims are faking the accent for attention or some kind of mental illness. The disease did not exist until 1941, which is right about the time that most people throughout the world were exposed via motion pictures, of the various accents of the world, and this has many doctors wondering if perhaps the emergence of FAS is some kind of play acting. If this is true, Johnny Depp is either faking an accent for his own amusement or he has a brain disease.
“Johnny Depp is going through some kind of career crisis or aging process and, in my opinion, he is indeed suffering from Foreign Accent Syndrome or perhaps some variant of the disease,” said Dr. Jason Burns MD, a language pathologist and neurologist.
“If he was simply playing with the idea of speaking with an accent to seem more sophisticated or worldly, his accent would sound decidedly British, but in Depp’s case I think that his accent is a muddled mish-mash of several accents that are the result of some damage to the parts of the brain that control language skills and the pronunciation of certain syllabic sounds.
“The principal signature of FAS is that the accent seems odd or out of place. It might sound a little English and a little Irish and a bit Russian or German. In other words, it’s either a deliberate attempt at an accent but poorly executed, or it’s a brain malfunction. In Johnny Depp’s case, it is clear to the American ear that he has done a rather good job putting on his English accent for Jack Sparrow parts in Pirates of the Caribbean, but now that the acting is over and the real brain has taken control, there may be residual damage. The actor Johnny Depp can indeed speak very well with the accent of an English pirate, but the real Johnny Depp — Johnny Depp the man — cannot speak very well at all with an English accent. This is the hallmark sign of FAS and it will only get worse as he gets older.”
According to other experts, there is no cure for Foreign Accent Syndrome, and although a few of those afflicted have had brief remissions, the disease returns and the accent is either worse or completely different.
Foreign Accent Syndrome is very rare — less than 100 reported cases since 1941 — but it seems to be growing. Actress Kathleen Turner is another example of an actor who suffers from FAS, but her accent has no known derivation. One cannot tell if it’s English or Russian or French or related to any language spoken anywhere on the planet.
Madonna, an American pop singer who did live in England for many years, had a acquired an English accent and it was feared that she was either mentally ill or suffering from FAS. It was soon determined that she was faking an accent so as to sound sophisticated because she had deep-rooted insecurities about her aging face and body and the fact that she was an ordinary American living abroad. When her fake accent drew criticism from her fans, she dropped it and went back to speaking with just a hint of her native Detroit, Michigan USA accent.
“We are praying for Johnny Depp and we hope he can overcome this affliction,” said Sister Frances DeSalles, a nun in Ireland who works as a nurse for the deaf and mute. “Johnny Depp has brought so much joy to the world and to have him speaking like this is very sad and deeply disturbing. Perhaps if his American fans stood behind him and showed him the way, he would go back to his real voice. It would be a shame if his regular voice were to be lost forever.”