THE BLOG
12/31/2014 04:02 pm ET Updated Mar 02, 2015

FACE IT: What it May Take To Win an Oscar

Does anyone else think it's odd that our American heroes are portrayed by foreigners?

Daniel Day Lewis won an Oscar for bringing to cinematic life the American president who won a war and ended slavery. This year, Selma's David Oyelowo may win won for portraying our greatest civil rights leader. (In that same film, LBJ is portrayed by Brit Tom Wilkinson.) Cate Blanchett won her first Oscar for playing the iconic Kate Hepburn. Chiwetel Eliofor was nominated last year for portraying a little known but important American character in 12 Years A Slave, as was Russell Crowe a few years back for taking on the Nobel Prize-winning economist John Nash in A Beautiful Mind.

Moving on to fictional characters, Lewis also won an Oscar for portraying a Texas oil man in There Will Be Blood, as did Christian Bale for playing a Bostonian in The Fighter, and Blanchett for morphing into one of Woody Allen's New York heroines.That is just in the movies. British actors Dominic West and Ruth Wilson are appearing as American lovers on Showtime in The Affair. Daniel Lewis made us forget he is British in Homeland, as does Andrew Lincoln in The Walking Dead. West, for years, was Detective McNulty on HBO's The Wire, along with Brit Idris Elba, representing the good and evil sides of the Baltimore drug trade. Yes, Michael Sheen has played Tony Blair a few times, but he is also portraying American Dr. William Masters on Masters of Sex on Showtime. Then, of course, there was the irascibly lovable Hugh Laurie in House. Were there no equally qualified American actors?

Not that a convincing accent makes for an automatic trophy. Most the attention on potential award winners still focuses on their physical transformation. Daniel Day Lewis became a cripple, Hilary Swank a boy, Charlize Theron a monster. Then there is the weight thing. DeNiro famously gained and then lost for Raging Bull. Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey's Oscars were well deserved, but their incredibly shrinking bodies did not hurt. This year alone, Bradley Cooper gained some 40 pounds for American Sniper, Oyelowo did the same to portray MLK, Eddie Redmayne took on Stephen Hawking's debilitating disease, and Steve Carell may be nominated for Best Performance By a Nose.

Those are not easy, by any means, but perhaps they are considered more doable than actually adopting a new way of speaking. One acting teacher I spoke with said it's a fact that Australians, in particular, are most adept at using American accents -- something about a more flexible "lilt." And Brits, well, they are simply better trained in theatre, while Americans have less familiarity with the great works, and find it a greater challenge to lose the flatness of their tones. (Even Richard Nixon was famously portrayed by Anthony Hopkins)

It's not that American actors are incapable of turning the tables, though Leonardo diCaprio took some heat for his erratic attempt in Blood Diamond. Meryl Streep and Gwyneth Paltrow won Oscars for sporting their British accents. Both Gyllenhaals, Maggie and Jake, are now on Broadway showing off theirs. (Something Maggie mastered this past season in The Honorable Woman, which has earned her a Golden Globe nomination) But let's face it: American actors are not always the first choices to play the most American of characters.

And while I love those from abroad, I don't want all my favorite roles given to them. After all, what would Breaking Bad and Mad Men have been without two of our own?