Dakota Johnson and Johny Depp in ‘Black Mass.’Claire Folger / Warner Bros. Pictures
If you are wondering how Johnny Depp and the stars of Black Mass nailed down their Boston accents, there’s a lot more that went into it than just rewatching a copy of Good Will Hunting.
A lot of the credit for the cast’s spot-on inflections goes to dialect coaches Carla Meyer and Howard Samuelsohn, who aided Depp and company throughout the film’s production.
The key to getting the Boston accent down, according to Samuelsohn, is to take a very Yoda-like approach to the accent: don’t think about it, just do it.
“Once you nail down the sounds, you kind of have to forget about it,’’ Samuelsohn said. “The most important thing is that you forget about it when you act and you let the dialect coach remind you of things. The actor when he’s acting shouldn’t be thinking about the dialect because then they’re not in the moment. The performance is more important than the accent.’’
Meyer spent about three weeks with the cast during prep work prior to filming, and then an additional few weeks during the start of shooting before Samuelsohn took over.
Each performer had to hone their abilities to pick up the phonetic sounds through drills and carefully parsing each line in the script.
A dialect coach was also present during each scene of dialogue to make sure that the actors were on point with their accents.
“The first thing you do, of course, with Boston is you work on dropping the R’s. They drop their R’s a little differently than New York,’’ Samuelsohn said. “It’s really fascinating sometimes when you see actors actually transform into their characters just by doing the dialect right. That’s when it gets to be a lot of fun.’’
Despite being cut from the film, Samuelsohn praised Sienna Miller’s ability to talk like a Bostonian, calling her accent one of the best on the set.
“She sounded great,’’ Samuelsohn said. “She was actually one of my favorites.’’
Samuelsohn also praised actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who studied hours of tape to nail down Billy Bulger’s distinctive voice and mannerisms.
“He was really interested in doing Billy Bulger. He would watch films of him all the time,’’ Samuelsohn said. “He would actually try to take some of the jokes he made because he was famous for being a raconteur. He loved to make his jokes, and Benedict was trying to find places to put those in.’’
But if there’s one quick trick to nailing down the accent, Howard points to a scene from Family Guy that focused on a certain, popular breakfast treat.
“Pop tart,’’ Samuelsohn said. “You do the ‘ô’ sound, which is very unique to Boston and then you have the ‘tärt’ which is very much a Boston sound. You put it together and you get it immediately.’’
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