Foreign (English-speaking) actors increasingly dominate Hollywood

Hollywood represents the image of the USA for many people around the world. For some, Hollywood equals America. It is obvious that one shouldn't think that life in the USA is just like it looks like on TV. But what I want to discuss here is whether it is correct at all to describe Hollywood as an American enterprise.

The cinema business in the United States goes by the nickname of "Hollywood", because of the movie studios located in the Los Angeles neighbourhood of that name. For almost everyone on Earth Hollywood is American because it is US-based and because that is America's most famous and most popular export. But how much of Hollywood is really American ?

I have the habit of checking sites like the Internet Movie Database (IMBD) or Wikipedia to learn more about the cast of a film or TV series I have watched or plan to watch. Over the years I have come to realise that the best Hollywood actors and actresses are not American, but British (Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Gerard Butler, Ewan McGregor, Ben Kingsley, Michael Caine, Jeremy Irons, Hugh Laurie, Ralph Fiennes, Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Craig, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Daniel Radcliffe, Kevin McKidd) or Canadians (Keanu Reeves, Michael J. Fox, Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Matthew Perry, Hayden Christiansen, Kiefer Sutherland, Neve Campbell, Rachel McAdams), with also quite a few Irish (Peter O'Toole, Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, Colin Farrell) and Australians (Mel Gibson, Nicole Kidman, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger, Sam Worthington).

American actors are usually famous for their roles in action movies (think Bruce Willis or Silvester Stallone, or superheroes stuff like X-men or Spiderman), police/crime movies, or low-level comedies like American Pie or the Steve Martin movies. I don't deny that there are good American actors (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Michael Douglas, Jack Nicholson, Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, Johnny Depp, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gwyneth Paltrow, Renée Zellweger, Scarlett Johansson...), but they are few and far between compared to the population of the USA. With over 300 million citizens, the United States has a population three times bigger than the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined. 3 out of 4 native English speaker in the Western world are American. What is certain is that the proportion is not kept for the big names of Hollywood. Truly famous American actors and actresses account for less than half, perhaps less than a third of the total. Things were different back in the 1950's or 60's, when Hollywood was really dominated by Americans. But times have changed. Hollywood is less and less American.

It is in TV series that American actors are dominant, because popular series have a story typically based in the US (Friends, Desperate Housewives, etc.). But even when the roles are American in the USA, many lead actors are not American. Think of:

- House M.D. (he is English, while Jesse Spencer is Australian)
- Prison Break (Wentworth Miller is English and Dominic Purcell is Australian)
- 24 (Kiefer Sutherland, Elisha Cuthbert and Leslie Hope are all Canadian)
- The O.C. (Mischa Barton, a.k.a. Marissa Cooper, is English; Kelly Rowan, a.k.a. Kristen Cohen, is Canadian; Alan Dale, a.k.a. Caleb Nichol, is New-Zealander)
- Gossip Girl (Ed Westwick a.k.a. "Chuck Bass" is English)
- Lost, three of the main actors are British and one is Australian.

The biggest commercial successes of the last decade (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean) have starred mostly British actors and actresses.

This shows how international Hollywood is. Hollywood is like Monaco. It's a global melting pot. It's a mistake to think of Hollywood as something purely American, or to think that Hollywood equals American culture.

P.S. : I forgot Russell Crowe, who is New Zealand-born, naturalized Australian.
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Ah, the greatest actress ever wasn't mentioned, Meryl Streep.

This is, and has been the power of USA to draw the best from around the world. Because the size of the market and money standing behind it, it was always the case in business, sciences, universities and also movies. Thanks to economic revival of the whole world it will happen less and less, eventually talent depleted States will mean less in the world, though it might take couple of hundreds of years.

Many movie directors, sound/picture engineers, and many other specialists come from Europe too. Interesting fact is that most of biggest motion picture companies where started by emigrant Jews from eastern Europe: 20 Century Fox, Paramount pictures, MGM, Universal and Columbia.
I'll correct you on Mel Gibson. He is American, born in New York. His family moved to Australia when he was young.

I didn't know that. I guess that that's because Australians told me so many times that he was Australian when in lived in Oz. But after double-checking he has the dual citizenship, already had family in Australia before he was born (his grandfather). He father was born in Ireland, not in the States. It's in Australia that he grew up, was educated and made his stage début. He only moved back to the States when he was 28 years old. So his only claim for being American is that he was born there. He has no family connection and had no personal experience with the country before becoming a Hollywood actor.
Interesting fact is that most of biggest motion picture companies where started by emigrant Jews from eastern Europe: 20 Century Fox, Paramount pictures, MGM, Universal and Columbia.

That's a good point. That explains why so many actors have a Jewish background (Natalie Portman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lisa Kudrow, Winona Ryder, Matthew Broderick, Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, David Schwimmer, and even Michael Douglas and Harrison Ford).
Because of the size of the US domestic market, it is only natural that people from all over the Anglosphere come to work and produce in the US often on movies that are set in America or have an American feel. Instead of thinking of Hollywood as American cinema, I prefer to see it as English-speaking cinema, belonging to all English speaking countries. Indeed as you pointed out, the British (and others) are very prominent in Hollywood, as ever punching way above our weight.

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