Quite a bit I’ve seen the fact that Jeremy Sumpter (Peter Pan in the 2003 film) is not British called into question. The objection being that Peter Pan is British, of course. Some are turned off that he therefore did not have an accent. Which is, really, the actual argument. Sumpter could have inflected as such in the movie. By the same token, I have seen just as many have nary a qualm with it. I thought I’d put in my two cents on this issue.
In my review of Hogan’s movie, I made it clear how much I enjoyed Sumpter’s performance. He’s Pan, no question. So… did the lack of British accent bother me?
Let’s consider Peter’s history. Yes, born in the United Kingdom. So it stands to reason that he would speak with an accent. However, he did not stay very long in his house. The actual duration depends on which version of Barrie’s works. (I’ll save the details for another post. Suffice to say that Peter stayed no more than a week in his house.) We know for a fact that he heard his parents talking. Their conversation launches Peter into the adventure of a lifetime. But would he adopt the accent in so short a time? Possibly, but not likely. For when next seen, Peter is speaking with birds (as he had not forgotten the bird language.) Soon after he speaks with fairies as well. Who are we to assume fairies have a British accent? (Surely, fairy accents [if these exist] could be indigenous around the world as they are with humans.) I cannot say for sure, of course. But I’m inclined to believe the fairies would not want to associate themselves with such human silliness and complication. Thus, I’d imagine if they have an accent at all, it would be their own.
Peter Pan had little interaction with other humans before arriving in the Neverland. One Maimie Mannering, namely. But he does not spend much time with her, either. So again, it’s doubtful he would pick up the inflections.
The Lost Boys, well, they might have British accents. But by the time Peter Pan had become captain of a band of boys, he would already have a manner of speaking. He might pick up some from them. However, it's just as likely that they would lose their accents. Either by forgetting or emulating Peter Pan, who would be their model.
Some of the pirates in the Neverland would have British accents, surely.
Yet the pirates had different accents as well.
So, the eternal boy would not have any real model for how to inflect his speech.
And there you have it. I don’t think Peter Pan would have a British accent.
And if anyone still has the idea that the actor picked for Pan should have been a native of the United Kingdom, I say this: I support the widespread search for an unknown. And given the unnecessary accent and the performance captured on film, it makes little difference. I mean after all, Peter started off being played by the opposite gender.
Bravo to P.J. Hogan on this issue.