Just What The Hell Is Going On With Vincent D'Onofrio's Accent In This Pelé Movie?

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Pelé—once an inspirational global icon as the widely recognized greatest soccer player of all time, now a smiling leathery husk dragged around the world for the enrichment of his handlers and the brands they license him to—has a movie coming out about his early life. From what we’ve seen in the trailer above, it is going to be very, very bad, though probably also hilarious.

If a shiver of perturbation runs down your spine when you first click play, as you wonder to yourself if a movie portraying the life of the most famous Brazilian in world history, set and shot in his native Brazil, and starring Brazilians in most of the prominent roles should really be in spoken English, keep on going, for the worst is yet to come. It’s not until 1:10 in when you’re subjected to the real horror/delight of the trailer, which is Vincent D’Onofrio and what appears to be his attempt at a Brazilian accent.

To be fair to D’Onofrio, the Brazilian accent is an exceptionally difficult one to master. Portuguese as spoken in Brazil is full of little phonetic quirks foreign to the English-speaking tongue, and even if you remember to pronounce first-letter Rs like Hs and the letter combo “de” like “chee” (but only sometimes!), the rhythm and cadence is still quite difficult to pick up on.


Recognizing this, though, me or you would probably not find ourselves signed on to a major motion picture where we are tasked with approximating the speech patterns of Vicente Feola, the Brazilian national team’s coach during the 1958 World Cup. (Though size-wise, D’Onofrio does compare well to the hefty fella.) And if we were attached in said movie, I’d imagine we’d try harder to conquer the accent, rather than settling for the ever-shifting, marble-mouthed garble D’Onofrio came up with.

Here are our attempts at reproducing D’Onofrio’s lines as he delivers them in the trailer (and remember, you’re supposed to understand this as Brazilian-tinged English):

  • Addressing a young and unproven Pelé: “Zheen gustahw might’ve werg fer yu bokkin Sawntose, budiwull neiver hold up attin ernternashonul lever.”
  • Still talking to the young Pelé: “Yu maybe seegsteen yurs oll bucher now a spokesmon fer thees grey nayshawn.”
  • Presumably giving the pep talk before the World Cup final, and at least initially doing an impression of Christopher Walken doing an impression of Nelson Mandela: “Ey dough no eve wheevull when. Buh wheevull show dem? Ah beautiful game!”

As accurately as we’ve tried to transcribe the above quotes, the truly insane rhythmic patter of his delivery cannot be replicated in text. It almost sounds as if D’Onofrio’s lines were reconstructed from clips of him from other movies, à la one of these.

IMDB says the Pelé movie comes out on March May 6th. We kind of can’t wait to see it.