How to pronounce Mahershala Ali, Denis Villeneuve, and other Oscar nominees.

How to Avoid Your Own “Adele Dazeem” or “Dick Poop”: Your 2017 Oscar Pronunciation Guide

How to Avoid Your Own “Adele Dazeem” or “Dick Poop”: Your 2017 Oscar Pronunciation Guide

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Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 24 2017 5:55 AM

Here’s Your 2017 Oscar Season Pronunciation Guide

Mahershala Ali, Isabelle Huppert, Auli’i Cravalho, and Denis Villeneuve.
Mahershala Ali, Isabelle Huppert, Auli’i Cravalho, and Denis Villeneuve.

Photo illustration by Slate. Images via Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images; Jeff Spicer/Getty Images; Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Landmark Vineyards, surachetkhamsuk/iStock.

Ever since John Travolta introduced the world to Adele Dazeem in 2014, each Oscar season has seen another mispronunciation go viral. In 2015, the Academy nominated the cinematography of “Dick Poop.” In 2016, Dennis Quaid announced that the Golden Globes were recognizing the performance of “Sheesha” Ronan. And twice at this year’s Golden Globes, reporters and presenters paid tribute to “Hidden Fences.”

To help you avoid your own “Adele Dazeem,” we’ve prepared this handy pronunciation guide, complete with video tutorials from many of the expected nominees themselves.


Mahershala Ali
Supporting actor, Moonlight

Ali’s birth name was Mahershalalhashbaz, but he goes by Mahershala, pronounced mah-HER-shuh-luh, according to Elle, People, and others.

Denis Villeneuve
Director, Arrival

The French Canadian director’s name is pronounced duh-nee veel-nuv. You can hear Canada’s George Stroumboulopoulos pronounce the name at the :25 mark below.


Damien Chazelle
Writer-director, La La Land

The 31-year-old writer-director, who inherited his name from his French-born father, the computer scientist Bernard Chazelle, pronounces his last name shuh-ZELL, like gazelle. You can hear NPR’s Audie Cornish say the name correctly here:

Viola Davis
Supporting actress, Fences

Davis pronounces her first name vie-OH-la, not VIE-oh-la (like violet), or vee-OH-la (like the string instrument). Adrien Brody got it right at the Golden Globes:

Kenneth Lonergan
Writer-director, Manchester by the Sea


The Bronx-born director and playwright pronounces his last name LAWN-ur-ghin.

Mykelti Williamson
Supporting actor, Fences

Williamson’s first name is pronounced Michael T., and is derived from the Blackfoot Indian word for “spirit,” according to the New York Times. You can hear the actor say his name 15 seconds into the video below.

Pablo Larraín
Director, Jackie

The Chilean director’s last name is pronounced Lah-rrah-EEN. You can hear Larraín teach NPR’s Robert Siegel how to say his name at the 7:30 mark below.


Martin Scorsese
Director, Silence

Scorsese pronounces name score-SEH-see, not score-SAY-see, as is commonly thought. Take it from Scorsese himself:

Viggo Mortensen
Actor, Captain Fantastic

The American actor’s Danish first name is pronounced VEE-go, not VIH-go.

Joel Edgerton
Actor, Loving


While some mistakenly think that this Australian actor’s name is pronounced like the name Edgar, with a hard G, Edgerton pronounces his name with a soft G, as in the word edge.

Isabelle Huppert
Actress, Elle

The French actress’s name is pronounced EE-zah-bell EU-pair. You can hear Elle director Paul Verhoeven pronounce her name in the clip below.

Ava DuVernay
Director, 13th


The director of 13th, a favorite in the Best Documentary category, pronounces her name AY-vuh DOO-verr-nay. You can hear her say her name in this video:

Maren Ade
Writer-director, Toni Erdmann

The name of the writer-director, whose film is a favorite in the Best Foreign-Language Film category, is pronounced MAR-in AH-day, according to the New York Times and others.

Auli’i Cravalho
Singer and voice actress, Moana

The Hawaii-born star of Moana pronounces her name ow-lee-ee craw-VAHL-yo. (There is no H sound in her last name, which seems to derive from Portuguese.) In the video below, via USA Today, you can watch the 16-year-old actress teach the Rock how to say her name.

Toni Erdmann
Germany’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film

Erdmann is pronounced AIRED-mon. (As you would probably guess, Toni is pronounced like the American first name Tony.) You can see the character pronounce the name of his alter ego in the clip below.

A Man Called Ove
Sweden’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film

The Scandinavian name Ove is pronounced oo-veh. You can hear it pronounced repeatedly in the trailer:

Hidden Figures

HID-den FIH-gyuhrs.

Additional research by David Canfield.

Read all of Slate’s coverage of this year’s Oscars.