Why would they be wanted? They might fit the part (of an immigrant or exotic foreigner) or they can draw a crowd in their native land or among a diaspora. Talent is randomly distributed around the world, and is universally appreciated. Some of them frankly are pretty sexy without any linguistic considerations..
Why would they choose to speak roles in different languages? Money seems an obvious answer, but artistic opportunity is also important. Cinema is very international and directors, actors, producers and other film people are meeting each other and often come to admire each other's work.
From French cinema you can find Audrey Tautou("The Da Vinci Code""Dirty Pretty Things"), Marion Cotillard ("The Dark Knight Rises," Inception"), Juliet Binoche ("Chocolat" The English Patient"), Mathieu Alaric ("The Grand Budapest", "Qantum of Solace") Vincent Cassel ("Black Swan" "Trance") to spice up the English speaking world.
Edgar Ramirez from Venezuela had a military father with international placings that encouraged him to learn English, French and Spanish. Known in English cinema for "Zero Dark Thirty" and "The Bourne Ultimatum" In "The Liberator" he played Simon Bolivar and spoke in significant sections of the movie, Spanish, French and English.
From Spain Javier Bardem has been a gift in such movies as "Skyfall" "Eat, Pray, Love" and "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" Now, his wife Penelope Cruz has been in"Vanillia Sky" duplicating role from "Open Your Eyes." Eduardo Noriega appeared in" Transsiberian" and "Vantage Point." Also speaks French and appeared in "Beauty and the Beast." Paz Vega has appeared in many Spanish movies and television episodes and also in Italian films before making mostly American movies such as "Spanglish" and "Triage."
From Denmark Ulrich Thomsen speaks fluent German and English. He has appeared in at least two Hungarian movies including one I saw ,"The Notebook" playing a German. He has appeared in German movies. Worked in the American tv series, "Banshee." Not yet released he will be directing, writing and acting in "In Embryo." Mads Mikklesen is another leading man from Denmark and has appeared in two French films I have seen, "Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky" and "The Legend of Michael Kohilhaas." In the U.S. he has played the main character in the tv series, "Hannibal" and recently in the movie "The Salvation."
Bollywood actors making inroads in Britain and the States include Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in such movies as "Pink Panther 2" and "Provoked." Anil Kapoor has made a reputation in "Mission Impossible" and "24)," Irrfan Khan has played in "The Amazing Spiderman" and " Jurassic World." Priyanka Chopra has made a breakthrough in "Quantico." Om Puri a very prolific actor has been on English movies such as "East is East," "West is West" and "The Hundred Foot Journey." India has a unique problem with Hindi as one of the most popular language in the world, but there are several other major languages and dubbing and sub titles are popular in different regions, but so is English. Some of their movies are even mostly English, whereas in others it is sometimes used to indicate upper class and others just to cut across barriers. There are movies based on many different languages and many actors have found it useful to speak several Indian languages.
Rutger Hauer, another prolific actor who started in his native Dutch movies. I remember him in "Bride Flight" a Dutch-English movie set in New Zealand. He played Michaelanglo in an Italian production. In English he has played a number of vampire roles but also "The Mill and the Cross."
Max Von Sydow starting from Sweden played in a number of European films such as "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" and in many American and British movies. Stellan Sarsgard, has been in a number of Amerian movies such as "Mama Mia"s with his son Alexander carrying on in a number of American films Sweden provided us with Ingrid Bergman. More modern Noomi Rapace, famous as "the Girl with the Dragon Tatoo" has performed in "Child 44 ""and The Drop"
Branko Djuric played in Bosnian and other Balkan languages- and learned English for "Triage."
French Canadian in English films include Roy Dupuis, and Genevieve Bujold. It is fairly natural for Quebekers to be bilingual.
Lots of other multi lingual actors have been left out. Who are your favourites? If you enjoy their English speaking roles you can better appreciate them in their native tongues.
If you haven't read the earlier post on foreign movies here it is: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2011/06/why-i-like-foreign-movies-with.html
for more information on Javier Bardem:
for more information on Mads Miklesen: