Five actor/director partnerships

For quite some time, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have been making films together, although their latest collaboration, Dark Shadows, has shown that, if nothing else, they need to take a break from each other. However, not all collaborations, and below are a sample of some of my favourites, where some actors I love have collaborated with excellent and promising directors in order to create brilliant pieces of film.

Ingmar Bergman and Liv Ullman.

Under the direction of the incomparable Bergman, Ullman received two Oscar nominations for best actress, and along the way, appeared in several roles in Bergman’s best films, from the long suffering lover in The Hour of the Wolf to what is arguably her best performance, in Bergman’s award winning Scene’s From a Marriage, which is also one of Bergman’s best films. In the film she shows a range of emotions that are almost endless, and her depth is truly stunning, if you haven’t scene the film, I urge you to seek it out.

Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro.

DeNiro’s best performances are in Scorcese films. Period. From the unhinged Travis in Taxi Driver, which gave us the iconic “you talkin’ to me?” scene, to his Oscar winning powerhouse in Raging Bull, changing physically for the demanding role, and delivering the finest performance of his career. Between those films and Goodfellas, DeNiro shows exactly what he is capable of as an actor. If only he’d been able to maintain those standards into the 21st century.

Woody Allen and Mia Farrow.

It was difficult to pick which actress to go with in terms of Woody Allen films, it was a toss-up between Farrow and Keaton, both of whom gave iconic performances in various Allen classics, from Keaton as the eponymous Annie Hall, or Mia Farrow’s understated dramatic turn in Allen’s underrated dramatic effort in Another Woman. In Allen films, Farrow displays an excellent range, that also extends beyond Allen’s extensive back catalogue. Just compare Another Woman to Broadway Danny Rose and you’ll know what I mean. Through her work in these films she displays how good she is and established herself as one of the best actresses of her time, as well as one of my personal favourites.

David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen.

Perhaps to mainstream audiences, Mortensen will be known only as Aragon, but under the watchful eye of the excellent provocateur David Cronenberg, he has shown his astonishing rage as an actor. A partnership that has flourished over the years for both director and actor, Cronenberg and Viggo have created some films that play against the typical Cronenbergian fare, from the powerful drama A History of Violence, to the reserved analytical fare of A Dangerous Method. The three films that these two have made together vary slightly in quality, but the one truly shining star of these films is Viggo, from his explosive performance in A History of Violence that deserved awards recognition, to his brooding, Oscar nominated gangster in Eastern Promises. For a man mostly known to mainstream audiences for Lord of the Rings, in these films, largely considered a mainstream breakout for Cronenberg, have been able to show just how good an actor Mortensen is to a whole new audience.

Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender.

A very new partnership, with only two films under their belt, but what a partnership it is. Artist turned filmmaker McQueen has, through keen direction and an excellent visual eye, extracted the two best performances of Fassbender’s already decorated career. Both of his performances, from the physical transformation required to play Bobby Sands in Hunger, providing some of the most disturbing images in modern films, to the tortured Brandon in last years excellent Shame, Fassbender has given two performances both worthy of award nominations. With such great performances created from this partnership, I can’t wait to see what they do next.

There are a lot of partnerships out there that I obviously couldn’t cover, so who do you think create their best work together? Who did I miss and how do you agree with on this list?

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Five actor/director partnerships

  1. Oh my! There are lotsa! šŸ™‚

    Josef von Sternberg & Marlene Dietrich
    Jean-Luc Godard & Anna Karina
    Brian De Palma & John Travolta
    Howard Hawks & John Wayne
    Howard Hawks & Cary Grant
    Quentin Tarantino & Uma Thurman
    Wes Anderson & Bill Murray
    Robert Rodriguez & Antonio Banderas
    Terry Gilliam & Johnny Depp
    Stanley Kubrick & Peter Sellers

  2. A really interesting post, I agree that De Niro is great in the movies directed by Scorsese.

  3. I’m very excited for the Fassbender+McQueen relationship to grow. Many stunning films are ahead of us.

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