Dynamic Duos: Emily’s Top 5 Director/Actor Collaborations

Written by Emily McWilliams January 24, 2013

A partnership between an actor and a director can be a creative force, resulting in great projects and films.  With many of the duos I have picked here, these relationships have spanned over decades, resulted in Oscars and other awards, and have contributed to two distinct and diverse filmographies.  Here are my Top 5 picks for the best actor-director duos:

5. Pedro Almodovar and Penelope Cruz

Almodvar and Cruz have collaborated on five films together, and in 2006 Cruz even received an Oscar nomination for her work in Almodovar’s film, “Volver”.  This director and actress have worked together for nearly 20 years, but their relationship extends even longer than that.  Cruz claims that watching Almodovar films as a teenager inspired her to become an actress.  It is apparent that there is a deep friendship between these two artists (even if they do resemble the odd couple when standing next to each other).  Cruz has the prefect range to compliment Almodovar’s emotional and sometimes, zany scripts.  Almodovar says of their working relationship, “…I’m a better director, thanks to Penelope – and Penelope’s probably a better actress thanks to me.”

4. Wes Anderson and Bill Murray


When Anderson was just starting out as a young and independent filmmaker, his script for the film “Rushmore” somehow got into the hands of Murray, who claimed that he wanted to do the film so badly, that he would have appeared in it for free.  Since then, Murray has appeared in every Anderson feature including “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”, “The Royal Tenenbaums”, and most recently, “Moonrise Kingdom”.  Murray has transitioned throughout his career from the off-the-wall slapstick humour to a more subtle and deadpan style.  His desire to play characters who are humourous and dimensional is one of the reasons why Anderson’s scripts and films suit this actor and contributes to a wonderful collaboration.

3. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp

On the Set of

Who would have thought that casting Johnny Depp as “Edward Scissorhands” in Burton’s 1990 feature would lead to one of the longest running and most well-known director-actor collaborations in film.  Yes, the  routine is getting a bit tired now, but these two did work together on some great films including “Ed Wood”, “The Corpse Bride”, and “Sweeney Todd”.  Both Burton and Depp have a really twisted sense of humour and passion for the macabre and unexpected. Maybe what this relationship just needs now is just some space..space can be good.  We don’t want to sit through another “Dark Shadows” guys.

2. Quentin Tarantino and Christoph Waltz


So, I’m probably going to get some heat for this because I think Samuel L. Jackson is the first to come to mind for Tarantino collaborators (and rightfully so).  Some might even think of Uma Thurman, but definitely not Christoph Waltz (he’s only been in 2 Tarantino films!).  Yes, Waltz and Tarantino are relatively new collaborators, but no one can deny the electric, bloody chemistry between these two that has resulted in one Oscar for Waltz already, and a strong chance for another soon.  Waltz, already an established and respected actor in Europe, dazzled audiences as the charming but evil Hans Landa in “Inglorious Basterds”.  As Dr. King Schultz in “Django Unchained”, Waltz performed with perfect comedic timing as the trigger-happy, smooth-talking dentist/bounty hunter.  I can’t wait for the next collaboration to happen between these two.

1. Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio

One of the most profitable collaborations in Hollywood

With every film collaboration between these two, they further establish each other as Hollywood’s elite director and actor talent.  They have delved into almost every genre from historical to biopics and even suspense-thrillers. Scorsese and DiCaprio both have a very sophisticated style and commitment to the art of filmmaking that has produced some of the best contemporary films in recent years.  As a partial result of this partnership, Scorsese finally received his long overdue Oscar for “The Departed” in 2007.  Let’s hope we can get one more much deserved Oscar for Dicaprio out of this relationship sometime in the near future.

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