Director/Actor Pairings That Need to Continue

There have been great movie director/actor pairings in the history of cinema: John Ford and John Wayne, Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant, Martin Scorsese and Robert DiNiro, Martin Scorsese and Joe Pesci, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese and Harvey Keitel…you get the picture.  Of course, the most overused one that everyone is sick of is Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.  Yes, we know their on-screen bromance has sold a lot of tickets, but enough is enough.  There are many other more deserving combinations that can be exploited more than they have.  The criteria is that these duos have done at least two movies together in the past but haven’t had a collaboration in many years.

Tim Burton and Michael Keaton

If Tim Burton gives up working with Johnny Depp, the only logical choice is for him to go back to the first guy he worked with repeatedly—Batman himself, Michael Keaton.  The two first worked together in Beetle Juice and then hit box office gold with the original Batman, followed by the sequel Batman Returns.  The two seemed to be a match made in heaven, as Keaton’s dark comedic skills seemed in perfect tune with Burton’s wild imagination.  But when Burton stepped down as the Dark Knight’s director, Keaton soon followed, and the two never worked together again.  What happened?  Mainly, Edward Scissorhands.  Burton made this film in between the two Caped Crusader flicks, and discovered weird TV actor Depp.  The rest is cinematic history.  Surely there is a place for Keaton in a new Burton project that can resurrect the actor’s once shining career?

Tim Burton and Paul Reubens

Even before Tim Burton teamed up with Michael Keaton, he directed Paul Reubens in the actor’s first feature film as his alter-ego Pee Wee Herman in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.  That character took off in pop culture, and though Burton didn’t direct the sucky sequel, he did use Reubens again in a cameo in Batman Returns as the Penguin’s father and as a voice in The Nightmare Before Christmas (and yes, Burton didn’t really direct that movie, that’s beside the point).  When Reubens decided to play with his peewee in public, that pretty much brought about the end of his career for a long time, other than showing up in supporting roles here and there, like in Murphy Brown or the feature film Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Recently, he’s been spouting off about a new Pee Wee flick produced by Judd Apatow.  That might be interesting, if it ever gets off the ground, but it would be more exciting to see Reubens in a new bizzaro character in a Tim Burton film.  Just think of the possibilities.

Peter Weir and Harrison Ford

If Cowboys and Aliens and the recent Indiana Jones film have taught us anything, it’s that Harrison Ford has gotten old.  It’s depressing to see one of our favorite action heroes becoming decrepit in front of our eyes, but it’s easy to forget that Ford had a career outside of action films (anyone remember Regarding Henry?  Anyone?  Anyone?).  Back in the ‘80’s, Peter Weir directed Ford in a pair of movies that arguably featured the actor’s best performances—Witness and The Mosquito Coast.  Ford was nominated for an Academy Award for Witness (yes, by playing a cop) and took a huge chance in The Mosquito Coast playing an inventor (of an ice machine, no less), that goes bonkers and convinces his family that a nuclear war has happened, so he moves then to the jungles of South America.  What we need is to get Weir and Ford together again.  Forget trying to re-imagine an elderly Ford as a creaky action hero—give him a great dramatic character to sink his teeth into, provided by terrific direction by Weir.  Maybe Ford can earn another Oscar nom before he dies of old age.

Steven Spielberg and Richard Dreyfuss

Over the last decade or so, Steven Spielberg has teamed with the Toms numerous times–Cruise twice and Hanks three times.  Of course, that’s not including the four Indiana Jones movies with Harrison Ford.  It’s only a matter of time until he does another film with one of those guys.  But it’s easy to forget that back in the day, he also did three movies with Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Always).  It’s been reported that Spielberg wanted Dreyfuss to play Alan Grant in Jurassic Park, but the actor turned it down due to the low paycheck.  Yeah, that helped his career considerably.  Lately, the highlight of his roles was to parody Jaws‘s Matt Hooper in Piranha 3D.  He is an Oscar-winning actor who could carry a movie as the lead and also do his duty in character roles both comedic and dramatic.  Yes, he’s aging now and can’t do the same thing he did 20 or 30 years ago.  That’s okay–Spielberg works just as well with old people as he does with kids.  It would be amazing to see what Spielberg could do with him after all these years.

Penny Marshall and Tom Hanks

In addition to Spielberg, Tom Hanks has acted repeatedly for Ron Howard and Robert Zemeckis.  While doing another movie with either of these directors again would not be objectionable, he needs to return to work with another former TV star, Penny Marshall.  Marshall directed Hanks to his first Oscar nomination in Big and then gave him the chance to say his catch phrase, “There’s no crying in baseball!” in A League of Their Own.  Unfortunately, none of her films since made that much of an impact.  She needs to do another project with her buddy Hanks to bring her career back to life, especially now that According to Jim has been cancelled.

Ron Howard and Gary Sinise

Of course, Penny Marashall is not the only former sitcom star  turned director that Tom Hanks has worked with.  He has done four movies with Opie Cunningham himself, Ron Howard.  Another teaming would be welcome, as long as it’s not another Dan Brown adaptation.  However, Howard should go back to casting Hanks’s Apollo 13 and Forest Gump buddy Gary Sinise, who’s been wallowing on TV in CSI: New York for the last decade or so.  That show will end eventually (even Law & Order was cancelled, so nothing lasts forever), so Sinise should return to the big screen. After playing a grounded astronaut, Sinise was an effective kidnapper in Howard’s Ransom, holding his own against a then-A-lister Mel Gibson.  What better way to do a re-entry into motion pictures than to do another Ron Howard film?

Robert Zemeckis and Crispin Glover

In addition to Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, and Penny Marshall, Tom Hanks did triple duty for Robert Zemeckis.  He won his second Academy award for Forest Gump, convinced the world that a friendship with a volleyball was possible in Cast Away, and played multiple mo-cap digital characters in the animated The Polar Express.  However, Zemeckis should do another movie with Crispin Glover, who showed his insanity to the world by nearly kicking David Letterman’s face and stole the show from both Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd (no easy feat) in Back to the Future.  Glover chose not to return to the sequels for either creative reasons, contract disputes, or mental instability (depending on who you ask).  Zemeckis didn’t hold a grudge and cast Glover in Beowulf a mere 22 years later.  He made a surprisingly effective mo-cap villain and also did an impressive job as a real human in Tim Burton’s mostly animated Alice in Wonderland.  Now that Zemeckis has given up animated films to return to live action, he should quickly make use of Glover’s resurgence in the mainstream.  He’s sure to get an interesting character performance out of the quirky actor.

James Cameron and Michael Biehn

Tom Hanks has never worked James Cameron, but that director has re-used his own troupe of actors for most of his body of work.  Sigourney Weaver, Bill Paxton, Lance Henrickson, Michael Biehn, and Jenette Goldstein have all made multiple appearances in his films (not to mention that Paxton, Henrickson, and Goldstein all appeared in Near Dark, directed by Cameron’s ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow).  Cameron took a decade-long hiatus after Avatar and looks to spend the foreseeable future on the planet of Pandora.  Since Stephen Lang’s military villain was disposed of at the end of Avatar, who better to replace him than Michael Biehn?  After all, he played a heroic soldier from the future in The Terminator, a heroic Marine in the future in Aliens, and a psychotic Navy Seal dealing with aliens at the bottom of the ocean in The Abyss.  He would be a perfect re-match for Cameron’s military/alien combo sequel.

Terry Gilliam and Robin Williams

Robin Williams has not worked for the King of the World, but he did play the King of the Moon in Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.  That was just a cameo appearance, but a highlight of the bizarre fantasy film that about twelve people saw.  Williams later starred in Gilliam’s critically and financially successful The Fisher King, earning an Oscar nomination for his role as a traumatized man living on the streets searching for the Holy Grail.  Gilliam has had a troubled career with one film after another turning into disasters mostly for reasons out of his control.  But his crazy-creative vision makes for some amazing cinematic experiences.  Williams’s manic energy is perfect for Gilliam’s artistry.  The two need each other, even if the film is not a hit, it still would be unique and a worthwhile effort.  It would definitely be a cut above a good portion of the work that Williams has done in a long while.

Ivan Reitman and Bill Murray

Another comedic actor who could stand to revisit his glory days is Bill Murray.  Murray has had somewhat of a re-imagining of his career with several independent films.  He built his film resume on solid, memorable roles in films such as Meatballs, Stripes, and Ghostbusters, all directed by Ivan Reitman.  Of late, Reitman has been overshadowed by his son Jason.  Dan Ackroyd has been pushing for Ghostbusters III for years, presumably to be directed by Reitman Sr., but the holdout has been Mr. Murray.  Why?  The world has no idea.  While that would be a (hopefully) great thing, Murray needs to work with the director in something.  If that doesn’t work, he should at least consider doing another movie with Harold Ramis, who wrote all those hit films plus directed Murray in Caddyshack and Groundhog Day.  After Year One, Ramis could use a lift in his career that Murray could provide.

Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell

While Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and Ivan Reitman all started out their careers together, another pair that literally spent their lives together are Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, who grew up together in Michigan.  Together, they made the improbable low-budget hit The Evil Dead and its two sequels, directed by Raimi and starring Campbell.  Raimi has a tendency to put Campbell in cameos in his films, such as memorable scenes in all of his Spider-man flicks.  Campbell has had a cult following, in particular with movies like Bubba Ho-Tep.  He’s spent the last several years in a likeable role on TV’s likeable Burn Notice, but has not had a huge big-screen vehicle.  Now that Raimi has moved on from Spidey, it would be fantastic for him to bring The Chin in for a major role.  Fanboys everywhere would rejoice.

Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder

This is a long-shot because Brooks hasn’t directed a film since 1995’s Dracula: Dead and Loving It (unless you consider his “overseeing” reshoots of the musical The Producers).  He has focused on Broadway and other ventures instead.  Wilder has been in retirement battling health issues.  Back in their heyday, Brooks and Wilder teamed up for three comedy classics–the original version of The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein.  For a while, Wilder was synonymous with Brooks, but then the Candy Man discovered Richard Pryor (one of the co-writers of Blazing Saddles) and had several hits as a comedy team.  Unfortunately, that teaming went on a couple of movies too far (can you say Another You?).  How great would it be for these two aging comic geniuses to do their cinematic swan songs together?  Perhaps Old Frankenstein.

copyright © 2011 FilmVerse


2 comments on “Director/Actor Pairings That Need to Continue

  1. I’d agree with all of these.

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