The List: Top 10 director-actor partnerships

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

With director Guy Maddin and actress Isabella Rossellini coming to the Wexner Center on Saturday to discuss their frequent collaborations, we’re counting down 10 directors and actors who make their most beautiful onscreen music when they’re playing together.

10. John Carpenter and Kurt Russell

The ’80s offered most of Carpenter’s best films and Russell starred in three from 1981 to 1986 (“Escape From New York,” “The Thing” and “Big Trouble In Little Chinatown). Cinematic masterpieces? No, but these films sure were a lot of fun.

9. Lars von Trier and Charlotte Gainsbourg

It takes a special actress to put up with von Trier’s notoriously harsh demands of his leading ladies. Gainsbourg has been indelible in a trilogy of von Trier films centering on depression: “Antichrist,” “Melancholia” and the forthcoming “Nymphomaniac.”

8. David Lynch and Laura Dern

Dern has become Lynch’s muse since “Blue Velvet.” She powered the lovers-on-the-lam fever dream of “Wild at Heart,” but their best collaboration is probably the most David Lynch film David Lynch has made, “Inland Empire.”

7. Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder

The main reason “Young Frankenstein” and “Blazing Saddles” are both Brooks and Wilder’s best films is because they were kindred spirits when it came to comedic sensibilities. Plus, the duo worked together on the original “The Producers — the good one.

6. John Waters and Divine

Waters’ collaborations with the drag queen were a match made in bad-taste heaven. A performer really has to trust a director to consume dog poop onscreen.

5. Wes Anderson and Bill Murray

The easygoing charm of the past decade of Bill Murray is probably most connected to the films of Wes Anderson movies. Likewise, Anderson’s entire filmography is probably most connected to Bill Murray.

4. Woody Allen and Diane Keaton

Even though Keaton starred in “The Godfather” movies, her early career is defined by working with Allen, who often referred to Keaton as his muse. It culminated in the legendary “Annie Hall,” which is one of the greatest — and most genuine — love stories of all-time.

3. Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman

Tarantino’s affinity for his “Pulp Fiction” star was so great that he wrote an epic revenge tale for her in the two part “Kill Bill.” Thurman was up for the task in a performance that displayed both emotional and ass-kicking range.

2. Paul Thomas Anderson and Philip Seymour Hoffman

Anderson is a director who absolutely adores his cast, and none more than Hoffman, who stole scenes in “Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia” and “Punch-Drunk Love” before his Oscar-nominated turn in “The Master.”

1. Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese

Good friends Scorsese and De Niro collaborated on three of the best films in the modern era — “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas” — and their overall work together defines their careers. Sorry, Leo. We know Scorsese loves you now, but you’ll never match the relationship and chemistry these two had.