Wish List: 15 Dream Director/Actor Collaborations


Do you ever think about which actor and director pairings would get you the most psyched? You wake up and go online to read confirmation that so-and-so signed on to star in so-and-so’s next production and you find yourself eagerly anticipating it more than most other projects solely because of the pairing? Well, here is a list of collaborations I would love to happen. These are not the pairings I want more than any other. Honestly, with all the actors and directors out there, grouping certain people above all others as definitive perfection is a little foolish. I am sure someone else could come up with a list like this and I would be just as excited about their picks. Hence the list being unordered. I would really love to hear what your dream collaborations would be. Be sure to comment and list some of yours!

Fatih Akin and Franka Potente – Sibel Kekilli’s role in 2004’s Head-On is my reference point for this. While Akin’s last film was the mediocre comedy Soul Kitchen, his Head-On and The Edge of Heaven are very heavy dramas that demand equally intense performances from all involved. Seeing Potente take on material involving his trademark exploration into German-Turkish relations would be so undoubtedly rewarding.

Woody Allen and Tom Hollander – Tom Hollander has been one of my favorite actors for several years now, and he got to show his comedic chops in 2009’s brilliant political satire In the Loop. Allen’s recent globe-trotting tendencies make it somewhat common for British actors to pop up in his films as of late. Hollander would fit in perfectly in a strong supporting role as part of an ensemble in an Allen film. He excels at villainous roles (Pirates of the Carribean 2 & 3, Hanna), but I hope he gets more opportunities to be as funny as he is in In the Loop. “A walrus? I’m not fat, I don’t even have a moustache. Fuck, they’ve given me tusks.”

Bong Joon-ho and Lee Byung-hun – This one is honestly bound to happen at some point. Lee is a superstar and Bong represents economic prosperity for South Korea’s film industry. It is just a matter of time. The reason this pairing would be exciting is because of what Bong could bring out of Lee. Lee is a fantastic actor and he has a strong ‘soap opera’ acting ability that works so well for him. Bong’s films are known for being so tonally distinct, often switching moods within the same scene or balancing many different varied genres at the same time. I have said it so many times, but again, he does something with his films that nobody else in cinema does. Seeing Lee function within this atmosphere would surely bring something different out of him. The potential here is endless.

Jane Campion and Claire Danes – While I kind of wish this collaboration had taken place in the 90’s as opposed to now, this would still be a pairing I would kill to see. Danes is exceptionally talented and seeing her in a Campion period piece would be a refreshing role for the actress to take. Additionally, she would be up to the challenges demanded of a lead actress in a Campion film.

The Coen Brothers and Peter Dinklage – How has this not happened yet? I kept having to double check and make sure this collaboration has yet to occur. Yes, Dinklage has been on my mind and in my dreams quite a lot lately what with “Game of Thrones” and all. Dinklage is commonly placed in roles that showcase his epically sardonic line delivery. His performance in his debut film Living in Oblivion really exemplifies how well he can be used in a comedy. The kind of humor the Coens excel at would be perfectly matched with how Dinklage fits into his comedic roles. In short; this needs to happen.

Sofia Coppola and Mia Wasikowska – It is not hard to see why I think this pairing would work. I am thinking mainly of the pose-heavy way Coppola frames and shoots her characters and how naturally Wasikowska would fit into the look of her films. My shallow reasoning is that the woman shoots beautiful people prettily. Pretty, pretty, pretty like a painting. While I want her to eventually focus on older actors (her work with Bill Murray is the best work she has gotten from anyone), for now, if this happened, I would be ecstatic.

David Cronenberg and Johnny Depp – Oh Johnny. My feelings about Depp have been a rocky roller coaster of the years. The man is a great actor, but the only performance of his I got excited about over the last decade is his Sweeney Todd. Cronenberg is at a place in his career where his films are rooted in harsh realism, largely leaving his mind-fuck days of body horror behind. Depp would do nicely in both eras of the director’s work. Cronenberg’s films fully maintain that edge and fascination with human psychology and I would love to see Depp in the kind of roles that Viggo Mortensen gets from his memorable collaborations with the director.

Michael Haneke and Tilda Swinton – This one is so obvious, it barely needs explanation. Haneke’s cold and distant works have gotten brilliant work out of actress powerhouses Juliette Binoche and Isabelle Huppert. Swinton would be a natural fit within a Haneke work as she is capable of performing the hell out of any role as well as her ability to exude the trademark Haneke coldness to a tee.

Lee Chang-dong and Bae Doona – Lee’s films deal with some ugly situations presented in a natural and honest light. His characters go on an extended journey, for better or worse, and he asks a lot from his performers. Jeon Do-yeon was justifiably praised for her exhausting performance in Secret Sunshine, and for not wearing any makeup in the film, which is a bigger deal than it is here in the States (most South Korean actresses are not likely to take a role with this requirement). Bae Doona, my favorite South Korean actress, has an inherent willingness to take the kind of stripped down roles others might be hesitant to. Her presence and talent in a Lee Chang-dong film would be a dream of mine.

Terrence Malick and John Hawkes – Malick’s obsession with nature and that earthy quality of Hawkes would be a perfect fit. Can’t you just see Hawkes taking on some of that heavy ‘why are we here?’ voiceover? It is really hard to expand on this one; it is the first one that came to my head when brainstorming for this list. It just feels right.

Christopher Nolan and Will Smith – When Smith almost signed on for Django Unchained, I found myself a lot more excited than I expected to be. Then that fell through. Smith always takes huge projects, and while he exacts a Nazi-like control over every aspect of the films he appears in, I still like the actor. While characters might not be Nolan’s strong point as a writer/director, seeing Smith in a big-budget Nolan flick would likely give Smith a chance to really shine in a project that would give him a chance to make the most of some strong material a la I Am Legend.

Alexander Payne and Leonardo DiCaprio – DiCaprio is the rare actor who has never taken a comedic role. Ever. Not even a remotely comedic one. The more serious the material, the more drawn to it he is. Which is fine; the man has given some incredible performances and I always look forward to seeing him on screen. Yet at this point, I am yearning for him to do something different. His upcoming role in the new Tarantino is exactly the kind of project I am intrigued to see him in (is that officially happening? I’m cautious about believing casting announcements these days). He would be pushing himself in a different way. Will we buy him as a villain? I wonder. But I am ecstatic to see him try. While I want to see DiCaprio in a comedy (seriously…how surreal would that be at this point?), even seeing him try a dramedy would be radically different and even jarring. The kinds of films Payne makes are the exact kind of project I want DiCaprio to align himself with, as his upcoming The Descendants illustrates.

Todd Solondz and Ben Stiller – I am a Ben Stiller fan despite his love for big paydays over meaningful projects. Looking at his writer/director projects, it is obvious that he is drawn to darkly comic material. Some of the stuff on “The Ben Stiller Show” and in addition, The Cable Guy and Tropic Thunder, go to some pretty dark places. Solondz’s desire to sincerely explore the dark side of humanity in a very matter-of-fact way somehow materializes itself as black comedy. Given the chance for a role in a Solondz film, I am overly confident that Stiller would absolutely shine.

Quentin Tarantino and Choi Min-sik – The director is arguably more influenced (and takes the most from) by Asian cinema than anything else. Yes, I am lumping together many different national cinemas there, but the point remains. With Kill Bill Volume 1, he created Go-Go Yubari specifically for Chiaki Kuriyama, and she remains among my very favorite characters in any film. I hope he can create other roles for Asian actors that he admires and/or idolizes from time to time, and Choi Min-sik would be my first pick. The man can play any type of role thrown at him and Tarantino’s obsession with Oldboy, and very likely other Choi performances, would make him a perfect candidate for a specially created character by the filmmaker.

Lars von Trier and Winona Ryder – Quite honestly, this is the kind of role Ryder needs right now, if she can get it. Something tells me she would be drawn to being Trier’s emotionally drained puppet and for someone trying to get her career back, she needs a game-changing project to push her into difficult places. I am sure kissing Channing Tatum is nice, but The Dilemma ain’t gonna cut it. In the end, neither are bit parts in Star Trek and Black Swan, although it’s a start. Ryder is an actress that has been a consistent presence in my life whose earlier performances will remain with me. I am seriously rooting for this woman, (for a 5th grade biographical project, others picked to write about Lincoln and Washington; I picked Ryder) and von Trier is the kind of director I want her to get a project with.

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