The Actor-Director Team-Ups Of 2012

By Hannah Soo Park

When it’s nearly impossible to bring up one without mentioning the other, you know it’s meant to be. Such is the case with iconic actor-director partnerships, which, if all goes well, can result in many years’—and even decades’—worth of memorable films.

Not only did this year keep a few iconic partnerships alive, but it also made way for brand-new collaborations, set to continue with rumored or announced upcoming projects.

Here, we narrow down our seven favorite duos of 2012 and break each one down by their collaboration history and current status.

Rian Johnson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, “Looper”
History: Johnson and Gordon-Levitt go way back to 2005, when the former directed the latter in his debut film “Brick,” a stylized high-school-set film noir piece. The movie put Johnson on the moviemaker map, and its dark undertones helped Gordon-Levitt emerge from his “Third Rock From The Sun” image. After remaining friends, “Looper” brought the two together again, with Johnson writing the role of Joe specifically for Gordon-Levitt.
Where They Stand: In a Los Angeles Times article, Johnson promised Gordon-Levitt that in their next project together, he would have him play someone with a different name—referring to the fact that the actor played a character with his name in “Looper”—to which Gordon-Levitt replied, “I cannot wait.” Well, we certainly can’t wait, either, especially when it comes to finding out what it is that’s next for this tight pair.

Joe Wright and Keira Knightley, “Anna Karenina”
History: Knightley and Wright have a shared history in history. The daring duo teamed up for period pieces “Pride and Prejudice” (2005) and “Atonement” (2007). And this year, Knightley played the anti-heroine of Tolstoy’s classic novel in Wright’s “Anna Karenina.” The two arguably find their career highlights in their joint efforts, making this ongoing collaboration one for the history books.
Where They Stand: With three solid films behind them, we think the two wouldn’t mind working together again. “Keira is quite fearless, and she encourages me to go places I wouldn’t necessarily be brave enough to go myself,” Wright told the LA Times. While we love to watch these co-collaborators breathe dramatic life into history, it’d be refreshing to see Knightley encourage Wright to go to a “place” with more contemporary roots for their next collaboration.

Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale, “The Dark Knight Rises”
History: Along with the “Batman” series, Nolan and Bale worked together on “The Prestige” in 2006. Nolan’s characters are often the intense and pensive types, and Bale, with his serious commitment to the craft and extreme role preparation, certainly fits the mold. Not to mention, together, the duo took “Batman” beyond a cape-and-mask tale to create a complex and thought-provoking trilogy.
Where They Stand: Bale is rumored to be a contender to star in the Nolan-produced film “Transcendence,” a sci-fi flick that follows three scientists working to change the basics of human life with stem cell research and advanced computer technology.

Steven Soderberg and Channing Tatum, “Magic Mike”
History: Tatum was part of an ensemble cast in Soderbergh’s “Haywire,” but it wasn’t until the two collaborated on this year’s surprise hit, “Magic Mike,” that the partnership really took off.
Where They Stand: The next (and possibly concluding) Soderberg-Tatum joint effort, “Side Effects,” will be a darker one, with Tatum playing a husband to a woman (played by Rooney Mara) who, struggling to keep her emotions in control, eventually turns to antidepressants. This might be the last time we see the fruits of their partnership, though, with Soderbergh’s imminent retirement plans becoming more of a reality with each film he makes.

Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann, “This is 40″
History: Aside from casting just about every member of the “Freaks and Geeks” cast in a string of recent projects, Judd Apatow has also made room for another recurring star in his films—his wife, Leslie Mann. Rather than becoming increasingly distant in the throes of work, Apatow and Mann have kept a steady husband-and-wife collaborative effort with films like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Funny People,” in which Mann plays supporting roles. And while it may sound like a disaster waiting to happen, it appears that having an off-camera relationship helps the two to capture true-to-life moments in the Apatow movies that center on family life, like “Knocked Up” and its sort-of sequel “This is 40.”
Where They Stand: We’re hoping there will be more DVDs to add to our Apatow-Mann collection. In the meantime, “This is 40,” is set to hit theaters December 21. As if it weren’t already a family affair, the movie also stars the couple’s children, Maude and Iris Apatow.

Bradley Cooper and David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”
History: Hot off the success of “Silver Linings Playbook,” Cooper-Russell is a new pairing we’d like to see more of. Eager to work with the “Hangover” actor again, Russell told The Hollywood Reporter that Cooper “is like an athlete who wants to burst out of the blocks and wants to stretch in all these new ways”—a quality that may be an actual requirement to take on Russell’s quirky yet fiery aesthetic.
Where They Stand: Russell’s previous partnership with Mark Wahlberg might officially be on the rocks, now that the director seems to have moved on and selected Cooper as his next muse. The “Silver Linings Playbook” actor has already been confirmed to star in Russell’s untitled project, a 1970s drama centering on an FBI sting operation called Abscam. Russell has also voiced his desire to work with Cooper again on a third project, “American Sniper,” which Cooper currently has the rights to.

Bill Murray and Wes Anderson, “Moonrise Kingdom”
History: Murray and Anderson, who have worked together for every single one of Anderson films since Rushmore (1998), bring out the best in each other, especially when it comes to their unique senses of humor. Murray, known for his awkward, dry comedy, fits perfectly into Anderson’s bizarre and quirky characters. The partnership works so well, that aside from the director’s eclectic music choices and distinct cinematography style, its Murray’s on-screen presence that truly makes a Wes Anderson film, well, a Wes Anderson film.
Where They Stand: Following the success of this summer’s “Moonrise Kingdom,” Murray is already slated to appear alongside Jude Law in “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” set for 2014 release. According to IndieWire, plot details are few to none, but the movie is set to film in Germany and will include a psychic medium character.