John McDonagh and Brendan Gleeson’s latest joint effort, the bleak black comedy Calvary, has led some people to label their partnership a soon-to-be classic of cinema. Based on the strength of this recent release and their previous film, The Guard, their work together certainly could be one of the great collaborations of the silver screen. Inspired by this, Cherwell decided to look back at the partnerships that have been most interesting and influential in the course of film history:
John Ford and John Wayne (1939 – 1976):
Working together for over 24 years and 21 films, the two Johns produced some of the most genre-defining cowboy Westerns from the 1940’s through to the 1960’s. Whether in Rio Grande, Fort Apache or Stagecoach, the film that launched Wayne’s career as an all-American idol, their partnership was one of the longest lasting in Hollywood. Despite a rocky start, as Ford constantly undermined and bullied Wayne on the set of Stagecoach to illicit real emotions in his acting, their work only went from strength to strength from there. Well, Stagecoach clearly wasn’t that bad a start given Orson Welles said he watched it 40 times in preparation for making his cinematic debut, a little production called Citizen Kane.
Francis Ford Coppola and Marlon Brando (1972 – 1979):
It goes without saying that Brando’s turn as Vito Corleone in Coppola’s director-debut The Godfather is one of the most iconic, and instantly recognisable, portrayals in cinematic history. But this relationship was more interesting for its difficulties than its successes. Shortly after Brando famously declined the Oscar he won for his role in The Godfather, he also declined to star as a young Vito in another edition of the franchise despite receiving numerous handwritten letters by Coppola begging him to return. But that is nothing compared to the troubles Coppola had with him when making Apocalypse Now. Not only did Brando turn up enormously overweight, despite being cast to play the skeletally thin Kurtz, but he had refused to delay his arrival to allow the sets to be rebuilt after a typhoon, had not read the original book and was demanding drastic rewrites to the ending of the film. And he refused to be on set at the same time as his anarchic co-star Dennis Hopper. All this, whilst being on a one million dollar a week contract. Clearly a challenging relationship, but one that produced two of the most seminal performances of the last century.
Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese (First film together – Mean Streets, 1973):
Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, Goodfellas. Do we need to say anymore? The 1970’s were the decade for the collaborations of Scorsese and De Niro, the point at which both of them were catapulted to the forefront of Hollywood’s respect and praise. A shared interest in the pernicious side of male nature can be seen throughout their eight combined works, and demonstrates a kind of joint mindset that few actor-director partnerships can claim to rival. Although Leonardo Di Caprio seems like Scorsese’s muse of the moment, his work with De Niro will always be the most exemplary.
Harvey Weinstein and the Entirety of Hollywood (1979 – Present):
Harvey Weinstein, co-founder of production company Miramax and Hollywood’s executive producer to go to, is perhaps the most influential man in cinema today. Next to no one else has the money, the connections or the reputation as Harvey – hence what he says go. His talent for aggressively editing films down to their most easily marketable form is legendary, like his refusal to release Gangs of New York until Scorsese cut an entire hour from the running time. Equally, Weinstein has a taste for Oscar-winning fare, having produced The English Patient, Chicago, The King’s Speech and The Artist, all Best Picture winners. To put this influence into numbers, over the last twenty years, seven Oscar winners thanked God in their acceptance speech; thirty thanked Harvey Weinstein.
Phillip K. Dick and Science-Fiction Cinema (First film adaptation – Bladerunner, 1982):
Few authors have had as many of their works translated into films, even fewer into as many successful films, both critically and financially, as Phillip K. Dick. A gift to science fiction fans and directors alike, eleven of Dick’s works have been adapted for cinema. From the niche, like A Scanner Darkly or Screamers, to the legendary, Total Recall, Bladerunner or Minority Report, Dick’s works have consistently produced the most prescient and influential science fiction films of all time. And the popularity of his work shows no sign of abating, as Disney is set to release an adaptation of his The King of the Elves in 2016, the film rights for his novel Ubik were recently sold, and Ridley Scott is rumoured to be in talks to create a BBC miniseries based on one of Dick’s works. Sadly he never lived to see any of his works brought to the big screen, but Dick’s works will forever be some of the most fertile source materials for any science fiction director.
Christopher Nolan and Wally Pfister (2000 – Present):
The most current partnership on this list, the partnership of Nolan and Pfister has created the visual aesthetic that has defined Hollywood for the last decade. Working together for seven films, Pfister’s work with Nolan has been nominated for four, and won one, Academy Award. It was Pfister’s prodigious talent as Director of Photography that visualised Nolan’s conception of Gotham, with his slick, meticulous, precise, almost sterile, style brilliantly depicting a city that was hostile, inhospitable and in need of a hero. Pfister is also a great example of humble beginnings, as despite his current success and popularity, he spent much of his career in cinematography shooting straight-to-video erotic thrillers – talk about reversal of fortune. Although parodied by many, few can match the gorgeous and arresting visual style that Pfister’s eye and Nolan’s writing can reach.