Film is an artistic medium of collaboration. Like a well oiled machine, actors, directors, writers, producers, and crew members form a system to put a movie together. However, many filmmakers take for granted the fact that audiences and critics appreciate fresh collaboration between their cinema idols as much as they do a great story or performance. With this in mind, here are 15 teams of directors, actors, and writers whose continued collaboration may be verging on predictable, uninspired, and tiresome.
Johnny Depp & Tim Burton
Tim Burton has had many muses, but none has inspired more films than Johnny Depp. While Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood are considered classics among their work, Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The Corpse Bride received very mixed reviews from fans and critics alike. Still, all were profitable, leading the pair to Sweeney Todd (a major critical and financial hit) and Alice In Wonderland (a massive blockbuster with mixed reviews). Last year’s Dark Shadows remake was budgeted at $150 million and unfortunately received mixed reviews and disappointing profits. This is a likely sign that, above all, audiences and critics are growing tired of Burton and Depp’s collectively quirky commercial efforts.
Helena Bonham Carter & Tim Burton
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Yet another Burton muse, Helena Bonham Carter and Burton began their working relationship on Planet of the Apes. That film was a disaster financially and critically, but managed to get them together romantically. The pair have remained together through seven films to varying degrees of success. While all of their collaborations beside Apes and Dark Shadows have been financial successes, many critics have criticized Carter’s casting in Burton’s films as an obvious and predictable bit of favoritism. The actress was not involved in the director’s animated film, Frankenweenie, so perhaps a creative hiatus is already in effect.
Rob Zombie & Sheri Moon Zombie
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Rob Zombie has put wife Sheri Moon Zombie into all six of his feature films. While the actress received great praise from critics and horror fans for her performance in House of 1000 Corpses and its sequel, a lot of criticism was leveled at the duo for her role in the Halloween remakes. Those films saw Moon as the mother of slasher icon Michael Myers, whose profession as a stripper (?!) helps inspire her son to become a psychopathic killer. This back story couldn’t stray farther from the roots of the Halloween series and has alienated the couple from fans and film critics alike. Whether or not the stigma will stick for their next film, The Lords of Salem, remains to be seen.
Wes Anderson & Bill Murray
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With Rushmore, Wes Anderson took famously manic onscreen presence Bill Murray and pulled a dry, mostly dramatic performance out of him. This strayed from the normal comedic persona the actor became iconic for and was, in turn, praised by audiences and critics alike. Unfortunately, after seven collaborations, many fans are ready to have the old Bill Murray back. Keep in mind, the actor displayed a series of similar performances in non-Anderson films, including Lost in Translation (which earned him an Academy Award nomination) and Broken Flowers. Murray will likely be putting on more of the same in Anderson’s upcoming Grand Budapest Hotel, and that’s fine. But perhaps he shouldn’t be so quick to get irritated when fans get excited about the prospects of his iconic wiseacre Peter Venkman returning for Ghostbusters 3.
Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci
Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are the super screenwriters behind such blockbusters as Mission Impossible III, Star Trek (2009), and Transformers. They’re also responsible for scripting duties on such infamously eye rolling duds like Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, People Like Us, and Cowboys & Aliens. The most common criticism offered to the writers? Predictable plots, bad dialogue, and enough sentimentality to make Spielberg look like a cynic. With the failure of People Like Us and Cowboys and Aliens, the duo may need to shake things up or take a break from each other for a stint (though given the fact they are long-time writing partners, this prospect looks doubtful).
Paul W.S. Anderson & Milla Jovovich
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Just as with Rob Zombie and Sheri Moon Zombie, Milla Jovovich is a staple of Paul WS Anderson’s glossy action movies. The actress arose from the Resident Evil franchise as something of an action icon, which was great in 2002. Unfortunately, it is 2013 and four sequels later many fans and critics have grown weary with seeing the ultra-thin actress pummel zombies. Their last film, Resident Evil: Retribution, brought in the lowest profits of any entry in the franchise, while Anderson and Jovovich’s preceding action collaboration, Three Musketeers, underperformed domestically. Perhaps this is a sign that the husband-wife team should perhaps separate for big budget ventures in the near future.
Judd Apatow & Leslie Mann
Yes, another husband-wife team. Thankfully, Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann keep themselves removed from the horror and gothic subgenres, instead opting to collaborate on slacker comedies like Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Most recently, however, Apatow has steered his cinematic vessel into dramedies to mixed results. Funny People and This Is 40 mark a more mature turn for the duo. As scripted and directed by Apatow, the films cast his wife Leslie Mann in a seriocomic role that is influenced by the couple’s own married life. Unfortunately, these middle age themed films lack the wide appeal of their previous broad comedies. Mixed critical reviews and underperforming box office lends credence to the idea that perhaps audiences are less interested in exploring the duo’s musings on adult domestic life than they are sex and drug jokes.
David Gordon Green & Danny McBride
David Gordon Green began his career directing intimate character dramas like George Washington and All The Real Girls. When his friend and previous Real Girls collaborator Danny McBride emerged as a comedy superstar, the duo began collaborating on a series of comedies with Judd Apatow’s camp. While Pineapple Express (pictured above) and Eastbound and Down emerged as successful comedies, McBride and Green’s overblown fantasy comedy Your Highness proved to be a major flop with audiences and critics alike. Its failure marks a declining interest in the duo’s marriage of innovative film techniques with lowbrow (and often mean spirited) humor. While the two would further collaborate on the third season of Eastbound and Down, Green and McBride may already be going separate ways. McBride is starring in This Is The End next year and Green will be returning to more serious fare with Nicolas Cage in the remake of Joe.
Johnny Depp & Gore Verbinski
Next year’s The Lone Ranger will mark the fifth collaboration between director Gore Verbinski and actor Johnny Depp. The Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy and Rango proved the duo to be a quirky hit much like Depp’s collaboration with Burton. However, Verbinski’s skills at staging and action and Depp’s penchant for comedic acting shine through to differentiate the collaboration. So where’s the drawback? Well, The Lone Ranger was previously stalled by Disney’s doubts that the film could draw Pirates-sized numbers, especially after the non-Verbinski directed On Stranger Tides and the similarly Western-themed Cowboys and Aliens underperformed. Though one can hardly blame the duo for these failures, you can point out that both were influence by Verbinski’s genre blending style. Lone Ranger is on track for a summer release after some substantial budgetary cutbacks, telling us that even the studio has some doubts about their fifth collaboration.
Christopher Nolan & Michael Caine
Director Christoper Nolan has placed Michael Caine (pictured above with his wife) in five of his films. While the British actor has emerged as a perfect Alfred Pennyworth in the Dark Knight trilogy it seems painfully obvious that Caine is used as an expository device in all of these films. From Inception and The Prestige to The Dark Knight Rises, Caine is given an eloquent expository monologue intended to sum up the themes and ideas of Nolan’s films. While it was great the first three or four times, these semi-existential monologues are beginning to border on parody. Rather than let Caine become to monologues what Morgan Freeman is to narrating, perhaps Nolan should switch out Caine from his typical repartee of actors, or give him a different sort of part.
Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have been writing partners since they were kids and, together, have written such popular films as Superbad and Pineapple Express. Clearly, these guys have some good work, so what’s the drawback? Well, they’ve also done some bad work, specifically the overblown adaptation of The Green Hornet and the summer sci-fi comedy flop The Watch. Despite the failure of these films the two are going ahead with the apocalypse comedy This Is The End. The film stands a chance with its great cast (Rogen, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, James Franco, Craig Robinson). Also, the screenwriting duo are taking the director’s seat, giving them more control over the finished product. However, there is the possibility that audiences have grown weary of Rogen and Golberg’s fusion of slacker comedy with ultra-violent action tropes, whether they are in the director's seat or not.
Martin Scorsese & Leonardo DiCaprio
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Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio started their working relationship in 2002. The two got off to a bumpy start with the messily produced Gangs of New York, but the pair garnered almost universal praise for The Aviator. Then came The Departed, which saw both the director and actor hit their stride to Academy Award winning results. Though Shutter Island delivered Scorsese his biggest box office success to date, the twisty thriller was perceived as a misfire by some. With a fifth collaboration, The Wolf of Wall Street pending, the pair may want to pull the reins back on their collaborations before they succumb to Johnny Depp/Tim Burton hit-and-miss syndrome.
Ben Stiller & Owen Wilson
Though they have spaced out their collaborations, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson have worked together on no less than ten projects over the course of the past two decades. The results have always been a mixed bag—for every Meet The Parents or Zoolander there are a string of profitable-if-panned Meet The Fockers, Starsky and Hutch, etc. With Zoolander 2 currently in the works, Stiller and Wilson need to ask themselves: do people really want see a pair of Frat Pack actors approaching 50 go back to a dated franchise and risk ruining their best collaboration? With Wilson lazily turning out uninspired comedies on his own and Stiller pursuing more dramatic efforts like Greenberg, an eleventh collaboration may be a bit unnecessary at this point.
Robert Rodriguez & Danny Trejo
Robert Rodriguez regularly puts Danny Trejo in his films. In fact, of Rodriguez’s collected projects as a producer and director, the two have gotten together on no less than ten projects. Rodriguez was wise enough to use Trejo’s chops as a character actor and utilize him as a full-fledged action star to novelty effect in Grindhouse's faux-trailer for Machete. Of course, it would become a full-fledged feature in 2010 to mixed results. The low-budget film did turn a profit, promising more of the same with Machete Kills, which wrapped last year and is set for a September release date. The film's schizophrenic cast includes Mel Gibson, Lady GaGa, and Charlie Sheen, but Trejo and Rodriguez are the real stars of the film. Still, one would think they would ask themselves question of how a duo can stretch out a thin concept like Machete for a second time when it was strained into a feature once before?
Adam Sandler & Dennis Dugan
Dennis Dugan has directed Adam Sandler in seven films. While fans can credit the two with such 90s classics as Happy Gilmore, Dugan and Sandler should also be blamed for crimes against humanity like Jack and Jill and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Even at their worst, Sandler’s modestly budgeted comedies turn a profit. Yet the critical reputation of these films is so bad that it prompted Chris Rock to desperately attempt to defend his involvement in Sandler and Dugan's Grown Ups. Rock’s argument—that Grown Ups was superior to Academy Award darling The Artist because it made people “feel good”—was laughed off the internet by comedy and film fans. Still, with Grown Ups 2 on the horizon, the madness of Dennis Dugan and Adam Sandler’s bland family formula will continue unless fans put a stop to it.