9 Prolific Actor/Director Combos Not Quite as Cool as Johnny Depp and Tim Burton

Actor/Director Teams

This weekend sees the release of Dark Shadows, marking the eighth time director Tim Burton has teamed with Johnny Depp, his second-favorite performer on screen. (He no doubt frequently has to tell Helena Bonham Carter as much.) So natural is their pairing that we have come to expect a certain level of quality and/or box-office performance from their combined efforts, and an announcement of a new Burton title has generally come to carry the promise of a Depp appearance. Although Hollywood has long brought us such fruitful and lucrative actor/director relationships — from both Cary Grant and James Stewart's collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock to Robert De Niro's legendary work with Martin Scorsese — consider nine other long-term pairings packing a little (or a lot) less luster.

Garry Marshall and Hector ElizondoHéctor Elizondo / Gary Marshall
After Marshall cast character actor Elizondo in his feature directing debut, soap-opera spoof Young Doctors In Love, the two became friends to such an extent that the actor has now appeared in every one of Marshall’s 17 movies. Be it the modern fairy tale Pretty Woman, to the retro fairy tales of The Princess Diaries, or Marshall’s latest unwatchableholiday pictures, Elizondo always manages to steer things a bit closer to the side of classy.

Matt Walsh / Todd Phillips
As Phillips rose up the Hollywood ladder with his frat-boy-centric films he has done two things: struck box office gold, and taken actor-comedian Matt Walsh with him. Walsh has the kind of face you note, if not outright recognize, thanks to a long career of comedic appearances. But this co-founder of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater is arguably best known as the doctor to whom the Vegas revelers turn for information in The Hangover, and Walsh worked with Phillips for a sixth time in the follow-up, Due Date. Many of those roles found him playing a character by the name of Walsh.

Michael Pare and Uwe BollMichael Paré / Uwe Boll
Over the years, critics and Internet trolls have made the German director Boll a punchline — and a punching bag — for his output of horrific titles. Two questions continue to confound: How does he get funding for new projects, and how does he find actors willing to stand in front of his cameras? Paré might be the guy to ask. Despite the director’s infamous reputation, the actor has teamed with Boll nine times so far. This may actually be a cunning move on Paré's part; after all, for all of the bile Boll's films manage to generate from the crowds Boll manages to absorb all of the scorn; his casts are not generally cited as a problem (Tara Reid being a notable exception).

Dom DeLuise / Don Bluth
Among the consistent threads running through the Pixar catalog, few are better known than the voice work of John Ratzenberger. Yet back when Ratzenberger was still Cliff Clavin on Cheers, Dom DeLuise was the go-to pet voice for ex-Disney animation director Don Bluth in such films as The Secret of NIMH, An American Tale, All Dogs go to Heaven, and A Troll in Central Park. In fact, DeLuise was so linked to Bluth in the '80s that when the popular The Land Before Time was released in 1988, DeLuise's exclusion was among its most noteworthy attributes. The reason for this absence? Deluise was already committed to working on the Disney title Oliver and Company.

Burt Reynolds and Hal NeedhamBurt Reynolds / Hal Needham
Needham was a longtime stuntman in the industry who innovated in his realm and graduated to stunt coordination and then second-team directing on action pictures. Along the way he befriended Burt Reynolds, and the pair teamed up in 1977 for Needham's hit directorial debut Smokey and the Bandit. Reynolds was key to Needham's development as a filmmaker; his ability to take on physical aspects of a role and his masculine persona (at the height of its popularity) helped spackle over the gaping holes in Needham’s films. The audience reaction was palpable — of their six collaborations, only the 1983 auto-racing comedy Stroker Ace was a box-office bust.

Steve Kahan / Richard Donner
Donner’s directing career dates back to television of the early '60s, with a varied collection of blockbusters over the decades. Lesser known is his partnership with his cousin Kahan, spanning 35 years and 12 films. Possibly best recognized as the put-upon Captain Murphy, who dealt with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover throughout the Lethal Weapon franchise, Kahan started as a cop in the original Superman. He parlayed that into a lengthy career as a character actor, something he can be grateful to Donner for helping promote.

Neil Jordan and Stephen ReaStephen Rea / Neil Jordan
The Irish writer/director has built an impressive career, and it was a natural fit when he first teamed with the Irish stage actor Rea. They have gone on to make 10 films together, though perhaps none shows Rea's commitment to Jordan's craft than their Oscar-winning triumph The Crying Game.

Frank Oz / John Landis
The comedy director John Landis enjoys populating his films with cameo appearances by other directors, and none has crashed his party more than Frank Oz. First appearing in Landis’s Blues Brothers (he was the prison storeroom clerk who returned John Belushi’s prophylactics – one soiled) he went on to appear in six Landis films. In two other Landis titles – Into the Night and Coming to America – the director does not appear, but the name Frank Oz is heard being paged over an intercom. Oz once returned the favor, giving Landis a brief appearance in The Muppets Take Manhattan.

Joe Dante and Dick MillerDick Miller / Joe Dante
Dick Miller has an acting sheet that stretches back to the 1950s, with over 100 screen credits — many featured in projects by the prolific and inspirational Roger Corman. During that time Miller became friends with one of Corman’s numerous acolytes, Joe Dante, and the pair formed a professional bond. Since Dante graduated to directing his own titles in 1976, he has included Miller in every one of his films. Miller’s most iconic appearance under Dante’s direction was probably in the wildly popular Gremlins.

Brad Slager has written about movies and entertainment for Film Threat, Mediaite, and is a columnist at CHUD.com. His less insightful impressions on entertainment can be found on Twitter.


  • Jake says:

    Could we add kiyoshi Kurosawa and Koji yakusho? They may actually be a better combo than burton/depp.
    Cure, retribution, seance, pulse, doppelgänger, Tokyo sonata and some others I'm forgetting. That's an impressive pairing.

    Of course, since they are Japanese, they're a bit harder to judge as they aren't well known to the mainstream.

    • Quirky- says:

      For Japanese director-actor combos, you can't beat Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune's 16 films...

      • Jake says:

        Yes... but that goes without saying. But it seemed like the article was going after more obscure combos. Not the obvious ones. After all, there was no mention of Scorcese/DeNiro. And to be frank, no one beats Kurosawa/Mifune. No one.

        • bradslager says:

          That was the thrust. I was going for either lesser combos, or lesser known. After all, who can place Kurosawa on the same list with Uwe Boll? I'm not that brave.

      • martidibergi says:

        Well Ozu and Chishu Ryu made 52 films together, so there would be one...

  • Sorry, but Needham-Reynolds combo kicks the ass of Burton-Depp any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

  • Jenny says:

    Who said Depp and Burton are still cool?

  • dukeroberts says:

    John Wayne and John Ford best all others.

    • Jake says:

      You might be right. It's a toss up between those guys and Kurosawa/Mifune, but I definitely prefer the latter. Those 16 films are all great and there's seven or eight total masterpieces in there. And they span several genres, none of which I dislike. But westerns can be tedious sometimes.

      But give me High and Low, Hidden Fortress, Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, The Bad Sleep Well, Red Beard, or Throne of Blood any day. Holy crap, just writing down those movies reminds of just how incredible they are. I could rewatch all of them right now. In fact...

      *hits netflix on his bookmarks

      • dukeroberts says:

        As good as Kurosawa and Mifune were, The Searchers trumps them. In addition to The Searchers were Stagecoach, The Long Voyage Home, They Were Expendable, Fort Apache, 3 Godfathers, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Rio Grande, The Quiet Man, The Wings of Eagles, The Horse Soldiers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, How the West Was Won and Donovan's Reef. Of their 16 movies together, only 9 were westerns.

        • Jake says:

          Well, Kurosawa would certainly agree with you. And I love those movies you've listed that I've seen, especially 3 Godfathers, Rio Grande, and Liberty Valance. I can actually live a happy life not having to watch Stagecoach again. I like The Searchers just fine (it's definitely not my favorite John Ford film though I recognize it is for most). But I simply prefer the work of Kurosawa-san.

          Really, though, they are both total masters and I'm glad we got the privilege of benefitting from their genius.

  • Johnny Ringo says:

    Will Ferrell and Adam McKay spring to mind. They've been quite the duo since their SNL days, though it's more involved than just actor-to-director since they write together as well.

  • Edward Wilson says:

    Ron Howard and Clint Howard!

  • J,Duelle says:

    watch a guide to recognising your saints, fighting and son of no one carefully. Dito Monteil and Channing Tatum are the best duet since Scorcese and Deniro.