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The special spark of great director-actor teams In Focus by Richard Crouse FOR METRO CANADA February 19, 2010

shutter-island03Last week, the Internet lit up with news that one of the great actor-director teams might reunite to remake one of their classic films.
Rumours (since debunked) had Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro set to give Taxi Driver the sequel treatment.

It seemed too good to be true — De Niro is busy overseeing the Tribeca Film Festival and Scorsese is occupied with new muse Leonardo DiCaprio — and the rumor turned out to be just that — a rumour.

But for a tantalizing moment it seemed there might be a new film from one of the most dynamic director-actor pairings since Bogart and Huston or Mifune and Kurosawa.

Not that there are any shortage of director-actor teams. Scorsese and DiCaprio’s newest bit of teamwork, Shutter Island, opens this weekend and the latest Pedro Almodóvar-Penélope Cruz film, Broken Embraces, was recently nominated for a Golden Globe.

“I think you find, when you talk about a collaboration between a filmmaker and an actor, that it’s always evolving,” said Shutter Island producer Brad Fischer. “I don’t think it begins and ends with any one movie.”

Diane Keaton cites the evolution of collaboration with Woody Allen — they made seven films together, including the classic Annie Hall, between 1973 and 1993 — with elevating her from a “novice who had lots of feelings but didn’t know how to express herself” to someone who “can be braver and more spontaneous.”

Penélope Cruz is more effusive when discussing her mentor Pedro Almodóvar, who made her an art house darling, international star and claims to have “saved her from Hollywood.”

“He changed the way I looked at the world before I even knew him,” she says.

“There is something that works really well in our relationship that combines both our friendship and the professional side,” says Almodóvar. “We operate like lovers. So while we don’t have the pleasures of sex, we don’t have the complications of sex either. We work really well as a couple who don’t sleep together.”

Sometimes the director- actor relationship extends past the movie set. Four years after shooting The Life Aquatic in Italy, Wes Anderson regular Bill Murray (five films together) asked the director to deliver 10,000 Euros in cash to his former landlord.

“It’s not as weird as it sounds,” said Anderson on paying the rent a little late. “Bill can be a little weird with time.”

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