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Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Steve Greene
January 4, 2013 12:49 PM
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We Miss You! Our Favorite Hypothetical Comebacks

Looking over the results from the Indiewire year-end poll, retirement or long absences played into a handful of the eventual high vote-getters. Leos Carax, who claimed the Best Film and Best Director crowns, took off 13 years between making "Pola X," his last feature-length film and this year's sensation, "Holy Motors." For a short time, it appeared that Joaquin Phoenix had sworn off all future film roles before returning triumphantly as Freddie Quell in "The Master." Even Whit Stillman's "Damsels in Distress," the writer/director's first return to screens in almost a decade and a half, garnered recognition in multiple categories.

Life can intervene with a career for any number of reasons: loss of passion for the craft, the rise of health conerns or a desire to eliminate the pitfalls of public life. But sometimes, a few years away from a production environment is the much-needed rejuvenation needed to come back with renewed creative energy. In some instances, as with Carax, Stillman and any number of other filmmakers in recent years, the comeback effort has proven to be extremely fruitful.

So, thinking forward to the year(s) to come, here's a humble list of a few performers/filmmakers that, if they chose to, could come back for one last ride (and the partnerships that might yield the perfect career-cappers):

Gene Hackman
Last Appearance: "Welcome to Mooseport"
Might Be Great For: Recent nibbles have promised us some tempting comebacks a few different filmmakers, including potential team-ups with Alexander Payne and Martin Scorsese. However, as of yet, nothing's been confirmed, leaving us that much closer to a decade without Hackman on screen. There are few who do paranoia/conspiracy better than the star of "The Conversation," so why not find room for him in "House of Cards," one the biggest impending political-scandal-themed projects? Season 1 is on its way to Netflix, but a toe-to-toe with Kevin Spacey as either an adversary or a co-conspirator has a nice ring to it.

Michael Palin
Last Appearance: "Arthur Christmas"
Might Be Great For: This one is a bit of a cheat, but although Palin has been recently active on the animated/documentary front, he's largely been inactive from screenwriting since his Monty Python days. Working with former Python Terry Gilliam produced the whimsical "Time Bandits," which, at least at one point, was slated for a TV revival. The heir-apparent to Gilliam's visual fancy might just be director Edgar Wright, who has a fine comedic pedigree of his own. Joe Cornish will be ideal for "Ant-Man," but a post-Marvel Wright would likely do wonders with a dash of fanciful absurdity. 

Gene Wilder
Last Appearance: "Will and Grace" (Film: "Another You")
Might Be Great For: Wilder's focus in recent years has turned to writing, with the publication of two novels and an upcoming third. Even if an on-camera appearance isn't in the works, having his writing voice back in film form somehow would be a welcome comeback. But if Hollywood filmmaking is not in the cards, imagine Wilder's comic sensibilities in a low-budget, improvisational environment with a director like Lynn Shelton. The blend of muted calm and explosive emotion that he's shown in some of his most famous scenes would make for a notable bookend.

Sean Connery
Last Appearance: "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"
Might Be Great For: Since he's pulled off voicing mythical creatures in the past, why not do the same for an animated project? Recently, his involvement with "Sir Billi," a Scottish-produced feature length animated film marked a momentary return, even though the project was a personal one for Connery. Pixar hasn't made public any plot details about their upcoming project "The Good Dinosaur," much less the eventual accompaying voice talent. With Connery's range, he could play the disguised villain (in the Christopher Plummer/"Up" vein) or the redeemed antagonist (as Peter O'Toole did in "Ratatouille"). Obviously, his health is the top priority, but if "Billi" has sparked any interest, he could have a fruitful career epilogue in voice work.

Christopher Guest
Last Appearance: "The Invention of Lying"
Might Be Great For: Guest and his merry troupe made a return of sorts for this year's Academy Award ceremony, in a two-and-a-half-minute sketch centered around a hypothetical focus group for "The Wizard of Oz." While the last effort as a director, "For Your Consideration," dealt indirectly with the 1940s, he and the gang have never tackled a strict period piece. Poking fun at the film industry from the perspective of the first half of the 20th century would be fertile territory. Following in the footsteps of fellow writer/actor/director Albert Brooks, Guest also seems primed for a comeback as a sinister villain. Using the Count Rugen formula in a modern, dramatic setting would be a prime way to solidify the versatility he's shown in his comedic endeavors.

Joe Pesci
Last Appearance: "Love Ranch"
Might Be Great For: It's easy to make the "Goodfellas" connection, but a return to the gritty world of the crime drama did wonders for Ray Liotta in this year's "Killing Them Softly." The patient, deliberate hand of Andrew Dominik added noticable gravity to what could have been a well-worn gangster tale. Part of that came from giving Liotta's Markie Trattman some palpable vulnerability. If Pesci's next job does require him to inhabit a role in some form of social underbelly, someone with Dominik's style would be the ideal antithesis to the notable, boisterous entries in Pesci's filmography.

Frank Oz
Last Appearance: "Death at a Funeral"
Might Be Great For: Although Oz hasn't been in the director's chair for a new feature film since 2007, he made recent headlines with his remastered and restored anniversary cut of "Little Shop of Horrors." Concidentally, his next job behind the camera after "Little Shop" was originally released was the Steve Martin/Michael Caine-led "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," which was turned into a musical of its own 17 years later. Since he's shown a willingness to return to musical-related subject matter after an extended absence, what better way to do so with a completely new film with already-familiar material?

Dave Grusin
Last Appearance: "Recount"
Might Be Great For: While critical opinion was split on the overall film, one of the enduring elements of Steven Soderbergh's "Ocean's Twelve" is the vibrant soundtrack. Archival music from a few different composers were the perfect complement to David Holmes' original rhythmic, brassy jams. One such track was Grusin's "Ascension to Virginity," originally from 1968's "Candy." Soderbergh already has the incomparable Thomas Newman lined up for "Side Effects" and the final work from the late Marvin Hamlisch set for "Beyond the Candelabra," but if he opts to contradict his public declarations and continue his filmmaking career, Grusin would be a great fit to capture that same retro vibe. Even if the pairing of music and subject isn't an obvious one (see: "The Informant"), it's enough of a wild card to yield a beneficial partnership.

Through February 2013, Indiewire is taking a closer look at how the over-60 audience is served by the movies made for them as well as profiling the actors and filmmakers who are their peers. It's part of a partnership with Heineken, which is sponsoring the "Heineken 60+ Challenge" that reaches out to the creative community to film, photograph or write their observations on the lifestyles and preferences of the 60+ age group. The goal is to help Heineken create innovative products to suit this golden
generation.

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