Plenty of filmmakers have likened finishing a movie to pulling off a miracle. The desire to realize a shared vision somehow drives a film’s cast and crew to not only do their best individual work, but to bring out the best possible performances in each other. No relationship exemplifies the importance of that dynamic quite like the bond between the most effective actor-director duos.
From Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks to Quentin Tarantino and Samuel L. Jackson, directors and actors who work well together tend to do so a lot. They hone their communication style and understanding of each other’s respective artistry, and repeatedly apply that knowledge as their films improve with time (you know, theoretically). That’s what makes the return of Leonardo DiCaprio to the Martin Scorsese filmography in this year’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” his first film with Scorsese in 10 years, so exciting.
In 2023, the longtime “Gangs of New York” collaborators are among a laundry list of filmmaking teams set to release new projects: many of them with the year’s most exciting premises. Joaquin Phoenix will take on the title roles for both Ari Aster’s third horror feature “Beau Is Afraid” and Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon” biopic. Adam Driver is just as a busy, starring in Michael Mann’s Enzo Ferrari biopic as well as the directorial debut of “A Quiet Place” co-writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods.
“Crazy Rich Asians” screenwriter Adele Lim makes her directorial debut with “Everything Everywhere All at Once” star Stephanie Hsu in an untitled comedy. Greta Gerwig and “Barbie” producer/star Margot Robbie are bringing Mattel’s toy icon — and those fabulous rollerskating outfits — to theaters soon too. Plus, Michael B. Jordan is directing himself for “Creed III”: his directorial debut and second sequel for the “Rocky” spinoff franchise.
When IndieWire’s Samantha Bergeson curated actor-director pairs to look out for in 2022, she picked some doozies. There’s the good kind: see Baz Luhrmann, Austin Butler, and the Academy Award nominated “Elvis.” But also the other kind: see Olivia Wilde, Florence Pugh, and the borderline disastrous “Don’t Worry Darling.” For better or worse, these are the actor-director pairs we’re putting the most pressure on this year.
Martin Scorsese and Leo DiCaprio, “Killers of the Flower Moon”
So far, Martin Scorsese and Leo DiCaprio have collaborated on one short film, 2015’s “Audition,” and five features (chronologically): “Gangs of New York,” “The Aviator,” “The Departed,” “Shutter Island,” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Each was met with various degrees of critical and box office success, further solidifying the pair’s indiviudal and shared significance — though each was already legendary in his own right. Adapted from David Grann’s non-fiction book of the same name, “Killers of the Flower Moon” chronicles an FBI murder investigation centering on mysterious deaths amid Oklahoma’s Osage people in the 1920s.
Scott Beck/Bryan Woods and Adam Driver, “65”
The co-writers behind “A Quiet Place” (well, minus John Krasinski) team up with Adam Driver for their directorial debut, produced by “Evil Dead” mastermind Sam Raimi among others. Scott Beck and Bryan Woods take on a slightly more grounded kind of creature feature in “65”: a sci-fi action flick about a space pilot who crash lands on Earth millions of years ago and is forced to battle against prehistoric predators. 15-year-old Ariana Greenblatt joins Driver as another survivor.
Michael B. Jordan and Michael B. Jordan, “Creed III”
Michael B. Jordan reprises his role as Adonis Creed and makes his directorial debut in “Creed III”: a promising second sequel for the “Rocky” spinoff franchise (though Sylvester Stallone has voiced his frustration with the series writ large). The light heavyweight title character faces off with Jonathan Majors as Dame Anderson in a story from Zach Baylin and Keenan Coogler, co-conceived with “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler.
Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie, “Barbie”
Co-written with partner Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” sees two legendary cinematic blondes, the “Little Women” (2019) director and star Margot Robbie, teaming up to deliver an elevated take on Mattel’s most recognizable doll. With Ryan Gosling as her Ken — we’ve all seen the rollerblading pictures by now, right? — Robbie pops perfectly into place as the sunny Malibu resident, at the very least in conceit. Will Ferrell, who plays a Mattel CEO for the film, heaped praise on its progress in late 2022, calling it the “ultimate example of high and low art.”
Ari Aster and Joaquin Phoenix, “Beau is Afraid”
Joaquin Phoenix stars in Ari Aster’s third feature film, “Beau is Afraid.” The “Hereditary” and “Midsommar” director previously made a 2011 short film called “Beau,” which has a similar premise (at least in theory) to Aster’s new surrealist horror feature. A24 press materials describes the plot, “A paranoid man embarks on an epic odyssey to get him to his mother.” The rest of the top-billed cast includes Amy Ryan, Nathan Lane, and Stephen McKinley Henderson, with performances from Patti LuPone and Parker Posey.
Ridley Scott and Joaquin Phoenix, “Napoleon”
It’s another big year for Phoenix. After “Beau is Afraid,” the Academy Award winner will take on a second title role in “Napoleon”: Ridley Scott’s epic historical drama about the infamous French militarist and emperor. To the film’s take on Bonaparte, Scott told Empire he rewrote the film with Phoenix in mind — effectively reshaping the film in its entirety. “We unpicked the film to help him focus on who Bonaparte was,” the 85-year-old filmmaker said. “I had to respect that, because what was being said was incredibly constructive. It made it all grow bigger and better.”
Adele Lim and Stephanie Hsu, Untitled Comedy
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” breakout Stephanie Hsu appears next in the untitled directorial debut of Adele Lim, the screenwriter behind “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Raya and the Last Dragon.” The comedy comes from Lionsgate and Point Grey Pictures. Per Deadline, “The film will follow the epic journey of four Asian-American women traveling through Asia in search of one of their birth mothers. Along the way, their experience will become one of bonding, friendship, belonging and no-holds-barred debauchery that reveals the universal truth of what it means to know and love who you are.”
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin/Tyler Gillet and Jenna Ortega, “Scream VI”
“Ready or Not” directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet are getting back to business with yet another Ghostface sequel, arriving hot on the heels of last year’s triumphant — and ever so frustratingly named — “Scream” (2022). Jenna Ortega received positive reviews for her performance in that film, brilliantly mirroring the opening scene made iconic by Drew Barrymore in the 1996 original. But “Scream VI” is special, if only because it feature Ortega on the heels of her dazzling horror comedy performances in Ti West’s “X” and Netflix’s “Wednesday.” Though the cast will be without Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott (a first for the franchise due to failed contract negotiations), Courteney Cox will return as the iconic Gale Weathers with Hayden Panettiere appearing as Kirby Reed in an exciting reveal tying up loose ends for “Scream 4.” Melissa Barrera, Jasmin Savoy Grown, and Mason Gooding also return with newcomers including Dermot Mulroney, Samara Weaving, and more.
Brandon Cronenberg and Mia Goth, “Infinity Pool”
Horror royalty and the genre’s most consistently talked about 2022 star (read: “STAAAR!”) team up for “Infinity Pool”: the terrifying tale of a vacationing couple (Alexander Skarsgård and Cleopatra Coleman) who, thanks to Mia Goth’s Gabi, find themselves facing the death penalty on a strange island. Writer/director Brandon Cronenberg previously directed 2012’s “Antiviral,” imagining a world in which fame-obsessed fans can pay to have themselves injected with celebrities’ illnesses; and “Possessor,” an assassin thriller by way of “Inception”-like sci-fi mechanics that blooms into something far stranger. Of course, Goth is fresh off her Ti West double-header, “X” and “Pearl,” with the third film in the trilogy, “MaxXxine,” due out this spring.
M. Night Shyamalan and Dave Bautista, “Knock at the Cabin”
However you feel about his films, M. Night Shyamalan’s taste in actors is exceptional. Not only did “The Sixth Sense” director cast Toni Collette in one of her most iconic scream queen parts, but Shyamalan also made it possible for Bruce Willis, James McAvoy, and Samuel L. Jackson to deliver ferocious performances across the uneven “Unbreakable” trilogy. For “Knock at the Cabin,” the Indian-American filmmaker is teaming up with Jonathan Groff, Rupert Grint, and more. Still, star Dave Bautista sticks out as a particularly beloved performer of this moment. IndieWire’s Ryan Lattanzio gave the horror film a “C,” but described Bautista’s performance as “projecting eerie calm”: an intriguing casting and performance teased well in the trailer.
Rob Marshall and Halle Bailey, “The Little Mermaid”
Live-action remakes have rapidly become Disney’s most irritating creative-commercial pipeline. Still, the pairing of Rob Marshall — the Academy Award winning filmmaker behind the all-time great movie musical adaptation “Chicago” — and five-time Grammy nominee Halle Bailey could prove magnetic enough to make the forthcoming “Little Mermaid” remake a winner for longtime fans of the underwater princess. Bailey was subject to racist criticism following her casting. “I wasn’t anticipating that because, in a way, I felt like we’ve moved so far past that kind of thing,” Marshall told Entertainment Weekly. “But then you realize, in a way we haven’t. It was very moving to me to see how important this kind of casting is for the world.”
Chris McKay and Nicolas Cage, “Renfield”
Let’s hope Nicolas Cage’s brilliant understanding of his own Nicolas Cage-ness makes his collaboration with Chris McKay as fun as it looks. Most celebrated for his work on “The Lego Batman Movie,” McKay’s next project is “Renfield”: a horror-comedy starring Nicholas Hoult as the defenseless aid to Cage’s Dracula. The actor likened his performance to “pop art” in an interview with Empire. “I noticed all these little gestures that are, by today’s standards, ‘over the top’,” Cage explained of his “Nosferatu” inspirations. “It’s a largely studio picture so I wanted to play with: ‘What can I get away with here?’ If you’re playing Dracula, you have a lot of latitude.”
Christopher Landon and David Harbour, “We Have a Ghost”
Fresh off playing an alcoholic Santa for “Violent Night,” “Stranger Things” icon David Harbour is once again plunging into the supernatural for Christopher Landon’s “We Have a Ghost.” Based on Geoff Manaugh’s short story “Ernest,” the horror-comedy from Netflix stars Harbour as a ghost haunting a family. The vengeful spectre soon goes viral thanks to an enterprising kid (Jahi Winston) and his dad (Anthony Mackie). Landon is known for “Freaky,” a body-swap slasher starring Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton starring, as well as helming the “Happy Death Day” duology.
Christopher Nolan and Cillian Murphy, “Oppenheimer”
Christopher Nolan and Cillian Murphy have worked together plenty, with Murphy appearing in “Inception,” “Dunkirk,” and all three installments of “The Dark Knight” trilogy. Still, “Oppenheimer” presents an opportunity for the longtime collaborators’ to better crystallize their partnership. Murphy finally leads one of Nolan’s films, as J. Robert Oppenheimer: the physicist better known as the father of the atomic bomb. Nolan’s biopic will look at Oppenheimer’s life and the larger Manhattan Project, a world-shifting military and technological development felt across the globe ever since.
David Fincher and Michael Fassbender, “The Killer”
The prolific David Fincher is back with another dark thriller, this one adapting French writer Matz and artist Luc Jacamon’s “The Killer” graphic novels. To do so, he’ll team up with Michael Fassbender. Returning to film for the first time since 2019’s (disastrous) “X-Men: Dark Phoenix,” Fassbender will play the titular unnamed assassin. Fincher has received three Oscar nominations for Best Director, and Fassbender has two: one for Best Actor (“Steve Jobs”) and another for Best Supporting (“12 Years a Slave.”)
Denis Villeneuve and Austin Butler, “Dune Part II”
Best Actor nominee Austin Butler is joining the “Dune” universe as one of its main villains. He’s in good company with Florence Pugh, Christopher Walken, and Léa Seydoux, who all have parts in Denis Villeneuve’s still-evolving take on Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic, alongside returning cast Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya. The “Elvis” star will play Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen: a sadistic and cruel figure played by Sting in David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation.
Gene Stupnitsky and Jennifer Lawrence, “No Hard Feelings”
“Good Boys” director Gene Stupnitsky is back with another comedy, this one starring Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence. The actress famously took a two-year break from performing before returning with “Don’t Look Up” and “Causeway.” Lawrence was widely praised for her work in both Adam McKay’s (exhausting) global warming metaphor and Lila Neugebauer’s heavy drama, but a team-up with Stupnitsky should give audiences a chance to see Lawrence — as a woman who answers a dating Craiglist ad — at her most irreverently comedic.
John Ridley and Regina King, “Shirley”
Filmmaker John Ridley teams up with the unstoppable Regina King for a biopic of Shirley Chisholm: America’s first Black congresswoman. Both Academy Award winners have been praised for their fearlessly insightful portrayals of racism in America, with Ridley winning Best Adapted Screenplay for “12 Years a Slave” and King taking home Best Supporting Actress for “If Beale Street Could Talk.” A co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, Chisholm’s political career culminated in a history-making run for U.S. president.
Michael Mann and Adam Driver, “Ferrari”
Known for legendary titles “Collateral” and “The Last of the Mohicans” among others, Michael Mann will soon debut “Ferrari”: his first film since 2015’s “Blackhat.” Adam Driver plays Enzo Ferrari in this biopic about the famed Italian car manufacturer. Mann had this film in various stages of development for years — with various talent attached, including “Ford v. Ferrari” lead Christian Bale — before finally starting filming with Driver: a two-time Oscar nominee and “Star Wars” star who previously, uh, attempted an Italian accent in Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci.”
Nicole Holofcener and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “You Hurt My Feelings”
Multi-hyphenate Nicole Holofcener received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay thanks to her brilliant rendering of Lee Israel’s “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Now, the filmmaker is teaming up with “Seinfeld” and “Veep” icon Julia Louis-Dreyfus for the painful tale of a novelist devastated to learn her husband hates her book. IndieWire’s Kate Erbland gave the film a “B” in her review, writing: “If you like Nicole Holofcener films, you will like this one, and there’s comfort in that, if not an edge of disappointment, too.”
Wes Anderson and Tom Hanks, “Asteroid City”
Combine the whimsy of Wes Anderson with the innate likability of Tom Hanks and you’ve got to have a winner, right? “Asteroid City” marks the first collaboration between the film legends, and was co-written by Roman Coppola (who previously had story credits on “The French Dispatch” and “Isle of Dogs.” The official description for the film reads: “Set in a fictional American desert town circa 1955 and its Junior Stargazer convention, the film brings together students and parents from across the country for scholarly competition, rest and recreation, comedy, drama, romance, and more.”
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