Count On These Collaborations

Cars 2As I expect every one of you is a Pixar fan (being otherwise is a sign of sociopathy), you might have noticed a similarity in the voices of characters like Toy Story’s Hamm, WALL-E’s John and Mack from Cars and its upcoming sequel, Cars 2. That’s because they, and six other characters spanning eleven movies and counting, are all voiced by John Ratzenberger. He might be the only performer to have held such consistency with this particular company, but he is not unique in being an actor who repeatedly works with the same people. In fact, we’ve come up with a list of nine other proverbial Ratzenberger’s and their respective Pixar’s:


Michael Caine is one of those rare immortal actors who is completely untouchable. I’ve never heard even the most contrarian of my hipster friends say that Michael Caine is overrated. As such, it’s no surprise why rising powerhouse Christopher Nolan has opted to stick him in his last four (and upcoming fifth) directing pursuits. Caine’s roles do not vary much between these films—he’s always wise, good-natured and the only person the much younger hero can trust. He’s always someplace between the movie and the audience. And he’s always got at least one scene-stealing quip at the protagonist’s expense. But can you really take issue with this repetitiveness? With a resume like The Prestige, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Inception and the unhealthily anticipated The Dark Knight Rises, how can you blame this dynamic duo for sticking with a formula that works?



The Coen Brothers. They’ve made some gold. They’ve made some silver. Throughout the 1990s, the Coen Brothers made five movies, and Steve Buscemi was in each one, as well as their short film part of a collaborative anthology, Paris Je T’Aime, in 2006. Buscemi had bit parts in Miller’s Crossing and The Hudsucker Proxy, a slightly larger one in Barton Fink, and was the second male lead to William H. Macy in Fargo. But, like everyone who went to college, I favor, of course, The Big Lebowski, and cherish every second Buscemi was onscreen as Theodore Donald Kirobatsos. He really tied the movie together.


If I may just start out by saying something entirely uncontroversial: J.K. Simmons is awesome. He is as typecast as you can get, and it seems that neither he nor we seem to have any problem with this. Jason Reitman: also awesome. Juno was awesome. I don’t care what you say, everyone I’ve ever met. I loved that movie.


Reitman is still relatively new to filmmaking. Aside from Juno, his feature resume up to this point consists only of Thank You For Smoking and Up in the Air. Coming out later this year is Young Adult: a drama about a young woman seeking romance after a divorce. This film, as well, will include Simmons among the cast (playing gruff-but-lovable, no doubt), and is written by Diablo Cody—who also wrote the screenplay for Juno. Which was awesome.


Not all of these friendships produce good material. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, both individually and as a pair, have indeed given us some memorable pieces of cinema. Some of the better projects on which they’ve collaborated include Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow and Ed Wood. I’ll even throw Corpse Bride into the Pros list. But as time went on, they began making a career out of defaming timeless works of art with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland. Also, Sweeney Todd happened. But they’re not done yet. Coming up for 2012 is Dark Shadows: a horroresque film directed by Burton, about the adventures of a vampire (played by Depp) who encounters a slew of other mythological creatures. Nice change of pace, guys.



Samuel L. Jackson is an interesting case. He has appeared in four of six of the feature films over which Tarantino played director, but in two instances, he was never seen. Those two are Kill Bill: Volume 2, in which he played a bit part as Rufus, the pianist at the church wherein Uma Thurman’s character intended to be married, and who existed to the audience only as a silhouette with a cigarette (that’s a pretty good band name).


His second faceless performance was in Inglourious Basterds, when Jackson performed a single voice-over segment to introduce Til Schweiger’s character, Hugo Stiglitz. Aside from these, Jackson has played Ordelle Robbie in Tarantino’s oft forgotten Jackie Brown, and (do I even need to mention?) the career-defining Jules Winfield in Pulp Fiction. Jackson is also set to play a major role in Tarantino’s upcoming Django Unchained.


Crowe and Scott pair together quite naturally. Both are responsible for some fantastic pieces of cinema, and neither would you be entirely comfortable inviting into your home. Since their initial collaboration on the 2000 Best Picture Gladiator, Crowe and Scott have paired up on four additional films—earning praise for American Gangster, dissatisfaction with Robin Hood, and… Did anyone see Body of Lies? Or the other one? I think it was about a house, or a garden…



Owen Wilson is undoubtedly more famous for his roles with the proverbial Frat Pack, especially frequent collaborator Ben Stiller. But the actor with the agonizingly mellow voice has appeared in almost every feature film directed by Wes Anderson, a college friend of Wilson’s, to date.


Anderson, a favorite director of all the people who think they’re better than you, has created Bottle Rocket and The Royal Tenenbaums, both of which Wilson co-wrote. In addition to these, Wilson had major roles in Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, and the director’s first animated movie, The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Wilson also co-wrote Anderson’s 1998 film Rushmore, which (along with each of the above movies with the exception of Bottle Rocket) included Bill Murray as a member of the cast. Both Murray and Wilson are rumored to appear in Anderson’s next film, Moonrise Kingdom, about two parents’ efforts to recover their runaway daughter.



For the better part of his career—and I mean that in every way—De Niro was Scorsese’s key player. Starting with 1973’s Mean Streets, the duo forged a working relationship that lasted twenty-two years. Their most recent collaboration was Casino, in 1995. However, Scorsese and De Niro have been in talks to develop a new project called The Irishman and, if you can believe (or stomach the idea of) this, a sequel to Taxi Driver.


For the time being, it seems as though Scorsese has replaced De Niro with a younger, sparkier, ruffled good-guy: Leonardo DiCaprio. Since 2002, DiCaprio has starred in four Scorsese films. Scorsese is even going as far as to cast his new muse, whom everyone I know seems to either love or hate, in a role sure to earn him a great sum of scrutiny: in a developing biopic called Sinatra, as the Chairman of the Board himself.



Adam Sandler has a greater reputation of working with his friends than anyone in the business. His production company, Happy Madison, has developed fifteen films starring Sandler since its first film and half of its namesake, Happy Gilmore. Three of Sandler’s major starring roles, Billy Madison, The Waterboy, and The Wedding Singer, were produced independently from Happy Madison. Over the course of his career, Sandler has wavered from accusing his girlfriend of adultery with fictitious penguins. He has played romantic leads, PTSD-sufferers, and cancer survivors. One consistency throughout his years onscreen, however, is in his supporting casts. Sandler’s confidants, rivals, and comic reliefs are often actors who have played similar roles in other Happy Madison films. Included in the recurring clan of Sandler’s screen partners are Rob Schneider, Allen Covert, and–the guy you probably never noticed–Jonathan Loughran, who have each played behind the man in nine different films. Although none reach this level of dedication, other impressive numbers belong to Peter Dante with eight films, once again to Steve Buscemi, with six (this is clearly a loyal guy), to Kevin Nealon with five, and to Henry Winkler and Kevin James, with four movies each. And these are just the Sandler-starring films. There are dozens of other Happy Madison Productions that include these and other recurring actors.