Christopher Nolan and Five Other Directors With Favorite Actors
Part four in The Dark Knight Rises trailer series was unveiled this morning, and although this one seemed to pack more bite and excitement than the previous three, my brain immediately shut out the world of Gotham City and floated to Christopher Nolan’s last popcorn thriller, Inception. Now, that could have something to do with the brilliant but almost-identical Hans Zimmer score or the slow-motion, zero-gravity action sequences, but I’m pretty sure it’s just the fact that both films share nearly the same cast, including Joseph Gordon Levitt, Marion Cotilliard, Michael Caine, and Tom Hardy. In honor of the new trailer’s release and the countdown to the film’s premiere, here are some more directors who love to recycle their casts—for better or worse.
When Whit Stillman made his debut feature, Metropolitan, he cast a group of unknown actors like Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols. He loved them so much he kept them around in his next two films, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco. Sadly, by the time he made his latest masterpiece, Damsels in Distress, his usual heroes and ladies had matured past his favorite age bracket. It’s quite easy, however, to see a young Chris Eigemann in Adam Brody as the snarkily charming Fred Packenstacker, and we were excited to spot Nicols and fellow Metropolitan co-star Carolyn Farina turn up in cameo roles.
David Lynch loves to pull from his hat of dedicated actors for his films, whether it be Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Jack Nance, or Kyle MacLachlan. But when it comes to Lynch, collaborating with the same people only adds to the twisted dreamlike nature of his work. If you are to look back on the lasting images and moments from his oeuvre things can almost blend together—like looking at Twin Peaks‘s Dale Cooper as nothing more than Blue Velvet‘s inquisitive Jeffrey Beaumont all grown up.
But sometimes, casting the same people in everything—especially when the aesthetic and sensibility of the films is so similar—tends to get a little tedious. Tim Burton was putting out brilliant work back in the day with Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, and Ed Wood. In recent years, however, it seems all he’s done is dress the same people up as Edward Gorey characters and set them in new worlds, which has begun to make everything just look like pastiche of one another. Honestly, it’s become almost impossible to imagine Johnny Depp without a painted-on white face anymore.
Whether you find Wes Anderson whimsically twee and contrived or a masterful storyteller who’s aesthetic vision creates a world far better than ours, the fact that he casts the same actors time and time again has never seemed to ware on his work. Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman seem to always have a place in Anderson’s world, but in a way that never seems too repetitive. The actors he chooses to keep in all his films help breathe new life into each of them and know how to operate in his world of wonder.
Although personally I would have no problem watching a film starring Woody Allen as every character, what defines his iconic work (besides his dialogue and Gordon Willis’s cinematography) would be his signature ensemble casts. In the early days, the films like Annie Hall and Manhattan always featured Diane Keaton and Tony Roberts. Then he seemed to slowly move along to the Judy Davis, Alan Alda, and Mia Farrow crowd (before the whole daughter-wife scandal). And now, with his latest film, To Rome with Love (which comes out net week), we’re treated to Penelope Cruz (who won an Oscar for Vicky Christina Barcelona) once again and more Judy Davis!