More than half a century ago, it was Alfred Hitchcock and Jimmy Stewart who popularized the craft of multiple actor-director collaborations. As two of the most well-known film personalities of their time, they changed the scope of film with each credit roll they graced. The crossing of their paths was inevitable, yet the fruits of their labor were greater than any could have anticipated. By the time Vertigo—their final film together—debuted in 1958, audience expectations called for nothing short of a prophetic film viewing experience, and the pair did not disappoint. Today, their films are not only cherished by people all over the world, but are widely considered to be some of the greatest of all time. In mastering the art of collaboration, Hitchcock and Stewart paved the way for many dynamic duos to come.
Prolonged partnerships between actor and director have become a staple in modern day film. Hitchcock and Stewart’s path has been traversed by the likes of Wes Anderson’s merry troupe of quirky comics, satirical masters Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder, and fresh pairings like David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence. The creative chemistry of these combinations have bred timeless, awe-inducing productions. With the recent release of Bridge of Spies, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg etched their name in history books as one of the most talented pairs to date.
If you’re even an occasional moviegoer, you most likely know the charismatic grin of Tom Hanks and the signature film style of Steven Spielberg, given their multiple-decade reign at the top of the box office charts. The pair joined forces for the first time on the Oscar-snubbed, World War II epic Saving Private Ryan and have since worked as a dream team not only on the screen but as fellow producers on several miniseries, including the highly acclaimed Band of Brothers.
For fans of Hanks and Spielberg and fans of film alike, their latest installment, Bridge of Spies, is an achievement to behold. The seasoned director has masterful command over the flow of the film. His incorporation of clever transitions, a thrilling flight sequence and stunning long shots was executed with ease.
Hanks’ presence, however, was the driving force of the film, with a strong presence and delivery from his first moment on screen. Separating his performance from Spielberg’s direction is nearly impossible in light of how so much of Spielberg’s vision is translated through Hanks. With the support of a script co-penned by the Coen brothers and the sturdy performance of seasoned stage actor Mark Rylance, the outcome was a movie with the feel of a classic upon first viewing.
This latest installment in the series of Hanks' and Spielberg’s shared projects lends to the success of combining talents whose skills blend into one strong performance. With a presence nearly parallel to Spielberg’s in Hollywood, veteran director Martin Scorsese has similarly struck gold in this realm. For Scorsese, though, the miracle occurred twice. Robert De Niro broke out onto the screen in Scorsese’s gang flick Mean Streets in 1973 and went on to star in 8 films under his direction. In the 21st century it was the dashing Leonardo DiCaprio who captured Scorsese’s interest, becoming his top-billed actor in five films to date. Their harmonious work has produced stunning performances and feats of direction ranging from De Niro’s masterful turn as Jake La Motta in Raging Bull to Scorsese’s inspired remake, The Departed. These duos bring out the best in each other and leave audiences with hearts pounding and mouths agape.
This symbiosis of actor and director has proved to be a strong constant in the ever-changing world of film; its potential for an enchanting viewing experience is nearly a guarantee. Bridge of Spies serves as another reminder of the quality of the Spielberg/Hanks pairing. With four moving and unforgettable pictures under their belt, let’s all pray to catch wind of another Spielberg/Hanks project in the works sooner rather than later.