The UK's Times Online has an interesting piece up about great Hollywood director-muse partnerships, from John Wayne and John Ford, to George Cukor and Katherine Hepburn, to Ingmar Bergman and Liv Ullman. As the article's author Ian Johns notes, these kinds of filmmaker-actor partnerships are less common these days, as directors have a wider array of big-name stars to choose from. Yet, there are still some profitable and creative partnerships out there. Martin Scorsese appears to have moved on from this 1970s and '80s pairing with Robert DeNiro to his modern creative muse, Leonardo DiCaprio, with whom he has made Gangs of New York, The Aviator, and now The Departed, with a fourth partnership -- a film about Theodore Roosevelt -- reportedly in the works. Russel Crowe and Ridley Scott worked together first in The Gladiator, then most recently in this year's TIFF offering A Good Year, and they went straight from that into shooting American Gangster together.

Johns goes on to make mention of Pedro Almodóvar's ensemble cast in Volver, where the director featured his favorite muse of the moment, Penelope Cruz alongside Carmen Maura, whom he directed in the 1980s. He doesn't mention my favorite director/ensemble combo of the moment, Christopher Guest and his amazing repeat performers, including Eugene Levy (with whom Guest also co-writes), Fred Willard, Catherine O'Hara, Bob Balaban, Michael McKean and Parker Posey, to name only a few. So pivotal are these actors to Guest's latest films that I can't imagine him making a film without them at this point. They work together with an incredible ease that makes the improvisational style of Guest's films really work.

The article does give props to one of my favorite director/actor pairings: François Truffaut and his on-screen alter-ego, Jean-Pierre Léaud. One of the greatest joys of watching movies in my cinematically geeky life has been watching Léaud grow from boy to man as Antoine Doinel, starting in 1959's The 400 Blows, the film that first earned Truffaut respect at Cannes, when Léaud was just 15, through 1979's Love on the Run -- a 20-year run of great filmmaking. Leaud worked with other directors as well, of course, including Jean-Luc Godard, with whom he made 10 films, including Week End in 1967 and, nearly 20 years later, Détective in 1985, but nothing ever quite matched the magic of Léaud with Truffaut.

Who are some of your favorite director-actor pairs? And who would you like to see work together more?