The Man in the White Suit

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Continuing our summing up of the ’10s, Fletcher Walton considers the importance of finding a friendly director; and, we compile for you a list of the artists that meant the most to us.

Note: For the purpose of this article, I’ve chosen to overlook entirely whatever it is Terrence Malick is doing with various superstars because – and this is from someone who paid to see Knight of Cups at the cinema and enjoyed it – keeping track has become almost utterly unrewarding.

It’s been a helluva ten years for Michael B. Jordan. From Chronicle to Creed, Wallace from The Wire has proven himself a Hollywood Jamie Vardy, non-league to Champions League without missing a beat. Co-lead in teen-oriented low-budget found footage sleeper, done. Male lead in issues-driven indie drama, done. Superhero ensemble stinkeroo, survived. Young blood in a blue chip franchise, knockout. Baddie No 1 in a Marvel juggernaut, cultural event. And finally, main-event hero in that same blue chip franchise, torch passed, undisputed champion of the world. In a strong field, this cat is Dillon Class of ’11’s Most Likely To Succeed.

But Rocky Balboa ain’t been in the only one in Jordan’s corner – from Fruitvale Station to Black Panther and beyond, director Ryan Coogler has brought Jordan with him as the pair rose through the ranks, from 1 million budget to 200 million in just four films, with a fifth on the way. It’s an artistically exciting and commercially lucrative partnership.

I’ve long argued the criticality of a good director patron in the career and career development of an actor. When we think of director-star partnerships we might leap immediately to the most famous and most commercial examples – Scorsese & De Niro, Scott & Crowe, Spielberg & Hanks – or the cult heroes – Raimi & Campbell, Carpenter & Russell, Cameron & Paxton. But there’s a hundred actors who’ve benefited from finding a sympathetic director willing to put their name at the top of the call sheet.

At the turn of the century, Steven Soderbergh beat the drum for George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Luis Guzman and Viola Davis (and went on to cast Matt Damon six times in ten years and this decade transform the career of Channing Tatum.) Around the same time they were working with Soderbergh, Clooney was also enjoying the patronage of the Coens (three films in nine years) and Guzman had been taken on by Paul Thomas Anderson. Anderson’s early career was defined by the enthusiasm with which he wrote multiple roles for those character actors he adored – Philip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly, Philip Baker Hall, Melora Walters.

Reaching back further, Spike Lee’s vast repertory, established over 30 years, includes Denzel Washington (who this century forged extensive, exciting relationships with Tony Scott and Antoine Fuqua), Samuel L. Jackson, Roger Guenveur-Smith, Kim Director, Isiah Whitlock, Jr. and erstwhile Coen favourite John Turturro. Turturro, along with brother Nicholas, is also often found lurking about Adam Sandler productions… as is Steve Buscemi, who spent the entire ‘90s and beyond regularly collaborating with Tom DiCillo, Alexandre Rockwell, Quentin Tarantino aaand the Coens, and at this point we’re looking like Charlie Day talking about the mail.

I think patronage is an important factor in determining which actors succeed and which do not. So many of the leading men with any career longevity have enjoyed the consistent backing of a strong director. Brad Pitt’s career is indelibly linked to his three films with David Fincher, the first two of which established Pitt’s intention to use his celebrity as currency to finance the creation of bold, exciting, even transgressive Hollywood cinema. More recently, two films each with Andrew Dominik and Quentin Tarantino has seen acclaim and profile mutually bolstered. Director James Gray, with whom Pitt developed The Lost City of Z and for whom he headlined Ad Astra, had previously in quick succession made four films with Joaquin Phoenix that characterised the seriousness of the latter’s interests as he matured into perhaps the best American actor working today.

Casey Affleck had Gus van Sant and now has David Lowery. Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy have Christopher Nolan. Bill Murray’s spent so much of this century working with Wes Anderson and Jim Jarmusch that it’s begun to feel wasteful. Even the ubiquitous Adam Driver, who in ten years of films has already worked with Jarmusch, Clint Eastwood, the Coens, Spielberg, Scorsese, Soderbergh and Spike Lee (in ten bloody years!), can fall back on a friendship with Noah Baumbach which has already produced four collaborations in a decade (all of them brilliant).

And sometimes, Stiller gets to kick it with them, too.

Looking at the elder statesmen, Jack Nicholson’s career as a leading man in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s was cemented by cultivating relationships with directors Bob Rafelson, Mike Nichols and James L. Brooks – with those three he made 12 films over 25 years. Steve Martin created four classic comedies with Carl Reiner, then four good comedies with Frank Oz, and nothing worth watching ever since. Robert Duvall was given a leg up by Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas. Harrison Ford is really only Harrison Ford because of them.

Examples abound, too, of actors who’ve benefited from buddy-ups when both they and their director were starting out – relationships with an expiry, but crucial to putting both men in the shop window. Before he fell in with Scorsese, in the late ’60s and early ’70s De Niro worked three times with Brian De Palma (they reunited only once, 15 years later, for 1987’s The Untouchables). During the same period, Scorsese was enjoying a streak with the first of his onscreen surrogates, Harvey Keitel, with whom he collaborated on four films in eight years.

Keitel and De Niro, seen here playing Scorsese and De Palma. Uncanny, aren’t they?

As they opened their Hollywood accounts, William Hurt and Kevins Kline and Costner were all provided with four key roles each by Lawrence Kasdan. Even though one of those roles was basically entirely removed – Costner’s Alex in The Big Chill – its excision was immediately sufficiently notorious to enter film lore, and if anything Costner’s career was bolstered by the frisson of trivial intrigue.

Early Kevin Smith turned Jason Lee from skater to actor, and – wow, how loopy does this sound now? – lent indie credibility to young Ben Affleck. The first four films of ‘90s provocateur Neil La Bute (remember him?) foregrounded Aaron Eckhart (remember him?). And, until Colin Farrell appeared in Steve McQueen’s Widows filling a role that seemed conspicuously tailor-made for the recently curiously absent Michael Fassbender, leading man and director had been inseparable and revelatory across Hunger, Shame and 12 Years A Slave.

I mean, what ever could be the reason why Fassbender has shot only two films in the last three years?

I’ve few complaints with most of these actors, and they’re usually good in whatever they’re in. But I can’t ignore that they’ve found, or been provided with, an ecosystem in which to excel – working again and again with a receptive, and likely forgiving, collaborator on projects developed with their participation and designed to showcase their strengths.

Over the last 20 years, Mark Wahlberg has made 40 films; 16 have been with the same five directors. He’s enjoyed the insulation of moving from two projects with Clooney (and being cast in a third, as Linus in the Ocean’s franchise, before dropping out in favour of…Planet of the Apes) to a brace with James Gray, followed by two reunions with Three Kings director David O. Russell, and now countless projects with Michael Bay and Peter Berg. Wahlberg’s delivered a half dozen strong performances for these helmers – but given such a conducive environment, surely many other actors could have done the same. (Though demonstrably not Taylor Kitsch, whose patronage by Berg and, briefly, all of Hollywood, was, to put it kindly, worth a shot but soon embarrassing. We all of us love Tim Riggins but Pete, please, stop trying to make Kitsch happen.)

An interesting counterpoint to this litany is Eric Bana. Bana is bloody sensational in Chopper. In the 20 years since, he’s worked with a handful of very good directors – Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, Curtis Hanson – in a handful of very good films – Black Hawk Down, Munich, Lucky You. I like his cameo in Funny People. He gets a cool line in Star Trek. But I feel he’s excluded from the conversation and lost in the sway in a way that inferior actors like Wahlberg and Di Caprio are not. And perhaps the reason he has so rarely quickened my cineaste pulse is because he has no patron. He has never worked twice with any director, and he has never come close to repeating what he and Andrew Dominik did with Mark Brandon “Chopper” Read. I am certain he could – but with whom?

Have a fucking geez, yeah – this feller should be fluying, fucking fluying.

To restate, I think patronage is a decisive factor in which actors succeed and which do not – but also in why male actors find greater and lasting success in Hollywood more often than female actors. The director patron seems to benefit men but not women, if only because male writers and directors, unsurprisingly and understandably, are more likely the majority of the time to tell male-oriented stories and concomitantly find their avatars and analogues in men. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is among Scorsese’s very best, and it won Ellen Burstyn the Oscar – but it’s De Niro, Keitel and Pesci that he spent the next 25 years working with.

In stark contrast to the men, comparatively few women benefit from the kind of patronage I’ve highlighted. Unless functioning as something of a muse for an existing partner – Greta Gerwig for Noah Baumbach; Louise Lasser, Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow for Woody Allen; indeed, Illeana Douglas for Scorsese – a typical Hollywood lead female usually lacks that advocate to time and again develop projects around their strengths.

Recent examples of female actors with patrons aren’t hard to find – Woody Allen writing for Scarlett Johansson; Todd Haynes writing for Julianne Moore; Nicole Holofcener writing for Catherine Keener, who’s also a favourite of Spike Jonze; Michelle Williams’ three films with Kelly Reichardt; Keira Knightley’s hat-trick with Joe Wright. But the frequency of those collaborations, the prevalence across the industry, their commercial clout and ultimately even their profile is incomparable.

Looking across the most interesting female leads working today, Amy Adams has worked more than once with only two directors – Adam McKay and DC supremo Zack Snyder. Viola Davis has not reteamed with a director more than twice since Soderbergh. Emma Stone has worked more than once with only one director, Ruben Fleischer. Natalie Portman – three with Lucas. Cate Blanchett – two each only with Gillian Armstrong and Todd Haynes. Jessica Chastain – two each only with the hardly illustrious trio of Tate Taylor, Andy Muschietti and John Madden. Mia Wasikowska has not worked with any director twice, and neither has Maggie Gyllenhaal.

In a Hollywood career spanning 30 years, Nicole Kidman has been directed twice by one man – Joel Schumacher, of all people – and one woman, counting Jane Campion luring Kidman to television for Top of the Lake. Angela Bassett has only three repeat directors – the wildly eclectic trio of John Sayles, Spike Lee and Wes Craven. In the same period, Julia Roberts’ four films with Soderbergh spanned just five years, and outside of that her only repeat collaborators have been Garry Marshall (three films), Mike Nichols (two) and Joel Schumacher (two, and she hated him). And again during that same three decades, Meryl Streep has worked more than once with only three directors – journeymen Phyllida Law, David Frankel and Rob Marshall, and the results across six films total about three hours worth watching. Sandra Bullock’s last reunion was in the ‘90s with Jan De Bont, and she’d thank us not to mention it.

Women fare a bit better in the ensemble environment of comedy. Christopher Guest’s troupe features great work for Catherine O’Hara, Parker Posey and Jane Lynch (who is loved by all). David Wain and the rest of The State have usually taken the opportunity to put Lizzy Banks and Amy Poehler to good use. Judd Apatow has worked closely with Carla Gallo and Kristin Wiig forever and, though his early film success is rooted in male-focused comedies, he has spent the last decade committed to the development of Wiig, Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer and Gillian Jacobs.

There have been others, too – Rose Byrne, Emily Blunt, Lizzy Caplan and Rashida Jones have long been the go-to girls for Apatow and his confederates. But to put that into context, none have made more than four film appearances with that mob, while ten years ago Apatow managed to cast Jonah Hill five times in three years.

A female benefiting from a director-actor partnership like Clooney-Soderbergh, or Scorsese-Di Caprio, or Gray-Phoenix, is rare, but compelling. Each of Laura Dern’s four projects with David Lynch is stunning, essential. The most obvious contemporary example, David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence, has produced three of my favourite performances of the decade, from an actor of genuinely exciting presence and ability. Similarly, in four comedies together, diminishing returns and reviews haven’t stopped Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy grossing 983 million worldwide from a production outlay of only 284 million.

Tilda Swinton has continually found lasting relationships throughout her career, beginning with Derek Jarman, and like a latter-day Buscemi, over the last two decades she’s enjoyed four films with each of Luca Guadagnino, Jim Jarmusch and Wes Anderson, plus a couple with the Coens. Laura Linney has three-time directors in Bill Condon and Clint Eastwood.

Two things are certain to equalise this kind of patronage so that it benefits women as often as men. The first is more female directors, which brings with it an increasing likelihood of female leads and a rising capacity for meaningful, attractive female roles. Females actors will benefit from the security of forging with their director that De Niro/Scorsese relationship rather than having to instead cast the net across the entire industry in pursuit of the four interesting roles in their age group that Hollywood allows each year (or, if you’re a black lady, two).

The second is those female directors making films more frequently, an area I’ve been interested in for so long that I first wrote about it while keeping a blog on MySpace. We all most admire those artists who have the fortitude to make a movie only when they’ve something compelling to say – Lynne Ramsay has produced three films this century whilst Woody Allen releases something every calendar year but in two decades they’ve both made the same number of great movies (about three). (It took Terry Malick 40 years to make five films and then ten years for him to make five more – unfortunately, his comparatively breakneck pace of production has gone hand-in-glove with an artistic inertia.)

Christian Bale being directed by Malick on the set of Song to Song. Did he make the final cut? Did he bollocks.

I wouldn’t like to see Ramsey or Claire Denis or Kat Bigelow diluted, or wasted on a gig-for-hire, banging their head against the studio constraints of Gone Girl 2: Gone Girler. Nevertheless, I would like to know that they have the opportunity. And Hollywood has long functioned peculiarly even when it comes those female-helmed films which are ostensibly successful.

Kimberly Peirce’s Boys Don’t Cry – which I happen to love – made eight times its modest production budget, as is the dream of any indie drama, and scored Academy Award nods for Chloe Sevigny and Hilary Swank, with the latter winning Best Actress. We had to wait nine years for Peirce’s sophomore effort, Stop-Loss, another five years for her third film, the Carrie remake, and since then it’s been nothing but episodic television. Contemporaneously, Mary Harron’s magnificent American Psycho received a similarly high-profile reception, but it was five years before the release of Harron’s follow-up, The Notorious Betty Page, and another six years before her fourth effort.

“Really? And there’s a role for me? That’s great. Perfect. See you then, Terry.”

In 2003, Patty Jenkins’ directorial debut Monster took 64 mil on a production budget of 8 and won Charlize Theron the Oscar for Best Actress but Jenkins’ next cinema release was Wonder Woman. Yeah. Fourteen years later. Boys Don’t Cry, American Psycho and Monster are three interesting films, financially successful within their context, released to immediate acclaim, that in both the short-term and medium-term led to nothing for their directors. 

Compare that to Rob Marshall. His 2002 debut Chicago was a huge commercial and critical hit, grossing six times its production budget and winning six Academy Awards – though let’s be clear, it’s nothing more than a good adaptation of a good stage musical version of a decent film which was remaking a silent movie. Since then it’s been go-go-go for Marshall – Memoirs of a Geisha in 2005, Nine with Daniel Day Lewis (!) in 2009, a Pirates sequel in 2011, Into the Woods in 2014, and now two Disney remakes.

I ain’t interested until they reboot THIS.

All of these films are quite, quite dull. Nine even contrived to be dull and unprofitable, losing at least $50 million. Marshall himself is an unremarkable director, as recent critical notices attest. I accept that he opened with a smash, and that in Hollywood terms he was considered, and has become, a safe set of hands with which to entrust frankly depressing amounts of money (On Stranger Tides is the most expensive film ever made). But, cinematically, what is Marshall doing that Peirce or Harron or Jenkins could not? In what way did they not demonstrate the requisite skill to churn out moribund musical blockbusters or franchise sequels? It’s probably all second unit anyway.

I’ll concede – apples and oranges, fine. But when Colin Trevarrow, Marc Webb and Josh Trank scored modest “indie” hits (in the case of Trevarrow, very modest) they were immediately handed colossal franchises. Over at Marvel, the same happened with Joss Whedon, James Gunn and Jon Watts – except their films fucking lost money, and yet still they walked straight into The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man: Homecoming. Waititi can be understood, Coogler can be understood, even Shane Black can be understood, but how did the Russos get The Winter Soldier? How did Jon Watts get Spider-Man?!

Was it on the strength of this? Cos, yeah, this is dope.

What of Cat Hardwicke’s Twilight? Its grosses of 393.6 milly create the franchise, and then the property is handed to Chris Weitz, then David Slade, and finally Bill Condon? What of Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Fifty Shades of Grey? It took half a billion, but the next two installments were overseen by journeyman James Foley, working for the first time in a decade, and neither of them even got close to 400 million. I don’t care to see the director of Lords of Dogtown squandered on a young adult franchise, and I don’t object to Taylor-Johnson making bank and fucking off sharpish because E.L. James is a giant drag. But how come chicks don’t get to be studio hacks like the boys do? Should I infer the reason is what I hope it is – integrity?

I mean, what else could be the reason why Sam Taylor-Johnson has shot only one film in the last five years?


Our favourite people of the ‘10s

Young turks

Jon Bernthal
Key texts: on the telly, The Walking Dead, The Pacific and Show Me A Hero; at the pictures, The Wolf of Wall Street, Fury, Sicario, Baby Driver, Widows, The Peanut Butter Falcon

Jason Blum and Blumhouse Productions
Key texts: Insidious x 4, The Purge x 4, Whiplash, Split, Get Out, BlackKklansman, Halloween, Glass

Bill Camp
Key roles (deep breath): at the pictures, Compliance, Lincoln, 12 Years A Slave, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Love & Mercy, Midnight Special, Loving, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Hostiles, Molly’s Game, Joker; and on telly, The Night Of

Kyle Chandler
Key texts: Super 8, Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, The Wolf of Wall Street, Carol, Manchester by the Sea, First Man

Jessica Chastain
Key texts: Take Shelter, The Tree of Life, Zero Dark Thirty, Interstellar, A Most Violent Year, The Martian, Crimson Peak

Damien Chazelle
Key texts: Whiplash, La La Land, First Man

Ryan Coogler
Key texts: Fruitvale Station, Creed, Black Panther

Domnhall Gleeson
Key texts: True Grit, Dredd, Frank, Calvary, Ex Machina, Brooklyn, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, The Revenant, mother!

Donald Glover
Key texts: on the telly, Atlanta; at the pictures, The To Do List, Magic Mike XXL, The Martian, Solo, The Lion King

Jóhann Jóhannsson
Key texts: Sicario, Arrival, Mandy
Hildur Guðnadóttir
Key texts: Sicario, Arrival, Joker; and on the telly, Chernobyl

Michael B. Jordan
Key texts: Chronicle, Fruitvale Station, Creed, Black Panther, Creed II

David Leitch
Key texts: John Wick, Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2

David Lowery
Key texts: Upstream Color, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, A Ghost Story, The Old Man & the Gun

Melissa McCarthy
Key texts: Bridesmaids, The Heat, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Ben Mendelsohn
Key texts: Animal Kingdom, Killing Them Softly, The Dark Knight Rises, The Place Beyond the Pines, Slow West, Rogue One

Sienna Miller
Key texts: Foxcatcher, American Sniper, High-Rise, The Lost City of Z

Jesse Plemons
Key texts: Paul, The Master, The Program, Bridge of Spies, Hostiles, Game Night, The Irishman; on the telly, Fargo

Oscar Isaac
Key texts: Drive, Inside Llewyn Davis, A Most Violent Year, Ex Machina, Star Wars: The Force Awakens; on the telly, Show Me A Hero

Danny McBride
Key texts: on telly, Eastbound & Down and The Righteous Gemstones; at the pictures, This Is The End, Halloween

Laurie Rose
Key texts: Kill List, Sightseers, Made of Stone, A Field In England, High-Rise, Free Fire, Journeyman, Happy New Year Colin Burstead, Stan & Ollie

Alia Shawkat
Key texts: Cedar Rapids, Damsels in Distress, The To Do List, Night Moves, The Final Girls, Green Room

And every other part she plays, ‘n all, we just ain’t ‘ad the time to watch ’em all yet

Emma Stone
Key texts: Easy A, Crazy Stupid Love, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, La La Land, The Favourite

Channing Tate-yum
Key texts: Haywire, 21 Jump Street, Magic Mike, This Is the End, Foxcatcher, The Hateful Eight, Magic Mike XXL, Hail Caesar!, Logan Lucky

Mia Wasikowska
Key texts: The Kids Are Alright, Jane Eyre, Lawless, Stoker, Only Lovers Left Alive, Maps to the Stars, Crimson Peak

Nicolas Winding Refn
Key texts: at the pictures, Valhalla Rising (which, by the way, cost $5.7 million and lost almost all of it), Drive, Only God Forgives, The Neon Demon; on the telly, Too Old To Die Young

Edgar Wright
Key texts: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The World’s End, Baby Driver


Old gods

Matt Damon
Key texts: Green Zone, True Grit, Contagion, Margaret, Behind the Candelabra, Elysium, Interstellar, The Martian

Laura Dern
Key texts: on the telly, Enlightened and Twin Peaks: The Return; at the pictures, The Master, Certain Women, Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, Marriage Story, Little Women

Greig Fraser
Key texts: Killing Them Softly, Zero Dark Thirty, Foxcatcher, Rogue One

Matthew Libatique
Key texts: Black Swan, Noah, Chi-Raq, mother!, A Star is Born

Matthew McConaughey
Key texts: on the telly, Eastbound & Down and True Detective; at the pictures, Killer Joe, Magic Mike, The Wolf of Wall Street, Interstellar

John C. Reilly
Key texts: at the pictures, Cedar Rapids, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Wreck-It Ralph, The Lobster, The Sisters Brothers, Stan & Ollie; and on the telly, Steve Brule;

Adam Sandler
Key texts: That’s My Boy, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), Uncut Gems

Earns half a billion from Wetchicks in the day job, makes 5-star dramas as a side hustle

Aaron Sorkin
Key texts: The Social Network, Moneyball, Steve Jobs, Molly’s Game

Tilda Swinton
Key texts: We Need To Talk About Kevin, Only Lovers Left Alive, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Hail Caesar!, Suspiria, The Souvenir

Quentin Tarantino
Key texts: Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight, Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood

Charlize Theron
Key texts: Young Adult, Mad Max: Fury Road, Atomic Blonde, The Fate of the Furious, Long Shot


Honourable mentions
John Cena, Michael Cera, Bradley Cooper, Cary Fukunaga, Ethan Hawke, Dakota Johnson, Neil Maskell, Maxine Peake, Jason Segel, Michael Smiley


And, the best of the best

A24 (Daniel Katz & David Fenkel and John Hodges)
Key texts: bloody everything –  Under the Skin, Obvious Child, A Most Violent Year, While We’re Young, Ex Machina, Slow West, The Witch, Green Room, The Lobster, De Palma, American Honey, Moonlight, A Ghost Story, Good Time, The Florida Project, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Lady Bird, First Reformed, Climax, High Life, The Last Black Man In San Francisco, The Lighthouse, In Fabric, Uncut Gems

Casey Affleck
Key texts: The Killer Inside Me, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Interstellar, Manchester by the Sea, A Ghost Story, The Old Man & the Gun

Amy Adams
Key texts: The Fighter, The Muppets, The Master, Her, American Bullshit, Arrival, Nocturnal Aminals

Amazing Amy!

Darren Aronofsky
Key texts: Black Swan, Noah, mother!

Jacques Audiard
Key texts: A Prophet, Rust and Bone, Dheepan, The Sisters Brothers

Christian Bale
Key texts: The Fighter, The Dark Knight Rises, American Bullshit, Knight of Cups, The Big Short, Hostiles

Noah Baumbach
Key texts: Greenberg, Frances Ha, While We’re Young, De Palma, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), Marriage Story

Roger Deakins
Key texts: True Grit, Skyfall, Prisoners, Sicario, Blade Runner 2049

Adam Driver
Key texts: Frances Ha, Lincoln, Inside Llewyn Davis, While We’re Young, Episode VII, Midnight Special, Paterson, Silence, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), Logan Lucky, BlacKkKlansman, The Report, Marriage Story

Michael Fassbender
Key texts: Jane Eyre, Shame, Haywire, 12 Years A Slave, The Counselor, Frank, Slow West, Steve Jobs, The Light Between Oceans

Greta Gerwig
Key texts: Greenberg, Damsels in Distress, Frances Ha, Eden, Jackie, Lady Bird, Little Women

Ryan Gosling
Key texts: Blue Valentine, Drive, Crazy Stupid Love, The Place Beyond the Pines, Only God Forgives, The Big Short, La La Land, The Nice Guys, Blade Runner 2049, First Man

Stephen Graham
Key texts: on the telly, This Is England ‘86, ‘88 and ‘90, Boardwalk Empire, The Virtues, Line of Duty; at the pictures, Funny Cow, The Irishman

Jake Gyllenhaal
Key texts: Source Code, End of Watch, Prisoners, Nightcrawler, Demolition, Nocturnal Aminals, The Sisters Brothers

Hoyte van Hoytema
Key texts: Her, Interstellar, Dunkirk, Ad Astra

Jonah Hill
Key texts: Get Him To the Greek, Moneyball, 21 Jump Street, This Is The End, The Wolf of Wall Street, Sausage Party

Ralph Ineson
Key texts (deep breath): on the telly, Game of Thrones, Peaky Blinders, Chernobyl; at the pictures, The Selfish Giant, Guardians of the Galaxy, Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Witch, Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, Ready Player One, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Bloody good general

Yorgos Lanthimos
Key texts: Alps, The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Favourite

Jennifer Lawrence
Key texts: Winter’s Bone, Silver Linings Playbook, The Hunger Games, American Bullshit, Joy, mother!

Emmanuel Lubezki
Key texts: The Tree of Life, Gravity, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), The Revenant

Rooney Mara
Key texts: Youth in Revolt, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Side Effects, Her, Carol, Una, A Ghost Story

Christopher Nolan
Key texts: Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Interstellar, Dunkirk

Robert Pattinson
Key texts: Cosmopolis, The Rover, Maps to the Stars, The Lost City of Z, Good Time, High Life, The Lighthouse

Joaquin Phoenix
Key texts: The Master, The Immigrant, Her, Inherent Vice, You Were Never Really Here, The Sisters Brothers, Joker

Brad Pitt
Key texts: The Tree of Life, Moneyball, Killing Them Softly, World War Z, 12 Years a Slave, The Counsellor, Fury, The Big Short, Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, Ad Astra

Seth Rogen
Key texts: Paul, Take This Waltz, This Is the End, The Interview, Steve Jobs, Sausage Party, Bad Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising, Long Shot

Steven Soderbergh
Key texts: Contagion, Haywire, Magic Mike, Side Effects, Behind the Cadelabra – then he “retired”, presumably so we could all catch up, before coming back to make Magic Mike XXL, Logan Lucky, Unsane and, on the telly, The Knick.

LaKeith Stanfield
Key texts: on the telly, Atlanta; at the pictures, Short Term 12, Straight Outta Compton, Get Out, Sorry To Bother You, Knives Out, Uncut Gems

Ben Wheatley & Amy Jump
Key texts: Kill List, Sightseers, A Field In England, High-Rise, Free Fire, Happy New Year Colin Burstead

Kristen Wiig
Key texts: MacGruber, How to Train Your DragonPaul, Bridesmaids, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Her, The Martian, Sausage Party, mother!


and, of course,


Megan Ellison and Annapurna Pictures
Key texts: True Grit, The Master, Killing Them Softly, Zero Dark Thirty, Her, American Bullshit, Foxcatcher, Joy, Everybody Wants Some!!, Sausage Party, Detroit, Phantom Thread, The Sisters Brothers, Booksmart, Hustlers

We fucking love you, Megan!! We fucking love you, we love you!

Further reading: a smattering of some of our favourite moments of the decade and, finally, our favourite films of the ’10s. See you in ’20!