Screen legends Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren are coming to theaters this week with Bill Condon’s “The Good Liar.” McKellen stars as a seasoned con artist, who sets his sights on Mirren’s widow character. It’s always such a joy to see actors with storied careers be paired on screen. Early reviews for the film are solid, but most suggest the teaming of McKellen and Mirren is what makes the movie.
Films can be sold on the pairing of particular actors. “Heat” immediately comes to mind because it was the first time Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino shared the screen. The duo had previously starred in “The Godfather Part II” together, though in separate timelines. They would go on to make the disposable procedural “Righteous Kill” and can currently be seen in select theaters in “The Irishman.”
Perhaps there are more iconic duos, but a memorable pairing is Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn in “On Golden Pond.” The sweet and affectionate 1981 film paired the screen legends for the first time. Fonda won his only competitive Oscar for his final film performance. Fonda’s Norman, teamed with Hepburn’s Ethel, explored the time elapsed in a relationship. Fonda and Hepburn took roles that seem easy on the page and made them lived-in.
There are plenty of veteran pairings to look back upon throughout history. Movies depend on the chemistry between actors to be successful. If actors don’t work well together, then how is an audience supposed to believe the story? The chemistry becomes resonant when long term status in the industry is brought to the screen. Hepburn and Spencer Tracy are arguably one of the more iconic duos in movies. They worked on nine films together. There was magic in what they did, and audiences can watch their relationship grow from “Adam’s Rib” to “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” What a joy for film lovers.