Top Five Movie Muses

Today takes a look at the good, the bad and sometimes ugly business of the director’s muse.

Back in the days of ye olde Greece, the muses were important girls; beautiful women who inspired lowly humans to create great works of art before spiriting away back up to the clouds. Muses still abound in the creative industries – as long as there are men with cameras, there will be beautiful women inspiring them to great things. Nowadays of course, they’re less like unearthly creatures and more likely to be seen on the pages of Entertainment Weekly. This week we take a look at some of the most famous or infamous director/muse relationships.



Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth



It’s a tricky business being married to a genius; they’re very temperamental by all accounts! Welles and Hayworth lasted as husband and wife for five years at which point Hayworth decided she’d had enough and divorced him. Hardly surprising really when you see how Welles dealt with her on film! Even though their divorce was comparatively civil and Hayworth showed no ill will for her one time husband, Welles really took advantage of their director/muse relationship for his film The Lady From Shanghai. Filmed just after the couple divorced, the director made the star cut and bleach her trademark long auburn hair into a blonde crop for the part – an incident that became known as “The Million Dollar Haircut.”

Woody Allen and Scarlett Johansson



Allen is a director that certainly needs a muse; in fact he seems to work in cycles of having both an actress and a city around which he bases his films. Way back in the seventies, it was Diane Keaton and the city of new York, for whom he wrote his best work Annie Hall and Manhattan. Keaton brought out the best in Allen but unfortunately for Allen, as time has gone on the quality of the muse has taken rather a turn for the worse. It’s not difficult to see why Johansson would be a director’s dream, after all she always looks luminous on camera, the problem is that unlike Keaton, there is a distinct lack of personality to work with! Coupled with the fact that Allen has decided that Europe is where it’s at these days, he has produced some of his blandest work to date with the abysmal Match Point and the “only saved by Penelope Cruz” Vicky Cristina Barcelona.




Pedro Almodovar and Penelope Cruz




Speaking of Penelope Cruz, Allen could do worse than to turn to her instead of the bland Johansson but unfortunately for him it’s too late! She’s been taken for a long time by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. The pair have had a close working relationship since the nineties, with Cruz taking the leading role in many of the directors best films from All About My Mother to Volver and the eagerly anticipated Broken Embraces, which is set for release later this year. Almodovar has been unusually forward in praising his muse – even going so far as to say in a recent interview that his love for Cruz extends further than his respect for her as an actress and into a rather more unprofessional area (as the director is gay, this is something of an achievement for Cruz!).





Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman



Tarantino is definitely a director who seems to love the familiar – watch any of his films and there are always familiar faces from his previous works. Make friends with Quentin and you’re in for a run of good luck (even hacks like Eli Roth get a good run!). Thurman had the good fortune to become Tarantino’s muse for Pulp Fiction and made such an impact that Tarantino wrote the Kill Bill Trilogy with the actress in mind for The Bride. Unusually for a film muse however, Thurman has had a great deal of input in creating her characters with Tarantino. Rather than merely sitting around looking pretty, she worked on the storyline and character for Kill Bill with the director, even going so far as to create a vocal style for The Bride that was a combination of Tarantino’s machine gun style of conversation and her own laid back tone.




Paul Thomas Anderson and Aimee Mann



This director/muse relationship is a little different; rather than between director and actress, it is between director and musician. Aimee Mann’s music is much loved by the indie director set. The Coen Brothers are particular fans, casting her to lose her toe in The Big Lebowski but PT Anderson went a step further basing an entire narrative on her music. Anderson has said that the inspiration behind writing Magnolia came directly from Mann’s music. In the liner notes for the soundtrack CD Anderson wrote “Like one would adapt a book for the screen, I had the concept of adapting Aimee’s songs into a screenplay.” The music is itself almost like a voiceover in the film – constantly there to push on the narrative and explain how the characters are feeling.