When people talk about chemistry in movies most often they refer to the sexual sparks that fly — or not — between the leading man and woman, but it’s just as important between actors who aren’t necessarily going to fall into bed clinched in a mad embrace.
That connection — as elusive and indefinable as it may be — is just as important to comic actors as jokes or pratfalls. Laurel and Hardy had it. So did Abbot and Costello. And so do Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, who team up for a third time in this weekend’s Dinner for Schmucks. Here are some other droll duos:
Matthau and Lemmon
Jack Lemmon called Walter Matthau the “best actor I’ve ever worked with.” Playing off the differences in their personalities and appearances they made nine films together, some classic — The Odd Couple — some not — Grumpier Old Men — but whatever the movie, they had an ease about them that couldn’t be faked.
Stiller and Wilson
In the early aughts it seemed like you couldn’t have one without the other. Described as “the yin and yang of Hollywood A-listers” Ben Stiller — dark and edgy — and Owen Wilson — laconic and expressive — made four films together in four years — Meet the Parents, Zoolander, Starsky & Hutch and the Royal Tenenbaums — and say that even if the film work dried up they would still find a way to work together.
Pryor and Wilder
Roger Ebert said Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder “make a good team, Wilder with what he calls his ‘low-key high energy,’ Pryor with his apparent ability to con anybody out of anything.” The pair was magic on screen but apparently didn’t always see eye to eye off screen.