Nine Unlikely Leading Men for Juliette Binoche

With Dane Cook in Dan in Real Life

This is the most random of lists, I know. My mind has been preoccupied with a big, non-film-related project lately, and I've been neglecting my Lists of 9. At any rate, Oscar-winning actress Juliette Binoche is renowned for her European elegance and charm. As such, it's no surprise to see her cast opposite elegant and charming Europeans like Daniel Day-Lewis (The Unbearable Lightness of Being), Ralph Fiennes (Wuthering Heights), and her many costars in French cinema. And then there are these guys. The following onscreen couplings aren't as downright strange as, say, Kirk Douglas and Farrah Fawcett in Saturn 3, but they're still unlikely.

  1. STEVE CARELL in Dan in Real Life. Everyone loves Steve Carell, but can you really imagine him dating La Binoche? That's what this middling 2007 rom-com wants you to believe. (Still not as implausible as Carell being matched with Anne Hathaway in Get Smart or Keira Knightley in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World: both actresses are young enough to be his daughter.)
  2. DANE COOK in Dan in Real Life. If you want to convince audiences that Binoche and Carell might make a good couple, you do it by first attaching Binoche to someone with whom she has even less chemistry: bro-ish standup comic Dane Cook, who played Carell's brother in the film.
  3. SAMUEL L. JACKSON in In My Country. Jackson is as beloved as Carell, if not more so. But how often have you seen him as the romantic lead? Not very. Which makes it extra strange that, when he finally did land such a part, his leading lady would be Juliette Binoche. But that's what happened in 2004's In My Country, in which Binoche plays a South African(!). Come to think of it, who would you pair Jackson with? The man's 71 now. Susan Sarandon, maybe? Angela Bassett?
  4. BRYAN CRANSTON in Godzilla. Binoche is barely in this monster movie reboot, but it's hard to imagine her scientist character enduring the overwrought intensity that Cranston displays as her husband.
  5. JOHNNY DEPP in Chocolat. It seems stranger now than it did in 2000, I suppose, when Depp was still more handsome heartthrob than overacting weirdo, and Binoche was willing to slum it as a Generically Effervescent Frenchwoman. At least they were the right age for each other.
  6. ETHAN HAWKE in The Truth. The great Hirokazu Kore-eda's first non-Japanese film, completed in 2019, stars Juliette Binoche and Catherine Deneuve – and somehow Ethan Hawke is in there too, as Binoche's husband. Now, I like Ethan Hawke just fine. But even as he edges toward 50, the eternally goateed actor still seems like the same twentysomething slacker dude he was in the 1990s. Can you imagine Binoche as Celine in Before Sunrise? She wouldn't have given Hawke's Jesse a second glance on that train.
  7. WILLIAM SHIMELL in Certified Copy. In real life, you could actually see Shimell being married to Binoche, as he is in this film, because he's got that sophisticated European thing going on. (He is English.) But Shimell's not a screen actor, he's an opera baritone. So his very casting in Abbas Kiarostami's cerebral 2010 drama – his first film and his first non-singing role – is what makes his pairing with Binoche so unusual. Shimell's only done two movies since.
  8. MASATOSHI NAGASE in Vision. I am 100% in favor of movies that depict healthy sexual relationships between East Asian men and white women – it's something you almost never see in media. (Sue Brooks's Japanese Story, starring Toni Collette and Gotaro Tsunashima, is a rare and excellent example.) I have not seen Vision, a 2018 Japanese film directed by Naomi Kawase, so I can't speak to what chemistry Binoche may have with Nagase (who you'll probably know from Mystery Train – "Carl Perkins!"). Apparently, she also has some sort of dream romance with the much-younger J-Pop star Takanori Iwata.
  9. ROBERT PATTINSON in Cosmopolis and High Life. No, that's not one title. It's two separate films, by two entirely different filmmakers (David Cronenberg and Claire Denis), and in both of those films Binoche has disturbing sexual relations with Pattinson, 22 years her junior and still very boyish.