Sean Penn and Charlize Theron – and the off-screen couples to collaborate on set

Penn will direct Theron in the African-set romance The Last Face - but they're not the first couple to make a movie...

Sean Penn is to step behind the camera for new film The Last Face. It’s not the first time he’s occupied the director’s chair, overseeing 2007’s critically-acclaimed Into the Wild, but this time there’s a difference. The star is his girlfriend, Charlize Theron, appearing as a relief worker who becomes romantically involved with a medic (Javier Bardem) in the African-based drama. That’s gotta be awkward. 


In the film, Bardem’s “talented and charismatic” doctor is forced to choose between his love for Theron’s character and his dedication to his work saving lives in war-torn African nations.”

Penn and Theron – first reported to be dating back in February – will begin shooting the feature this summer in Africa, based on a screenplay by Erin Dignam (The Yellow Handkerchief). But there’s is not the first relationship to be put to the test on a film set. Many a celebrity partnership has crossed over into the workplace, with varying degrees of success…

Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter

This eccentric duo actually met on the set of Planet of the Apes and Burton has cast his real-life partner in just about every film he’s made since. From Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Corpse Bride to Dark Shadows and Alice in Wonderland, their collaboration on their darkly comic, quirky projects has been conflict-free, according to Burton, with the exception of Sweeney Todd…  “I didn’t want to seem like I was giving the job to my girlfriend or anything,” he told Total Film. “I was probably harder on her for that reason — I just wanted to make sure that she was really, really right for it.”

Sam Mendes and Kate Winslet

Their marriage may have ended in 2010, but this duo’s creative collaboration lives on in 2008 film Revolutionary Road which saw Winslet’s much-anticipated on-screen reunion with her Titanic co-star Leonardo DiCaprio. Under Mendes’ direction, the pair were a million miles away from tragic lovebirds Jack and Rose, instead portraying unhappily married Frank and April Wheeler – roles that earned them a string of nominations from Bafta, the Golden Globes and more.

Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes

Ryan Gosling is treading new territory in his latest flick, How To Catch a Monster, stepping behind the camera for the first time to direct from a script he’s also written. Maybe that’s why he cast girlfriend Eva Mendes to hold his hand along the way. Billed as a modern day fairytale with elements of suspense and fantasy noir, the film also stars Gosling’s Drive co-star Christina Hendricks, Saoirse Ronan and our very own Matt Smith and by all reports the atmosphere on set was just peachy. 

Len Wiseman and Kate Beckinsale 

Well, this is complicated. Kate Beckinsale used to date Michael Sheen. It’s been reported that Beckinsale got Sheen a part in Wiseman’s Underworld series in which she was starring. Beckinsale later struck up a relationship with Wiseman, and Sheen, ever the gentleman, still returned for a further two films. Even better is Len’s description of directing his now-wife’s love scenes: “It’s amazing how much your blood boils immediately if you call cut and it doesn’t stop right way,” he told Celebuzz. “On Underworld, I was being very polite and they didn’t hear me. You’ve got to stop when I call cut. So now I make a point of having a megaphone during love scenes.”

Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann

Another relationship with origins in the workplace is Leslie Mann and Judd Apatow’s. When Mann first tested for The Cable Guy, Apatow (who was executive producing) describes it as “love at first sight” and romance soon blossomed. But it took another decade for them to collaborate professionally when Apatow cast his wife in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. It clearly went well as he’s been directing Mann ever since, casting her in Knocked Up, This is 40 and more… 

Guy Ritchie and Madonna

Oh dear. While most on-and-off-screen partnerships have born rich fruit, this husband and wife duo were doomed to failure both on and off camera. Madonna and her director hubby joined forces for romantic comedy Swept Away in 2002 but suffered a box office flop and critical mauling for their efforts. At the time, the queen of pop told The Guardian: “We saved the physical stuff to the very end of the shooting. And I think everyone expected bombs to go off. The whole crew was waiting for Guy’s head to explode off of his body.”