16/07/2013 11:35 BST | Updated 08/08/2013 10:56 BST

5 Famous Film Directors And The Muses Who Inspired Them

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 09: Actor Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton attend the 'Dark Shadows' European film premiere at the Empire Leicester Square on May 9, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Jon Furniss/WireImage)

Ever wondered why certain directors have the same actors appearing in their films time and again? It might look suspiciously like nepotism or just plain laziness (particularly when the actor is married to the director) but with top auteurs, like Quentin Tarantino, Tim Burton and Martin Scorsese drawing on their pack of 'favourites', there must be more to the director-muse relationship than meets the eye.

Stemming from Greek mythology, muses were historically the goddesses of the inspiration of literature, science and the arts and sometimes referred to as water nymphs.

The idea of muses as nymph-like beautiful women providing artistic inspiration wrapped up in sexual allure, has continued throughout the decades, despite its overtly sexist connotations. And the notion of 'creative man inspired by beautiful woman' has been as prevalent in the world of cinema as anywhere, not least among the world's most revered directors.

For Hitchcock it was Tippi Hedren, for Woody Allen it was Diane Keaton (and then Mia Farrow), and for Tarantino, Uma Thurman.

But the role of the modern muse has evolved considerably since the days of Greek mythology. It is no longer the preserve of beautiful women, or even women at all - and even when they are beautiful women (Keaton and Thurman) they bring much more to the table than a pretty face. Johnny Depp, Robert De Niro and Leonardo Di Caprio could all be described as muses in their respective partnerships with Tim Burton and Martin Scorsese.

The modern filmmaker-muse relationship is a complex and reciprocal one. The actor not only inspires the director, but draws on his or her talents to add new depths to the film's characters, bringing them to life on the big screen. While a director can make an actor's career, arguably the actor can elevate a work of greatness to even greater heights.

Below are five of the world's top directors and their muses. Would either have achieved what they have without the other?