Actors spend long, difficult days working on film sets; often they’ll begin shooting at 6am and won’t be winding down until past 10pm. They work closely with the director, the producers, the writers and other actors – for some it may feel as if their entire life has been lived on set. So it’s no surprise, then, that many actors think; “to hell with film school, I know enough about movies to direct one myself.” This can often be a big mistake.
A ‘triple threat’ in Hollywood terms was traditionally an actor who could sing, dance and act. But in today’s competitive industry, it’s increasingly come to denote a multi-talented actor who can also write and direct. There are some who have worked out exactly how to master the art but they tend to be the exception. George Clooney had huge success with Good Night and Good Luck (2005) and Ides of March (2011) which bagged him the AACTA International Award for Best Screenplay. Ben Affleck also struck gold by directing and starring in Argo (2012); he took home three Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Writing and Best Achievement in Film Editing.
Actors might want to secure themselves a good reputation as a director in case the acting work dries up, their looks fade, casting agents stop knocking their doors down and they need another skill to fall back on. Besides, just how tough can this directing malarkey be? Surely, picking up a good script and rolling the camera is enough to turn a star actor’s movie into box-office gold? Sadly, the following are twelve actors who prove this certainly isn’t the case…
12. Ben Stiller
Ben Stiller made his big-screen directorial debut with Cable Guy (1996) and casted some of the greatest names in the comedy business. Jim Carrey and Matthew Broderick starred; supported by Leslie Mann, Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Andy Dick and Bob Odenkirk. This dark, comedy thriller follows an oddball cable guy (Carrey) as he offers a customer (Broderick) free cable in exchange for friendship. Hilarity ensues as the eccentric cable guy turns into a psychotic stalker.
Although the movie was a commercial success, grossing $102 million, and gained cult-classic status, the reviewers weren’t so kind. Rotten Tomatoes awarded it 54% and one critic explained; “Carrey’s character lacks the empathy or poignance to command ongoing interest, and Broderick’s role strains one’s patience because he’s hopelessly dimwitted and slow to react in any way vaguely resembling human behavior.” Another critic for Time Out magazine just got straight to the point and said; “Stiller’s film ranks as an honourable failure”.
Stiller returned to the director’s chair again in 2008 with Tropic Thunder which was a huge comedy hit and he will also direct the upcoming Zoolander 2 – due for release 2016. These efforts may still encourage people to forgive the mixed review with which his directorial debut was met.
11. Nicholas Cage
On Nicolas Cage‘s IMDB page there is one single credit as director for Sonny (2012), and that’s more than enough. James Franco and Mena Suvari starred in this awfully made movie about a guy called Sonny (Franco) whose mother runs a brothel in New Orleans, Louisiana.
In what might be one of the most uncomfortable on-screen relationships ever, his mother encourages him to return to the brothel as a gigolo. Because of course, many of clients miss his, um, talents. A new girl begins working at the brothel (Suvari) and the two soon fall in love, intending to build a life together outside the constraints of paid sex work. Not your typical boy meets girl tale.
The movie grossed a measly $30k at the box office and scored 23% on Rotten Tomatoes. Nicolas Cage never returned to the director’s chair again, thankfully.
10. Andy Garcia
The number one rule when an actor turns director should be: don’t try and direct yourself too. Stand up Andy Garcia attempted just this and failed with his 2005 movie The Lost City; which also starred Dustin Hoffman, Inés Sastre and Bill Murray. Garcia plays Fico Fellove, a Havana club owner, who becomes caught up in Fidel Castro’s Communist Revolution that is sweeping through Cuba as he tries to keep the conflict away from his business operations.
The majority of the reviews were unfavourable, and that’s putting it kindly. The Lost City scored just 25% on Rotten Tomatoes and one reviewer commented, “what starts as a promising exercise devolves into an overlong, unevenly directed disappointment.” There were also many who had issues with the historical accuracy of the movie and Stephen Holden from The New York Times said the political views expressed in the film are, “strictly of high school variety”.
It has been ten years since Garcia dared to get back into the director’s chair, but it has recently been announced that he will direct Hemingway & Fuentes. The movie will be about writer Ernest Hemingway befriending a boat captain, Gregorio Fuentes, which inspires him to write the famous “The Old Man and the Sea.” Here’s hoping this attempt has greater success.
9. Angelina Jolie
Theories abound as to why Angelina Jolie‘s second directorial effort, Unbroken (2014), flopped; as she was caught up in the Sony hacking scandal, it shifted the spotlight that should have been on the film directly onto her. Some may argue against this, as the poor reviews she received were based solely on the film’s direction. Still, wherever there is criticism there will also be plenty of excuses.
The movie itself follows the life of Louis ‘Louie’ Zamperini, an olympic athlete who was a soldier during World War II. He survived alone in a raft for 47 days after his bomber plane crashed and then endured several war camps as a prisoner in Japan. Jolie is not afraid of showing brutality, violence or devastation on screen, as she proved with her directorial debut The Land of Blood and Honey (2011).
8. William Shatner
Everyone’s favourite Captain of the Starship Enterprise, William Shatner, had perhaps decided he’d been on enough Star Trek film sets to be able to direct one himself. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) was the first and last time Shatner dipped his toe in the pool of directing, and it was far from a success.
The plot? A renegade Vulcan makes Captain Kirk (played by Shatner himself) head to a planet at the center of the universe alongside others on the enterprise such as Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy.
Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a 21% rating and very cutting reviews – one read; “Filled with dull action sequences and an underdeveloped storyline, this fifth Trek movie is probably the worst of the series.” The movie made $63 million at the box office which isn’t an incredible amount considering it cost $33 million to produce. Shatner then stuck to directing TV and documentaries only; he’s staying very clear of any more full-length features after this bomb.
7. Steven Seagal
Steven Seagal directed On Deadly Ground (1994), an action movie about the dangers of pollution. Everything looked promising, as it had all the winning formulas: a popular director, a great all star cast (featuring Seagal, Michael Cain and Billy Bob Thornton) and it even managed to reach the number one spot for it’s opening weekend at the box office.
Despite all this the movie didn’t bring home more than $39 million, making it a flop – the production costs ran to $50 million. The negative reviews from critics started to pile up. On Deadly Ground only scored 10% on Rotten Tomatoes and one film critic from Variety magazine called it “a vanity production parading as a social statement”.
The movie was nominated for six awards; unfortunately these were all Golden Raspberry Awards and the categories were worst actress, worst actor, worst director, worst picture, worst screenplay and worst original song. Segal won worst director.
6. Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy‘s Harlem Nights (1989) paired himself with comedy legend Richard Pryor during the days of Prohibition. Murphy plays the adopted son of Pryor and they are up against gangster Bugsy Calhoun after he finds out that their Club Sugar Ray is making more money than his own.
The movie had a $30 million budget and bought back $90 million at the worldwide box-office but again it was the critics that had a problem with the production. A critic at the Los Angeles time said, “The production design lacks glitter. The movie also lacks the Harlem outside the gaudy gangland environs, the poverty, filth, pain, humanity, humor and danger that feeds these mobster fantasies”.
Controversy didn’t help sell the film either as two cinemas in the US, one in Michigan and another in California, had incidents where during the movie fights broke out and shots were fired on both separate occasions. Bob Wachs was Eddie Murphy’s manager at the time and he defended the movie by issuing the following statement:
“If there’s a fight at McDonald’s, what does that have to do with McDonald’s?… If there’s a fight at Giant stadium, are you going to blame the Giants? Of course not. It’s not about the Eddie Murphy movie.“
Safe to say this was Murphy’s only attempt at directing a feature movie.
Madonna won a Golden Globe award for Best Actress in 1997 for her performance in Evita (1996). Knowing she could reinvent herself easily as an actress and have awards thrown at her; she thought it would be easy to turn her hand to directing. Sadly, she failed miserably proving that making movies isn’t an easy task.
Her big feature debut was W.E; a movie about a young woman who grows an obsession over the auction of the estate of Duke and Duchess of Windsor. She becomes engrossed in the historic love story and learns about how sometimes great romance requires sacrifice.
Madonna had a production budget of $29 million and shockingly W.E did not take more than one million at the box office; placing this movie up there alongside the greatest flops of all time. Apparently the experience of working on the film was not a pleasant one as many cast and crew members leaked to the media that the diva director was incredibly ‘difficult’ to work with. Who would ever have guessed?
4. Sylvester Stallone
The award for the most persistent actor turned director has to go to none other than Sylvester Stallone. His directorial credits include; Paradise Alley (1978), Rocky II (1979), Rocky III (1982), Staying Alive (1983), Rocky IV (1985), Rocky Balboa (2006), Rambo (2008) and The Expendables (2008). None are going to go down in the hall of fame for the greatest movies ever made but everyone loves a trier.
Staying Alive was his most notable flop which he wrote, produced and directed. Six years after the disco glory of Saturday Night Fever; Tony Manero (John Travolta – of course) returns to the screen older and wiser. He now has a secure job as a dance teacher in New York City but holds onto his dreams of being in a Broadway show.
The critics ripped the movie apart and Entertainment Weekly named it “Worst Sequel Ever”. It has a 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes with one reviewer ranting; “This sequel to Saturday Night Fever is shockingly embarrassing and unnecessary, trading the original’s dramatic depth for a series of uninspired dance sequences”. Better off just sticking to the action movies, right Sly?
3. Danny DeVito
Who wouldn’t love a good comedy starring Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore? At least that was the thought going through Danny De Vito‘s mind when he directed Duplex (2003). Stiller stars as a writer who lives with his girlfriend, Barrymore, in well – a duplex. They try to create the perfect home together but their annoying, elderly neighbour is starting to make their life hell. As she can’t be evicted they turn to more drastic lengths to get rid of her – for good.
The movie grossed less than $10 million so it didn’t make anything close to it’s $40 million production budget. The reviews were harsh with one critic from movie blog Cinema Crazed labelling it; “a crude, disgusting, irritating, mean-spirited and unfunny dark comedy.” Drew Barrymore was nominated for Worst Actress at the Golden Raspberry Awards but she lost out to Jennifer Lopez for Gigli.
2. Kevin Spacey
As far as vanity projects go, nobody did it quite like Kevin Spacey when he directed Beyond The Sea in 2004. The movie is a biopic of legendary jazz singer Bobby Darin’s life. He suffered a weakened heart after a term of rheumatic fever when younger; he decided from then on to live life to the fullest. He worked non-stop and conquered the world with tracks like Mack The Knife, Splish Splash and of course – Beyond The Sea. His obsession with singing and passion to succeed often had conflict with his own personal life.
Spacey wrote the script, produced the movie, directed the whole thing and also took on the lead role of Bobby Darin himself. The reviews weren’t too painful, his acting was generally praised but the script itself was said to have let the whole movie down. A critic at Rolling Stone magazine said that what could not be prevented was; “the movie from groaning under the weight of biopic clichés. But the actor forges a bond with his subject that rights all wrongs. Doing his own singing (an uncanny imitation), Spacey is a marvel”.
Sadly the movie grossed just $8.4 million up against a production budget of $25 million. Perhaps not wanting to burn anymore big holes in his pocket, Spacey has now kept away from the director’s chair.
1. Johnny Depp
Who would ever have thought that a movie featuring two screen legends, Johnny Depp and Marlon Brando, would ever have flopped. The Brave was Depp’s directorial debut in 1997 about a mysterious stranger (Brando) who makes an unsettling offer to an American-Indian (Depp) hoping to better his family’s life. It is a test of morals and a test of the audiences tolerance throughout this bad movie.
Depp co-wrote the script with his brother; it was first shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 and the critics handed out mixed reviews. The film gathered just 33% on Rotten Tomatoes but this was based only 6 reviews; proving that not many have actually seen it to even have an opinion.
One critic for Variety magazine wrote that The Brave was; “a turgid and unbelievable neo-Western, Johnny Depp offers further proof that Hollywood stars who attempt to extend their range are apt to exceed it. In this case, the main fault lies with the writing.” It’s likely Depp actually read that scathing review as he hasn’t directed a full-length movie since.
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