10 Successful Actors-Turned-Directors

Jobs in Hollywood seem to be a lot more fluid than in the real world. Celebrities might start out modeling, but then launch a successful acting career, before trying their hand at recording an album. It is a lot easier for someone who is already famous to excel in other show business arenas, because they already have fans, and people who think they can do no wrong.Actors, in particular, can make really good directors, because they have experience with what it takes to create a film. They also have the connections, money, and clout to be able to approach a production company, and say, “this time, I want to direct”. Here are some of the most successful directors, who started out as actors.

10 Ben Stiller - Reality Bites

We all know Ben Stiller for his comedic roles, but he was directing before he made it big in character acting. He directed the 90’s classic, Reality Bites, which he also costarred in opposite Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke. After that he went on to direct Jim Carrey in The Cable Guy. Since then, two of his most well known roles, Derek Zoolander (Zoolander) and Tugg Speedman (Tropic Thunder) were in films he also directed. He got a little more serious in 2013, with his film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. He is now rumored to be working on a sequel to Zoolander.

9 Ron Howard - Night Shift

You might have forgotten that the Oscar-winning director of A Beautiful Mind, actually started out as an actor. Ron Howard was only six years old when he was cast as Opie Taylor, the son of the title character in The Andy Griffith Show. He portrayed the character for the show’s entire 8-year run. He went on to do a variety of guest-starring TV roles, before landing a role in George Lucas’ American Graffiti, and then the iconic role of Richie Cunningham in Happy Days. His big directorial break was the film Night Shift, starring Michael Keaton. Nowadays, he is a director first and foremost, having directed hits like Apollo 13, The Da Vinci Code, and Frost/Nixon.

8 Mel Gibson - Braveheart

It was Mel Gibson’s role in the Mad Max franchise that cemented his leading man status in Hollywood, and he went on to star in a steady stream of box office hits after that. Studio executives were encouraging him early on to try his hand at directing, but it wasn’t until 1993 that he made his directorial debut with The Man Without a Face. The film was a moderate success, but his real breakthrough as a director came two years later with Braveheart. He was both the star and the director of the film, and won the Academy Award for Best Director, that year. Gibson has since directed The Passion of the Christ, and Apocalypto, which were both ambitious and controversial films heavy on subtitles. Gibson has said he does not want to be a movie star anymore, and would prefer to direct.

7 George Clooney - Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

6 Jon Favreau - Iron Man

A career in comedy was Jon Favreau’s goal when he dropped out of college in 1988. He decided to pursue acting and screenwriting, and landed his first role in Rudy, which turned out to be a classic sleeper hit. He went on to appear in episodes of Seinfeld and Friends throughout the 90s, and made his real breakthrough as an actor and screenwriter with Swingers (1996). His directorial debut was in 2001 with another film he wrote, Made. But his big hit in directing was Elf, starring Will Ferrell. He continues to take supporting roles in many films, and has also directed Iron Man and Iron 2. His goal for the future is to be in charge of an Avengers film.

5 Sarah Polley - Away From Her

One of Canada’s most critically-acclaimed directors, Sarah Polley got her start as a child actor on the TV series, Road to Avonlea. She also appeared in films The Sweet Hereafter, Dawn of the Dead, and Splice. For her directorial debut, the film Away From Her, won her a Genie Award for Best Achievement in Directing and an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Her second film, Take This Waltz premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and her latest film, Stories We Tell, won her the top prize of $100 000 for the best Canadian film of the year. She is currently working on adapting Margaret Atwood’s novel, Alias Grace into film.

4 Kevin Costner - Dances With Wolves

After a string of small roles in the early 80s, Kevin Costner got his big acting break in the 1987 film, The Untouchables. He followed that up with starring roles in Bull Durham and Field of Dreams. His next starring role was also his directorial debut, in the Academy Award winning, Dances With Wolves. The film won him the Oscar for Best Director. Despite this success, he went on to win a Razzie for Worst Director for his next film, The Postman. He has made attempts to get back in the director’s chair since, but has had more success as an actor. He has not given up on directing, though, and hopes to recreate the success of Dances With Wolves in the future.

3 Robert Redford - Ordinary People

2 Ben Affleck - Gone Baby Gone

1 Clint Eastwood - Million Dollar Baby

83-year-old Clint Eastwood’s most notable role is undoubtedly Harry Callahan in the 5 Dirty Harry films throughout the 1970's and 1980's. He has appeared in many films over the years, and also directed over 30 of his own, starting with thriller, Play Misty for Me in 1971. His directing style is notable because he prefers scenes to be finished in one take, and does not rely on constant re shoots to achieve perfection. He has directed many critically-acclaimed films including Million Dollar Baby (for which he won the Best Director Oscar), Mystic River, and Gran Torino. He is one of the successful actors-turned-directors in Hollywood and continues to work even into his mid-80’s. That is a sign of a director who loves everything about making movies.

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