For some actors, being in front of the camera isn’t enough. Some of them want to get away from from the camera and into the director’s chair. Here are ten well known actors who took the helm to create hits, flops or vanity projects.
10) Kevin Costner
Kevin Costner‘s directed four movies, the first being the Oscar-winning Dances With Wolves. The movie ran over budget, and Costner had to use his own money to help finance the film, which is believed to have netted him up to $40 million in returns beyond his role as lead actor and director when the movie became a certified hit. His next turn as a director came in 1995’s Waterworld, where Costner and the original director, Kevin Reynolds clashed so much that Reynolds walked off set, leaving Costner to finish directing it. Costner followed that up with The Postman, another post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure, which underperformed at the box office. His latest venture into directing was the 2003 western Open Range, which he also starred in and produced, and which did fairly well at the box office.
9) Kevin Spacey
Before he oozed onto our screens as the delightfully Machiavellian Senator Frank Underwood in House of Cards, Kevin Spacey padded his acting career with some directing. His debut came with 1996’s Albino Alligator, a crime drama about three petty criminals who are mistaken for more dangerous crooks. He followed this up with Beyond the Sea in 2004, a biographical film about singer Bobby Darin, which he also wrote and starred in. Bobby Darin’s family gave the movie their full support, with Darin’s son Dodd praising Spacey for capturing the essence of his father. While Spacey was unanimously praised for his singing in the film, it received mixed reviews, some of which decried it as a vanity project on Spacey’s part.
8) Sean Penn
Like his acting career, Penn‘s directorial works have been generally well received. He debuted with with The Indian Runner in 1991, a film about two brothers’ irreconcilable worldviews, which was loosely based on Bruce Springsteen‘s song ‘Highway Patrolman’. The film was well-received, and that set the stage for his other projects, which include The Pledge, The Crossing Guard , September 11 and most recently the biopic Into the Wild. Into the Wild is the most commercially successful of his films, earning $56 million off a $15 million budget.
7) Robert Redford
The Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid star may have made his name as an actor, but his directorial work is equally worthy of acclaim. His first movie was 1980’s Ordinary People, starring Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler More, and won four Oscars, including best picture and best director. This was the start of a critically acclaimed directing career, with other works like A River Runs Through It, The Horse Whisperer and Quiz Show (for which he received another Best Director nomination). His latest directing work has been on an episode of the show Cathedrals of Culture.
6) George Clooney
As one of Hollywood’s favorite dreamboats, George Clooney could have spent his career flashing that charming smile at the camera, and it would have been considered a good one. However, he’s more than just a pretty face: he’s shown an aptitude for directing historical dramas. His first foray into directing was the 2002’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, about Chuck Barris, a TV personality who claims to have been a CIA hit man in the 1960s and 70s. He’s also worked on the TV show Unscripted, about young actors trying to make it big. Other movies include Good Night and Good Luck, The Ides of March, and this year’s The Monuments Men.
5) Kevin Smith
Unlike many actors on this list, who moved into directing after they’d established a solid career in acting, Kevin Smith‘s been both actor and director from the start. His most popular directing works are without doubt those in the View Askewniverse (which includes Clerks, Mallrats, and Dogma), in which he’s both directed and played the pivotal role of Silent Bob. His other works include the 2011 horror film Red State, and the comedies Zack and Miri Make a Porno and Cop Out.
4) Angelina Jolie
Her high-profile life hasn’t slowed Jolie down: in between acting, goodwill and charity works, and dodging constant paparazzi bombardment, she’s found time to direct two movies, and is working on a third. Her first outing as director was for the documentary A Place In Time, about daily life in twenty-seven locations around the world. Next came In the Land of Blood and Honey in 2011, about the Bosnian War. American reviews praised the unflinching portrayal of the horrors of war, while Serbians reviewers were more critical as they felt the film either ignored or vilified the Serbians in the Bosnian War. Her next film, Unbroken, is set to be released in 2014, and will tell the story of an Olympic athlete taken prisoner during World War II.
3) Ben Affleck
While we sometimes question his acting choices (Daredevil and the upcoming Batman vs. Superman both spring to mind), his directorial work is rock-solid. He focuses on thrillers and crime dramas, and have been well received. In 2007, he directed Gone Baby Gone, about the effect of a missing child case on two detectives, in which actress Amy Ryan was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar. It netted Ben Affleck awards for best debut from Austin Film Critics, Boston Society of Film Critics and Chicago Film Critics. His latest directorial work was 2012’s Argo, a political thriller about a CIA rescue mission disguised as a movie shoot, which won a best picture Oscar.
2) Ron Howard
If you’re below a certain age, you might not know that director Ron Howard got his start in acting. He appeared in Happy Days and its spinoff, The Andy Griffith Show, and returned to the small screen for a role in Arrested Development. But he’s been directing since the late sixties as well, starting with shorts and TV movies, before moving onto feature films. Notable films include 1988’s Willow, and 1995’s Apollo 13 (which won Oscars for both sound and film editing). He hit his stride as a director in the 2000s, with films like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man, The Da Vinci Code and its sequel Angels and Demons. His work with Russell Crowe has been critically acclaimed, with A Beautiful Mind winning both Best Director and Best Picture Oscars.
1) Clint Eastwood
This list wouldn’t be complete without him. Clint Eastwood made his name in hardboiled, tough-guy roles like Harry in Dirty Harry and Blondie in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. But he’s been directing movies since the 70s as well, starting with the 1971 thriller Play Misty for Me. It was a hit, both financially and critically, and Eastwood’s dual career as actor and director continued on from there. He swept 1993’s Oscars with Unforgiven, which won best picture, best director, and, while he didn’t win best actor, Gene Hackman’s role in the film won best supporting actor. 2005 saw Million Dollar Baby won him his second best director and best motion picture awards, and 2007’s Letters from Iwo Jima was nominated for both best picture and best director. Other notable directing achievements for him include Gran Torino, Changeling, Mystic River, The Bridges of Madison County and the more lighthearted Space Cowboys. His next film as director will be Jersey Boys, which will track the rise of the musical group The Four Seasons.
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