Actors turned directors have a unique gift, because they know what it's like to be on the other side of the camera. Okay, some actors probably ought to stay on the performing side of things, but others have the unique touch necessary to inspire great performances by their actors. There are lots of actors who direct and still star in big productions, like Woody Allen, George Clooney, Sean Penn, and even Mel Gibson, but I'm focusing on those film stars who have mainly given up starring in productions in favor of making them masterpieces behind the camera. Not all of these directors fall into that category, that seems all but impossible, but for the most part, you'll find that these film stars who direct now shy away from the camera.
Sofia Coppola is one of my favorite actors turned directors due to her artistic touch. It's true that her acting career hasn't spanned all that much in terms of huge roles, but she has been in some big movies. She hasn't yet directed that many other, but they've been enormous, some of my favorite movies. For instance, she's responsible for both Lost in Translation and The Virgin Suicides. In fact, she also wrote the screenplays. Talent!
Rob Reiner is a fantastic actor turned director. He's got comedy down. I grew up watching him on the 20 year old reruns of “All in the Family” that played on Nick at Nite, so I'm a long fan. You'll still catch him in front of the camera sometimes, but the parts are usually quite small. What's not small? His directorial resume. This Is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, A Few Good Men, and The Bucket List are just a few of his credits. Heck, he even directed North, and even though it was just an awful movie, it starred Elijah Wood, so I don't even care.
From around the same era, we have the little ginger who stole hearts in “The Andy Griffith Show,” not to mention “Happy Days.” He was also awesome in American Graffiti. Again, you'll still spot him on TV and in the movies (“Arrested Development, anyone?), but Ron – no longer Ronnie, thank you – is better known for his work behind the camera now. I think his first really big hit was Splash, but he's also responsible for Willow, Parenthood, Backdraft, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code, and a host of others. Evidently Ron loves Tom Hanks as much as I do.
Who knew that Dirty Harry would become one of the most prolific actors turned directors? I mean, Clint Eastwood is awesome. Basically, he likes to tear your heart out. You'll spot him in a movie every now and then, so he's one of those exceptions, but since he's basically starred in films like Gran Torino and Million Dollar Baby, I've got no problem with that. He's also directed some really incredible films, like The Rookie, The Bridges of Madison County (of course), Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (which I thought was incredible, ah thank you), Mystic River, Hereafter, and J. Edgar, in addition to the two previously mentioned heartbreakers.
He was Butch Cassidy, he was Jay Gatsby, he was Jeremiah Johnson and Waldo Pepper too. Now, however, he's one of the most amazing actors who direct, ever. His movie appearances are pretty well spaced too, but movies are still his passion, and not just when it comes to the Sundance Film Festival. As yet, he's only directed nine movies, but they're doozies. With films like Ordinary People, A River Runs through It, Quiz Show, and Lions for Lambs, you can easily tell Robert Redford's all about quality.
You might not find Penny on most people's favorite lists, but she's on mine! She was once married to Rob Reiner and she's Garry Marshall's sister (he's another fab director also known for great character acting), and she was also the famed Laverne of Laverne and Shirley, with a weakness for milk and Pepsi. She, too, pops up on screen occasionally, but you'll most often catch her behind it. She's responsible for one of my favorite movies of all time, A League of Their Own, not to mention Jumpin' Jack Flash, Big (let's all thank her for Tom Hanks, yes?), and Riding in Cars with Boys.
You might not recognize Sarah Polley much in front of the screen, but her quirky yet deep style makes her one of the best female actors turned directors, at least in my humble opinion. I knew her in Ramona, the TV series based on Beverly Cleary's wonderful series, where she played Ramona, and She was also in Avonlea. She's had both small and large parts in lots of great movies, but her talent also shines behind the camera, even though her list is a short one so far. However, I loved films like Take This Waltz, the short I Shout Love, and Away from Her enough that I had to include this awesome girl.
Peter Berg is definitely an actor who directs more than performing these days. His initial claim to fame was as a character actor, with smallish parts in well-known and not-so-well-known movies and shows. When it comes to directing, however, you have peter to think for Friday Night Lights – the movie and the series – as well as Very Bad Things, The Rundown, The Kingdom, Battleship, and Hancock – not to mention the upcoming Hancock 2!
Actors turned directors come up with some very good movies, as you can see. Many of them are talented writers, also. Charlie Chaplin was one of the best, although he continued to act for such a long time – and thank goodness for that! I don't think most actors can really bear to give up working on the big screen forever, but these are some of my favorite individuals who do their best work behind the scenes. Who are your favorite film stars who direct?
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