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10 Actors Who Became Incredible Directors

Culture January 26, 2017 By Hugo

A brilliant acting career is typically viewed as the pinnacle job anyone can have in Hollywood, but that's not to say every actor in Hollywood wants to be an actor and nothing more.

In fact, once you realise the film business is a multifaceted beast, you'll notice that many of your favourite actor's IMDB credits might also include producer, writer and even director credits, the latter of which is arguably the hardest to master.

With that in mind, we've profiled 10 actors who transitioned into directing and successfully made a career out of it in the process.

1. Woody Allen

The seasoned film director made a name for himself as a master auteur of the upmarket romantic comedy, despite critics of his most recent works beeing less than satisfied. Not that Allen likely cares. In a career spanning 6 decades, Allen got his start in the business as a comedy writer and then as a standup before being part of a New Hollywood wave of filmmakers in the early 1960s.


Unlike most actors turned directors Allen even starred in his earlier and more celebrated flicks, with Annie Hall arguably his most heralded piece of work. 

Allen is very much behind the camera nowadays, and though the much-maligned personality has been in the news for different reasons in recent years, his films still perform well at the box office, with Blue Jasmine and Midnight in Paris receiving critical and commercial success.


2. Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson divided opinion the moment he racially abused a Jewish police officer in 2006 though there's no denying that Mr. Braveheart can both act and direct. In only his second directorial performance, Gibson delivered a career-best performance as a Scottish warrior fighting for independence in the 1996 picture, which not only resulted in Oscars for Best Director and Picture but also a career that would see Gibson become more synonymous as a director as opposed to an actor.


And for the following 10 years, Gibson's career was flying until his 2006 arrest, and aside from making Apocalypto in 2009, Gibson's directing and acting credits were almost non-existent until he returned with the 2017 Academy Award nominated movie Hacksaw Ridge

3. Peter Berg

Unlike Mel Gibson and Woody Allen's acting careers, Peter Berg's didn't have the same success, and aside from notable roles in Lions for Lambs and Cop Land, Berg was very much a seasoned working actor as opposed to a star.


Perhaps it was that realisation that gave Berg the impetus to give up acting altogether and turn his attention to directing, something he managed to accomplish when he landed one his first directing gigs on an NBC pilot called Fright Night Lights. The show would go on to become a hit and as well as make stars out of its lead actors Taylor Kitsch and Kyle Chandler, Berg's reputation as a director blossomed with films like Hancock and the 2016 movie Deepwater Horizon part of a burgeoningly impressive oeuvre.


4. Ben Stiller

You'll always meet someone in life who can do everything better than you, and that annoying reality applies to the ambidextrous talents of Ben Stiller. Famed for his acting roles in comedies like Meet the Fockers and DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, Stiller had long been interested in directing before his acting career took off and after brief stints on Broadway and as a writer for SNL, Stiller was approached to direct his first feature, Reality Bites in 1992.


A moderate success, Stiller's acting career would take off soon after, and it wasn't long before the comic actor had established himself as an accomplished artist in all fields of the filmmaking process.

5. Ben Affleck

For years, Ben Affleck bore the brunt of most jokes concerning Hollywood actors who aren't very good at their job- even after winning an Oscar at the age of 24 for his screenplay Good Will Hunting alongside best friend and fellow actor and collaborator Matt Damon. Still, Ben Affleck's career initially didn't have the same success Damon's did and instead he became tabloid fodder following a stint in rehab and a string of high-profile relationships.


And though supporting roles in films like Shakespeare in Love, Boiler Room and the box office bomb Gigli did give Affleck millions of dollars, A-list status never came to fruition until he stepped behind the camera to write, direct and star in the thriller, Gone Baby Gone. Since the 2007 film, lead roles followed, most notably in the David Fincher film Gone Girl and the Oscar-winning movie Argo- a film he not only wrote, directed, and starred in, but also produced.

6. Sofia Coppola 

Known for her critically acclaimed indie flicks such as Lost in Translation and The Virgin Suicides, Sofia Coppola, daughter of the legendary film director Francis Ford-Coppola, seems to have the directing gene in her blood, despite initially carving a career for herself as an actress.


Not that she appeared in much. Aside from playing a bodyguard in The Phantom Menace and an awful performance in the critically panned The Godfather Part III, Coppola quickly realised that a career following in the footsteps might not be such a bad idea, and 18 years after her directorial debut, Coppola is one of Hollywood's leading female directors in a profession which remains alarmingly male dominated. 

7. Ron Howard

The red-haired director has been the brains behind a plethora of critically successful movies in recent memories, with films such as Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man giving Howard an A-list status he was never likely to have attained when working as a young TV actor on shows like Happy Days.


His more recent films, like The Da Vinci Code and How The Grinch Stole Christmas, haven't exactly been good, but they nonetheless performed well at the box office and cemented Howard's reputation as a go-to director.

8. Clint Eastwood

Despite his endorsement of President Trump, Clint Eastwood is a favourite among everyone in Hollywood circles and indeed most parts of the world ever since he came onto the 1970's TV scene as a handsome all-American cowboy. 


In his later years and with a film career fully established, Eastwood, who has admitted to being shy and uncomfortable with the limelight and someone who detested being told by directors to shoot the scene multiple times, decided to go behind the camera as well, making his debut with the 1971 feature, Play Misty for Me. 

Enamoured with the process, Eastwood continued to juggle both professions, and regularly appeared in his movies though he has yet to star in a feature since the  2012 film, Trouble with the Curve. 

9. Gene Kelly

Gene Kelly was a talented artist. Not only could he sing, dance, act and look incredibly handsome in the process, he also took the reigns of the director's chair, most notably when he co-directed the box office smash Singing In the Rain.


Kelly would team up with the co-director, Stanley Donen yet again when both directed the smash-hit musical On the Town.

10. George Clooney

George Clooney is a world famous movie star, yet he's also done his fair share of directing. Indeed, as well as directing the political thrillers The Ides of March and Good Night and Good Luck, the latter of which garnered 6 Oscar nominations, Clooney also penned scripts for The Monuments Men, The Ides of March and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.


Failures haven't been avoided, however, with his 2008 movie, Leatherheads,  tanking at the box office, though the recently married actor is set to continue his directorial career by shooting the black comedy drama Suburbicon, with Oscar Isaac and Mat Damon rumoured to be its leads.

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