The Next Great Actors-Turned-Directors

20121011-actors-directors-306x-1349980361I believe Ben Affleck is slowly becoming the next Clint Eastwood, as I’ve written about many times before. He’s on a path to be better known as a filmmaker than as an actor, which I’m sure almost no one could have anticipated earlier on in his career. I’ve long admired Affleck’s work behind the camera, but he’s hardly the only actor turned director that’s caught my eye. I’m always on the lookout for the next great one and usually am ever so slightly more interested than normal when I find out that an actor or actress is making their debut. With that in mind, I wanted to try to pinpoint which multi-hyphonate is next in line to take up the mantle that Affleck now is running with after the success of Argo (2012) last year. We know that Oscar really likes their actors who direct, so who’s the next one that voters will flock to?

Obviously, George Clooney is a name that many will assume here, but he’s one that I kept off of this list. Simply put, Clooney is already established as a filmmaker that the Academy enjoys, but he’s yet to really make something that blew them away…plus his output has overall been a bit uneven. The Monuments Men could easily change this, but for now I wanted to make things more interesting and left Clooney off here. Others I considered but left off include Peter Berg, Zach Braff, Lena Dunham, Eli Roth (since he’s now more of an actor but originally was solely a filmmaker), and along those same lines…Quentin Tarantino. Berg, Braff, and Dunham came close though, so this certainly wasn’t a simple list to come up with.

Below you’ll find a dozen actors who are also directors (or in a few cases are about to become one) and have the potential to charm Oscar voters in the near future. It’s purely a hypothetical at this point, but I think at least one or two of these people are going to do some awards damage soon. Curious who I picked? Well, why don’t you take a gander:

James Franco: 

The man seems to want to do everything, so directing an Oscar winner has to be on the list somewhere, right? He just saw his best reviews as a filmmaker yet at Cannes for his adaptation of As I Lay Dying, and while he’s likely never going to make a mainstream film, that doesn’t mean that the Academy won’t fall for one of his visions at some point. Franco is a wild card here, but he’s certainly got potential.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt:

joseph-gordon-levitt direct

Having seen Don Jon back at Sundance, I know just how good a filmmaker JGL already is, and there’s every indication that he’s only going to get better as time goes on. Don Jon is somehow about as edgy a film as you could see out of this particular story, but it still manages to be a crowd pleaser, which bodes well for him. He’s got an eye for characters, so I could definitely see a future character study of his catching the eye of Oscar.

Ryan Gosling:

Very little is known about Gosling’s debut, but the powers that be over at Warner Brother’s are fans of it already, having picked it up at Cannes despite it not being done. I won’t presume that How to Catch a Monster is going to be an awards contender or anything, but if he decides to direct the sort of project that he gravitates towards as an actor, we might just see something special out of him. If he’s been paying attention to folks like Derek Cianfrance, it’s not hard to imagine him making something incredible going forward.

tom-hanks-directingTom Hanks:

I’ve yet to really be blown away by Hanks’ behind the camera work, but I feel like he’s settling in to write and direct more in the years to come. He feels like someone with a lot in common with Clooney, so perhaps he just needs to find heavier material to work with. So far, he’s gone for lighter projects, so a slight tweak towards what made him an Academy favorite in the first place might be what does the trick for him.

Scarlett Johansson:

This is purely a guess, but with the actress planning to make her directorial debut next year, maybe ScarJo is a hidden talent we didn’t know we had? She’s certainly not tackling an easy project with Summer Crossing, so if she knocks it out of the park she may be able to enter the awards race right from the start. This is a dark horse pick, but one worth keeping in the back of your mind.

Angelina Jolie:

Jolie certainly is a serious minded director, as seen with her debut, and that could serve her well if she chooses to keep making movies. I have no clue if she’d like to continue making movies like this, but she was able to handle a war flick her first time out, so I believe that she could likely manage with just about any genre she chooses. She may never direct another film, but if she does, well…she’s one to keep an eye on.

Michael Keaton:

 I liked Keaton’s debut The Merry Gentleman (2008), and with the acting branch having yet to honor him, it’s possible that a career behind the camera could be what winds up doing it for him. This is just a hunch on my part, but I can’t shake the image of him accepting a Best Director Oscar sometime in the future. If nothing else, maybe he’ll direct another flick and be able to cast himself in a solid role, since he’s not especially getting those of late.

Sarah Polley:

She’s already a tremendous filmmaker, so this feels like it’s only a matter of time here. She’s probably the best bet out there in terms of a woman directing a Best Picture winner too. There’s an outside chance that she could score another nomination this year for Stories We Tell, but regardless of that there’s no denying that she’s one of the best young filmmakers out there. I’d be shocked if she didn’t have nods in her future.

HappyThankYouMorePlease-movie-image-Josh-RadnorJosh Radnor:

He has more than a little Woody Allen in him, so I think Radnor could easily make the romantic dramedy of the year at some point and find himself a nominee, which would set him up to be able to tackle bigger projects. With his television show ending, he’ll be able to really focus in on these types of endeavors, so hopefully the best is yet to come from him.

Tim Roth:

I have no clue if Roth has any inclination to keep directing, but his debut The War Zone (1999) is one of the most disturbing films that I’ve ever seen in my life. He showed such a strong aptitude for directing that it’s a real shame he hasn’t come back to it. If he ever decides to make something again and is able to capture the insanity of that previously mentioned work, it’ll be hard for him not to be noticed.

David Schwimmer:

An underrated director so far, Schwimmer shocked me with how powerful his last film Trust (2010) was. Never really thought of as a big time actor in films, he’s perfectly suited to really get in there and make a second career for himself as a filmmaker. Most aren’t expecting it, but he’s someone I really feel like can win an Oscar one day. It’d be out of the blue for many, but not for me of course. He’s got the stuff, he just needs to pick the right project.

Ben Stiller:

We might actually find out if Stiller has the potential for Oscar love this year with his remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but regardless of that, Stiller has always made solid films when he’s gone behind the camera. If he’s indeed made the best film of his career (as some are speculating), then I wouldn’t be shocked if he was in line for a nom, or at least finds himself in serious contention.

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!