The concept of the Hollywood star stepping behind the camera is hardly an unfamiliar one. After all, the phrase, “yes, but what I’d really like to do is direct,” has become a cliche at this point. And while there’s a long list of vanity projects gone horribly wrong from egotistical actors whose creative ambitions outstripped their talent, every once in a while you find a diamond in the rough. An actor who has not only soaked up all the practical knowledge of working on a set and innately understands the logistical aspects of film-making but also has a unique vision and a story to tell.
We could talk all day about the most well-known of these. Robert Redford, who despite being an undeniable movie star received his sole Oscar win from behind the camera with “Ordinary People”. Jordan Peele, the actor/comedian/surprisingly innovative horror prodigy and directing newcomer Olivia Wilde, whose debut film “Booksmart” has recently reached out and grabbed the heart of every former high school overachiever.
This is to say nothing of the directors who started their career as actors but are now known almost exclusively for their directorial efforts. Ron Howard and Rob Reiner, for example, both former television stars who made the jump to directing decades ago and never looked back.
But what about the actors whose work as directors has gone largely unsung? Tom Hanks directed the criminally underrated “That Thing You Do!” with tremendous energy and sense of style.
While everyone was busy praising Bradley Cooper for “A Star is Born”, actor Paul Dano of “There Will Be Blood” fame made one of last year’s most dynamic and visually stunning films, “Wildlife”. Maybe you have a soft spot in your heart for “Ladies in Lavender”, a very good film with a very bad title, directed by Charles Dance. “Whip It” by Drew Barrymore has pure charm, and a classic example of a solid film unfairly overlooked because of its status as a “girl movie”.
Let’s take a minute to give some richly deserved credit where it belongs, and highlight a few of our favorite actor-turned-director success stories!