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Actors Who Make Better Directors

Some thesps are better at making other people hit their marks than they are at hitting their own marks.

Sometimes, actors of limited range and ability in front of the camera find surprising depth, sensitivity, and taste behind it. So here are our picks for actors who are better off calling the shots than taking them.

Ben Affleck

Breakout Directorial Effort: Gone Baby Gone
Other Highlights: The Town
Crimes Against Acting: Why is Ben Affleck on the list after only directing two movies? Have you seen his acting reel? The fact that Gone Baby Gone and The Town are smart, engaging thrillers more than enough to overshadow the likes of Daredevil, Paycheck, and, <shudder> Gigli. The clip above is from The Town: Ultimate Collector's Edition, featuring some new scenes and an alternate ending. It hits Blu-ray and DVD March 6th.

 

Jon Favreau

Photo Courtesy of: Paramount Pictures | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Breakout Directorial Effort: Iron Man
Other Highlights: Iron Man 2, Zathura, Made
Crimes Against Acting: It’s not that Favreau is “bad” in anything, he’s just pretty much one-note. Putting aside sensitive Mikey from Swingers, he usually pops up as the boorish loudmouth in stuff like I Love You, Man and Couples Retreat. As a director, however, he’s only helmed one of the most successful (commercially and critically) superhero franchises ever. Plus, Cowboys & Aliens isn’t that bad...if you can look past all the cowboys and aliens.

Kevin Costner

Photo Courtesy of: Buena Vista Pictures | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Breakout Directorial Effort: Dances with Wolves
Other Highlights: Open Range (we’ll leave The Postman out of this)
Crimes Against Acting: Winning the Best Director Oscar your first time out is a pretty big seal of approval, especially when your acting “style” had pretty much settled on “stiff, stiffer, and/or miscast” (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Bodyguard, Wyatt Earp, Tin Cup, Dragonfly)

Peter Berg

Photo Courtesy of: Universal Pictures | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Breakout Directorial Effort: The Rundown
Other Highlights: Friday Night Lights, The Kingdom, Hancock, upcoming Battleship
Crimes Against Acting: Quick, can you even name a movie Berg acted in? Exactly. The Rundown was a better action movie than it had any right to be, and it certainly did more for Berg’s profile than Corky Romano.

Ron Howard

Photo Courtesy of: Universal Pictures | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Breakout Directorial Effort: Splash
Other Highlights: Gung Ho, Willow, Night Shift, Parenthood, Backdraft, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code, Cinderella Man, Frost/Nixon
Crimes Against Acting: As a director, Howard has proven he can jump around from comedy to drama to historical epic with aplomb. As an actor, he was always either “Opie” or “Richie Cunningham.”

Sophia Coppola

Photo Courtesy of: Focus Features | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Breakout Directorial Effort: The Virgin Suicides
Other Highlights: Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette
Crimes Against Acting: This is slightly unfair, since it was clear Sophia had no real ambition to be an actress. In The Godfather Part III, she appeared as anxious to get off screen as we were to get out of the theater. As a director, though, she has proven thoughtful and inventive. Perhaps she can even help get her dad back on track. (Captain EO 2?)

Mel Gibson

Photo Courtesy of: Buena Vista Pictures | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Breakout Directorial Effort: Braveheart
Other Highlights: The Man Without a Face, The Passion of the Christ, Apocalypto
Crimes Against Acting: Let’s put it this way – no one was giving him Oscars for his starring roles. Not only did he make one of the most profitable movies of all time (The Passion of the Christ) but also one of the most divisive. Love him or hate him, you can’t say he’s dull. Remember when the most controversial move he made was daring to play Hamlet?

Rob Reiner

Photo Courtesy of: Warner Bros. Pictures | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Breakout Directorial Effort: This is Spinal Tap

Other Highlights: The Sure Thing, Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, A Few Good Men, The American President, Ghosts of Mississippi
Crimes Against Acting: Like Ron Howard, Reiner’s most iconic role was a TV punch line (“Meathead” on All in the Family). He pops up now and again on camera, but even a few well-delivered quips don’t add up to the sheer iconic nature of his directorial efforts. Just try going through a day without quoting one of his movies, we dare you: “I’ll have what she’s having,” “Have fun storming the castle,” “You can’t handle the truth!,” “These go to 11”…

Nick Cassavetes

Photo Courtesy of: Universal Pictures | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Breakout Directorial Effort: Unhook the Stars
Other Highlights: She’s So Lovely, The Notebook, Alpha Dog, John Q
Crimes Against Acting: The son of the godfather of American indie film does his dad proud behind the camera, and fills the clearance bin at Best Buy in front of it. The Wraith? Delta Force 3: The Killing Game? At least four or five movies with titles that are some variation on “Sins” “Body” and “Death”? Yeesh. And his cameo in The Hangover Part II had audiences howling with questions of “Who is that?” and “Wasn’t that the part Mel Gibson was supposed to play?”

Spike Jonze

Photo Courtesy of: Warner Bros. Pictures | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Breakout Directorial Effort: Being John Malkovich
Other Highlights: Adaptation, Where the Wild Things Are
Crimes Against Acting: Seeing as his only major acting role was as a clueless redneck soldier in Three Kings, it’s doubtful anyone is asking: “Why doesn’t Spike act more?” He was funny as hell in Kings, but his filmmaking work is what has people…wait for it…jonesing for his next endeavor.

Quentin Tarantino

Photo Courtesy of: Miramax Films | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Breakout Directorial Effort: Reservoir Dogs
Other Highlights: Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill Vol. 1& 2, Inglorious Basterds
Crimes Against Acting: There’s only one person on earth who thinks he has genuine talent an actor: Quentin Tarantino. Every time Q shows up on screen (Destiny Turns of the Radio, Desperado, Planet Terror, almost all his movies) we’re reminded why we like his writing and directing. Behind the lens, he’s cool, iconic and taboo-shattering. In front of it, he’s irritating, obnoxious and won’t go away fast enough.

Penny Marshall

Photo Courtesy of: Columbia Pictures | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Breakout Directorial Effort: Big
Other Highlights: Awakenings, A League of Their Own, Renaissance Man
Crimes Against Acting: We’re sorry, Laverne, but you can take a seat next to Ron Howard and Rob Reiner. Is it any wonder that not only has Marshall completely ditched acting, she’s completely quit speaking? Watching the movies she’s directed is great, listening to her talking about her movies is like listening to Tom Waits after recent jaw surgery.

Clint Eastwood

Photo Courtesy of: Universal Studios | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Breakout Directorial Effort: Play Misty for Me
Other Highlights: The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Gauntlet, Pale Rider, Bird, Unforgiven, The Bridges of Madison County, Mystic River, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters From Iwo Jima, Gran Torino, Million Dollar Baby, Invictus
Crimes Against Acting: Before you fire bomb the comments section, take a deep breath and hold it. Let’s not revise history--because of the iconic nature of some of his acting roles, it’s easy to think that Clint was revered as a thespian. He wasn’t. Most people dismissed him as a squinty, gravelly-throated precursor to Stallone and Schwarzenegger. But as a director, he is effortlessly classy, jaw-droppingly productive, and nearly infallible.