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9 Actors Who Struggled As Directors


There is a long list of brilliant actor-directors - Orson Welles, Woody Allen, Mel Gibson, Clint Eastwood, Jodie Foster, Robert Redford - but inevitably there are those who find themselves a little less suited to calling the shots.

Bad actor-directors can be those who let vanity overtake the rest of the film, or those who can beautifully play a scene but have no clue how to piece together an entire plot.

Here are eight actors who are much better in front of the camera than behind it.

Beyond The Sea

Kevin Spacey

Kevin Spacey's directorial debut, Albino Alligator, was barely seen but critically well liked. His follow-up was just the opposite. For Beyond The Sea, a biopic of the singer Bobby Darin, who burned bright and brief, dying at the age of 37, Spacey chose to cast himself in the lead role. It was this that invited much of the scorn that came his way. Spacey was 45 at the time and looked it. Buying him as a teen idol was absurd. He had the wrong appearance and the wrong presence - sly, rather than exuberant - to play the singer and as a director he allowed himself all the wrong actorly excesses. A director's job is to serve the story, but Spacey took too much time serving himself. He hasn't directed a film since, but he remains one of the best working actors.

I Hate Valentine's Day

Nia Vardalos

After making approximately 97 billion dollars, give or take, for writing and starring in the 2002 mega-hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Nia Vardalos all but disappeared, presumably to swan about on one of her many islands and stack up all her gold coins into a big fort. After a couple of tries at TV she turned her hand to directing, reuniting with her My Big Fat Greek Wedding co-star John Corbett for I Hate Valentine's Day. Review highlights included "nauseating" (Chicago Reader), "charmless" (Entertainment Weekly) and "The year's worst romantic comedy" (USA Today). It was not a box office hit. 

As I Lay Dying

James Franco

If God loves a trier then he must be absolutely swivel-eyed with ardour for James Franco. Barely a week goes by when Franco isn't reinventing himself as a poet/artist/jazz-decoupager, which means he gets made fun of a lot (this probably wouldn't happen so much if he showed a bit more of a sense of humour about himself). He's directed quite a few movies, ranging from the silly (The Ape, about a man living with a wise-ass gorilla) to the ponderous (As I Lay Dying, a dry adaptation of a William Faulkner novel), and he's generally quite a precious director, using lots of tricks for no apparent purpose. He's a director who seems much more intent on people noticing that he's directing than telling his story.

Man of Tai Chi

Keanu Reeves

His experience on the Matrix movies clearly had a lasting effect on Keanu Reeves. When he decided to make his first film as director he took his friend and fight trainer Tiger Hu Chen with him, giving him a co-star role. The film, Master of Tai Chi, was praised for its fight choreography but won not-so-kind words for Reeves' direction of everything else.

Star Trek V

William Shatner

There's a rule of thumb that the odd-numbered Star Trek movies are rubbish while the even-numbered are good, so maybe William Shatner should have held on until Star Trek VI to make his directing debut. But the Starship Enterprise's captain took the director's chair for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and got some of the worst reviews of the entire series. But he's a beloved cult hero now so it's all fine.

Harlem Nights

Eddie Murphy

The shine was beginning to go off Eddie Murphy's career when he turned his hand to directing in the late 80s. Deciding to direct when you're out of favour will usually be a reason for critics to put the boot in, and so it was for Murphy, whose mobster movie Harlem Nights was criticised for being neither funny enough to be a successful comedy nor smart enough to be a proper crime picture. Still, it was a modest hit at the box office and is an Oscar-nominee, having received a nod for costume design.

Freddy Got Fingered

Tom Green

Tom Green was always a polarising 'talent'. For every person who found his aggressive, scatological sketch shows hilarious there was one who considered him just an American Mr. Blobby without the costume. His first feature film, Freddy Got Fingered, is regarded as one of the worst movies ever made. And not without cause. It's a weird, screaming mess with a very loose story about a man who lives with his parents and dreams of becoming an animator. But really it's a reason for Green to do the weirdest things he can think of, from drinking milk directly from the cow, masturbating a horse or writing a song about sausages. Unforgivably for something so keen to be shocking it's incredibly boring.


Nicolas Cage

Cage is only ever as good as his director. When he's paired with someone who knows how to properly control the actor's love of big performance it can lead to bizarre brilliance. When he works with people who have no particular vision he comes untethered and the result is embarrassing weirdness. When he chose to direct others the result was at once overwrought and unemotional. In Sonny he cast James Franco as a gigolo fed up with the path his life has taken. He directs Franco to a Cage-esque performance, full of random outbursts and flailing, but he doesn't have any hooks in his story. It's a whole lot of flapping about nothing.

(Images: Allstar)



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