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Filmmakers' early roles

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No matter what Robert Redford does as a director, most people still see him as a Movie Star. Well, eat your heart out, Bob: Some performers have switched to directing so successfully that no one remembers they ever acted.

Keith Gordon A Midnight Clear (1992) Thespian pinnacle: Dressed to Kill (1980), as Peter, the whiz kid-turned-amateur sleuth Why the career change? Though delightfully sweet in his scenes with costar Nancy Allen, Gordon was saddled with a similar nerd image in subsequent movies.

Elia Kazan A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) Thespian pinnacle: City for Conquest (1940), as Googi, a gangster Why the career change? He was as dynamic as costar James Cagney, but Kazan was on the verge of stardom as a Broadway director at the time of the film’s release.

Barry Levinson Bugsy (1991) Thespian pinnacle: High Anxiety (1977), as Dennis, the hyper bellboy in Mel Brooks’ Hitchcock parody Why the career change? A cowriter of the film, he also overacts.

Paul Mazursky Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986) Thespian pinnacle: The Blackboard Jungle (1955), as Emmanuel, the smart-ass punk in this teen-angst melodrama Why the career change? His Method acting pays off in a confrontation with his English teacher (Glenn Ford), but his unphotogenic mug would surely limit a big Hollywood career.

Mark Rydell On Golden Pond (1981) Thespian pinnacle: Crime in the Streets (1956), as Lou, the gang member in Don Siegel’s effective troubled-teen drama Why the career change? While he handles the film’s hip lingo well (”Frankie, I don’t dig you”), he lacks the cool that turned costars John Cassavetes and Sal Mineo into rebel icons.

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