Hollywood double threats: Actors who direct
The four-time Oscar nominee will take his first turn behind the camera with 2018’s A Star Is Born, a reimagining of the 1937/1954/1976 classic(s). Cooper’s buzzy take on the showbiz drama stars himself and Lady Gaga as an aging country singer and an up-and-comer, respectively, whose love story plays out as their careers go in opposite directions. Even as he makes his directorial debut, though, the star’s acting slate hasn’t slowed down: He will continue to voice Rocket in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and is set to appear in Clint Eastwood’s 2019 film The Mule.
The There Will Be Blood and Love & Mercy actor took his directorial debut, Wildlife, based on Richard Ford’s 1990 novel of the same name, to Sundance in 2018, where the tense family drama earned rave reviews and got picked up for an awards-friendly October release date.
Rupert Everett brought his passion project to the big screen in 2018, when he wrote, directed, and starred in The Happy Prince. Everett plays Oscar Wilde — a role the star had previously inhabited on the stage — in his cinematic account of the playwright’s tragic final days.
The Frances Ha and 20th Century Women star made a stunning debut with 2017’s critically adored Lady Bird, which she also wrote. The film earned five Oscar nominations, two of which — Best Original Screenplay and Best Director — went to Gerwig, making her the fifth woman to ever be recognized in the latter category.
There’s more to Effie Trinket than that colorful wardrobe. Hunger Games actress Elizabeth Banks stepped behind the camera for the first time to direct Pitch Perfect 2, in which she also acted, in 2015. Since then, she has continued to appear on screen — recently in 2017’s Power Rangers, 2017’s Pitch Perfect 3, and 2018’s The Happytime Murders — but will take the helm once more in 2019’s upcoming Charlie’s Angels reboot, in which she will also play Bosley.
Jon Favreau began his career acting in a string of film and TV roles, but broke into directing with Made in 2001. However, his first big hit behind the camera came with his follow-up, the Will Ferrell-starring Elf. Since then, Favreau has directed several films that include himself as either a bit player, like when he helped launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the director of Iron Man and appeared as Tony Stark’s driver, Happy, or in a starring role, like in 2014’s Chef. In 2016, Favreau helmed the critically adored live-action Jungle Book for Disney; next up, he will direct a live-action Lion King as well.
Ben Affleck largely has one person to thank for his career renaissance — Ben Affleck. After a mixed bag of performances in the early 2000s, Affleck surprised audiences with his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone. While he continued to act in other directors’ projects — and still does — Affleck followed that critical success with The Town and the Best Picture Oscar winner Argo. He has multiple turns in the director’s chair planned.
Jodie Foster has been an established actress since the age of 12, when she got an Oscar nomination for her role as a preteen prostitute in Taxi Driver. Since then, she’s gone on to star in countless major films, such as Silence of the Lambs, Panic Room, and Inside Man. She directed a few of the films she had previously starred in, including Home for the Holidays and The Beaver, but in recent years, Foster has opted to stay completely behind the camera and focus solely on directing. She went to Netflix to direct two episodes of Orange Is the New Black and one episode of House of Cards from 2013 to 2014, and in 2016 released the financial thriller Money Monster.
George Clooney has, for more than a decade, balanced a both critically and commercially successful acting career with occasional turns behind the camera. The Ocean’s star, who has garnered Oscar nominations for roles in films like Syriana, Up in the Air, and The Descendants, has helmed several films, most notably Good Night, and Good Luck and The Ides of March. Since then, he’s continued to direct and star in many films, most recently Suburbicon and Money Monster, respectively.
Angelina Jolie hasn’t shied away from her starring roles, but she has become more involved behind the camera on some of her more recent projects. Following her feature directorial debut, 2011's In the Land of Blood and Honey, she helmed Unbroken, By the Sea, and First They Killed My Father (the latter of which was released on Netflix to critical acclaim). Jolie has also continued to take on acting roles outside her directing projects, including the title role in Maleficent and even a voice role in the Kung Fu Panda animated series.
Edward Burns has been directing since the early days of his career with his directorial debut, The Brothers McMullen, in 1995. He has been steadily acting in films like Saving Private Ryan and TV shows like Will & Grace, as well as directing films like The Groomsmen and Purple Violents.
Denzel Washington has won plenty of acclaim for his acting roles, but the Malcolm X, Philadelphia, and Man on Fire star has also occasionally directed. Washington made his debut with 2002’s Antwone Fisher, a biopic in which Washington also starred. He followed that up with 2007’s The Great Debaters, another film in which he both starred and directed. His most recent directorial effort was 2016's Fences, in which he also starred, garnering Washington Academy Award nominations for Best Actor and Best Picture.
There are few things it seems Barbra Streisand hasn’t done, so it’s no surprise that the award-winning actress is also an award-winning director. The Funny Girl star made her directorial debut in 1983 with Yentl, for which she received the Golden Globe Award for Best Director and remains the only woman to have done so. Her directing career continued with The Prince of Tides and The Mirror Has Two Faces, both of which she also starred in, and she has remained an on screen presence with roles in the Fockers series and The Guilt Trip.
Ben Stiller’s feature directing career began with him as an actor in his own films, starting off with 1994’s Reality Bites. His biggest double-duty outings, however, would be 2001’s Zoolander, that film's 2017 sequel, and 2008’s Tropic Thunder, the latter of which earned Robert Downey Jr. an Oscar nom for Best Supporting Actor.
Mel Gibson made his mark as a director with Braveheart, winning an Academy Award for his directing, though not his acting in the film. Though it’s the film he directed in which he doesn’t star, The Passion of the Christ, that has earned its place in the record books, continuing to hold the top spot for highest grossing R-rated film. Before his successful infrequent directorial gigs, Gibson made a name for himself acting in franchises like Mad Max, Lethal Weapon, and many other films.
Clint Eastwood acted for more than 15 years before his directorial debut Play Misty for Me in 1971. He began appearing in uncredited and minor roles until his lead role in 1964's A Fistful of Dollars. Since then, he’s directed dozens of films, including two Best Picture Oscar winners, Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. Most recently, he helmed the Oscar-nominated American Sniper, his highest grossing film (unadjusted for inflation). He has also continued to act, and will appear next in 2019's The Mule, whiche is also directing.
Lake Bell enjoyed a steady number of acting roles throughout the 2000s, but when she decided to jump into directing, she did so with a film she directed, wrote, and produced. In a World… hit to critical acclaim in 2013. While she’s continued to mostly act, including a role in the Netflix prequel series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day at Camp, her debut proved to be an impressive calling card. She followed it up with 2017's I Do... Until I Don't.
In addition to his stand-up career, Chris Rock made a steady stream of appearances in TV and film throughout the '80s and '90s. But by 2002, Rock began pulling double-duty with feature films. Head of State, which he directed, featured Rock playing a candidate for the U.S. presidency who turned a joke of a campaign into a legitimate one. He continued to act and direct in his future turns behind the camera, including I Think I Love my Wife and 2014’s critically acclaimed Top Five.
Rob Reiner may be equally known for his work on screen as he is for his directorial turns behind the camera. Reiner has helmed a number of classic films, including Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, The American President, and many more. He has appeared in some of his films, as he did in This Is Spinal Tap, but Reiner has also become a well-known face in front of the camera, appearing in many large and small roles in films like The Wolf of Wall Street and TV shows like All in the Family.
Drew Barrymore has continued to make acting an important part of her life long after she entered the spotlight at a young age with a starring role in 1982's E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. The Charlie’s Angels and The Wedding Singer actress made her directorial debut with Whip It in 2009, and though she hasn’t directed another feature since, her first turn was met with a warm critical reception despite a disappointing box office result.
No director/actor on this list is as prolific as Woody Allen, who has released roughly one new film every year for several decades as a director, many of which he has also appeared in. Take the Money and Run, Play it Again, Sam, Sleeper, Manhattan, Annie Hall, Match Point, Midnight in Paris, Blue Jasmine — take your pick. He does appear to be slowing down, however — if not necessarily by choice. His 2017 release Wonder Wheel was met with critical contempt, and his 2018 project A Rainy Day in New York has yet to secure a release date. Some moviegoers, critics, and actors have shunned the filmmaker following the re-emergence of allegations from 1992 that he molested his daughter Dylan Farrow, which Allen has denied. Various actors who have worked with the director have donated their salaries to organizations supporting women or publicly stated their regrets.