I’ve just seen Ben Affleck’s feature directing debut, Gone Baby Gone, and it’s terrific. Based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, who also wrote Mystic River, it’s a crime thriller with a soulful edge, confronting difficult moral questions and providing no easy answers.
In an interview today with the Hollywood Reporter, Affleck talks about how much he liked directing, especially the nitty-gritty stuff post-production stuff like editing and color timing, where he got to fine-tune the film. It’s a career change he wants to focus on, he says, while admitting that “it doesn’t mean I won’t act when the opportunity presents itself."
In the past few decades, actors who turn to directing have ceased being a novelty. Fully a third of the films that won the Oscar for Best Picture in the last thirty years were directed by actors.
Some like to try their luck behind the camera as an experiment (Tom Hanks, Jack Lemmon, Jack Nicholson, Johnny Depp) or as an occasional change of pace when they find a project they really like (Jodie Foster, Paul Newman, Warren Beatty).
But some actors seem to hit their stride as directors, equaling or surpassing their work onscreen. Here are my nominees (in alphabetical order) for the ten best actors-turned-directors—let’s hear yours, too!
• Richard Attenborough
• George Clooney
• Kevin Costner
• Clint Eastwood
• Ron Howard
• Mel Gibson
• Sean Penn
• Robert Redford
• Tim Robbins
• John Turturro