With The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a fantastical comedy-drama movie available to watch now on AMC, Ben Stiller reminds us he’s a very capable director as well as an enormously successful actor, writer, and comedian. He’s far from the only big name who’s established a side hustle behind the camera, of course, so here’s a guide to some of our fave actors who’ve dabbled as directors, too.
Since departing Doctor Who in 2008, Piper has balanced TV roles in Penny Dreadful and Collateral with acclaimed stage appearances – she earned rave reviews (and a clutch of awards) for her performance as a woman desperate to become a mother in Yerma, which debuted in London in 2016 then transferred to New York two years later. More recently, she’s written, directed, and starred in Rare Beasts, an offbeat-looking comedy-drama film which earned some solid reviews on the festival circuit and is now awaiting general release.
Foster cemented her acting legacy by winning two Oscars in pretty quick succession – for 1989’s The Accused and 1992’s Silence of the Lambs – but lately she’s concentrated more on working behind the camera. Her recent directing projects include the 2016 Julia Roberts/George Clooney thriller Money Monster as well as episodes of House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, and Black Mirror (“Arkangel”).
Washington has established his place among the acting greats with eight Oscar nominations and two wins (for 1990’s Glory and 2002’s Training Day). He got strong reviews for directing a pair of biographical movies, 2002’s Antwone Fisher and 2007’s The Great Debaters, before enjoying his greatest success behind the camera (so far) with 2016’s Fences. His adaptation of August Wilson‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning stage play exploring race relations in America earned four Oscar nominations including Best Picture, and a win for his co-star Viola Davis.
When he sadly passed away in 2016, Rickman left a formidable body of acting work ranging from Harry Potter and Die Hard to Love Actually and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. But he also directed a couple relatively unsung feature films that are worth seeking out: 1997 family drama The Winter Guest with Dame Emma Thompson and her mother Phyllida Law, and the 2014 period drama A Little Chaos, in which he starred opposite Kate Winslet and Stanley Tucci.
Bassett was a super-savvy choice to direct Whitney, a 2015 TV movie about the late Whitney Houston – after all, she co-starred with the iconic singer-actress in 1995’s Waiting to Exhale. She’s since directed a couple episodes of American Horror Story, the anthology series that’s helped to reinvigorate her acting career over the last few years.
Piper’s fellow Doctor Who alum has also branched out into directing since completing her stint on the show. In addition to writing and starring in a trio of short films, Gillan made her feature directorial debut with 2018’s well-received The Party’s Just Beginning, which she also wrote and starred in. Set in her Scottish hometown of Inverness, it follows Gillan’s character Liusaidh (pronounced Lucy) as she struggles to move on following her best friend’s suicide, and earned her a Best Debut Screenwriter nomination at the British Independent Film Awards.
From Third Rock from the Sun to Snowden, Gordon-Levitt has proven himself as a versatile and consistently watchable actor. After directing a couple short films, he made his feature directorial debut with 2013’s Don Jon, a quirky rom-com in which he starred as a modern-day Don Juan figure trying to give up destructive behaviors so he can form an adult relationship. He gathered a stellar ensemble cast for the movie including Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, and Anne Hathaway.
Considine is surely one of the U.K.’s most accomplished character actors: His résumé includes supporting roles in everything from Peaky Blinders to Simon Pegg‘s Hot Fuzz. Having already directed music videos for Coldplay (“God Put a Smile upon Your Face”) and Arctic Monkeys (“Leave Before the Lights Come On”), he made his feature film directorial debut with 2011’s Tyrannosaur, an incredibly powerful British indie in which Olivia Colman stars as a woman trapped in an abusive relationship. He followed it with 2017’s Journeyman, another impressive indie flick in which he stars as a former boxing champ struggling to rebuild his life after waking from a coma. His co-stars in that one include Jodie Whittaker, who plays his supportive wife.
We all know and love DeVito for his film and TV roles, but he’s actually directed six movies over the years as well. The most famous are probably The War of the Roses, a zippy 1989 divorce comedy in which he stars opposite Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, and the charming 1996 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Miranda with Mara Wilson.
Fennell is at least a triple threat. As an actress, she’s appeared in The Crown and Call the Midwife, she served as head writer on season two of BBC America’s Killing Eve, and her directorial debut Promising Young Woman earned rave reviews when it premiered at Sundance earlier this year. A black comedy with a cracking cast including Carey Mulligan, Connie Britton, and Laverne Cox, it’s a movie we really can’t wait to see.
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