19th Oct2016

13 Actors that turned Director and won

by Phil Wheat

In the golden age of movies, big name actors would often direct and produce their own movies. Spending 16 hour days on a film set is sure to teach you a thing or two about filmmaking and in some cases, this helps actors make the best directors. With the Cambridge Film Festival coming up, Cambridge storage solutions provider Storebox, wanted to celebrate a few of those actors who decided to branch out in the industry. They take a look at some of the ‘actor to director’ success stories and highlight just a few of the actors who took to directing and won.

Ron Howard


Some may know Ron Howard better as Happy Days Richie Cunningham, and best friend of The Fonz. However, after leaving the hit show in 1980, he changed course and directed his first, low-budget film Grand Theft Auto. Since his directorial debut, Ron Howard has gone on to direct some high profile movies that smashed the box office, such as Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code.

Ben Affleck

It’s only been in the last 10 years that Ben Affleck has taken up the director’s cap. With his feature film, directorial debut Gone Baby Gone in 2007, Affleck went on to direct a number of critically acclaimed films. In 2010, Affleck’s film Argo went on to win 3 academy awards, one of which was for Best Motion Picture. He also won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for best director that same year.

Clint Eastwood


Starting his directing career back in 1971, Clint Eastwood has gone on to direct hits such as Million Dollar Baby, American Sniper and Mystic River. Eastwood won Best Director at the 1993 Academy Awards, for his film Mystic River and has since been nominated a further 5 times for his work on American Sniper, Letters From Two Iwo Jima and Million Dollar Baby, which won Best Picture.

Charlie Chaplin


The most famous silent film star of our time, Charlie Chaplin would often direct his own movies. He continued to direct right up until 1967, 10 years before his death. Charlie Chaplin directed pivotal silent movies such as The Kid and Modern Times and in 1929, he won an honorary Academy Award for his film The Circus.

Mel Gibson

The most famous of Mel Gibson’s directorial ventures is the critically acclaimed blockbuster Braveheart. The film went on to win 5 Academy Awards, one of which was for Best Picture, a Golden Globe and 3 BAFTAs. Mel Gibson has since directed other big budget movies like The Passion of Christ and Apocalypto.

George Clooney

Clooney started directing back in 2002 with his, well received, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. In 2005, George Clooney directed Good Night and Good Luck, a biographical film about journalist Edward R. Murrow bringing down Senator Joseph McCarthy. The film garnered George a number of critics awards as well as Academy Award nominations for Best Achievement in Directing and Best Motion Picture.

Orson Welles

Orson Welles frequently switched between being in front of the camera and behind it. One of the best examples is one of cinema’s highest rated films, Citizen Kane. Citizen Kane has long been thought of as a perfect example of cinematic genius. It’s experimental camera style and use of lighting is often talked about in film lectures across the world. The movie itself won an Academy Award for Best Writing and a number of critics choice awards.

Woody Allen

Now known more for his directorial work, Woody Allen often appeared as a main character in his movie. Over the years Woody Allen has won 3 Academy Awards for his films Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters and Midnight in Paris.

Sydney Pollack


Sydney Pollack often swaps and changes between acting and directing and has now directed over 40 films. One of Pollock’s best known movies, Out Of Africa, took home Best Picture and Best Director at the 1986 Academy Awards and also garnered him a nomination at the Golden Globes.

Terry Gilliam

A member of comedy legends, Monty Python, actor and illustrator Terry Gilliam went on to direct a number of outrageous and cult classics such as Time Bandits and Brazil. Gilliam is now an Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee and has frequently been nominated for audience awards at a number of film festivals around the world.

Ben Stiller

Ben Stiller started directing back in the late 80’s and has since produced some of Hollywood’s best comedies, such as The Cable Guy and the cult classic, Zoolander. Stiller has since been nominated for a number of critics and audience choice awards.

Kenneth Branagh


Originally one of theatre’s best loved actors, Branagh is best known for his work on the stage, but over the years, his work behind the camera has collected just as much praise and attention. His directorial debut Henry V, went on to win a BAFTA for best direction and also a nomination for Branagh himself, for best actor.

Robert Redford

Redford was one of the biggest actors of the 70’s and 80’s, even starring in Sydney Pollock’s award winning Out Of Africa. Since 1974, Redford has won 2 Oscars, one of which was Best Director for his film Ordinary People in 1980.

Actors have a wealth of experience dealing with directors and they know what makes good direction and bad direction. They get an insider look at different directing techniques and methods, which they put to good use once they step up to the directing plate. With younger actors such as Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans starting to get behind the camera, it is looking more and more likely that we’ll see more actor turned directors popping up in Hollywood.


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