16 Actors & Actresses Who Became Great Directors (PHOTOS)

Sometimes an actor's love of the craft can't be contained to roles in front of the screen, and they turn to directing. In many cases, their experience serves as an excellent foundation, and they're able to bring out the best in their stars, leading to major awards and critical acclaim.

Here are 16 actors who took their turn in the director's chair — and stayed there. 

 

Image © 2010 Phil Ramey

  • Ben Affleck

    1

    He'd won an Oscar (with best bud Matt Damon) for writing Goodwill Hunting early in his career but became known for his acting. That is, until Ben Affleck branched out in a big way. He directed Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo, all of which were critically acclaimed and nominated for awards. Argo won three Oscars, though, alas, not for directing.  

  • Angelina Jolie

    2

    Actress, humanitarian, mother of six, health advocate. Is there anything Angelina Jolie can't do? Probably not. Having conquered the box office as a dramatic and action star, a rare feat for an actress, she took on directing, specializing in dramas such as In the Land of Blood and Honey, Unbroken, and By the Sea, in which she co-stars with husband Brad Pitt.

  • Clint Eastwood

    3

    The man who made a name for himself playing crusty cop Dirty Harry has become one of the most respected and successful directors in Hollywood, earning four best director Oscar nominations, winning twice, for Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby.

  • Jodie Foster

    4

    She's an Oscar-winning actress who has been in the film business all her life, but the Yale grad is also one of the sharpest tools in Holllywood's shed. As a director, she's made interesting, intimate flicks, including Little Man Tate and The Beaver, and she's even directed a few episodes of Orange is the New Black and House of Cards.  

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  • Jon Favreau

    5

    Swingers, the beloved indie with a tiny budget ($200,000), starred three actors who later blew up: Jon Favreau, who also wrote the cult classic, Heather Graham, and Vince Vaughn. But Favreau's star has shone brightest as a director. Ever heard of the Iron Man movies, which have grossed nearly $2.5 billion in box office receipts? Yeah, Favreau directed those.  

  • Kasi Lemmons

    6

    Jodie Foster wasn't the only Silence of the Lambs actress to go on to direct films. So was Kasi Lemmons, who played Clarisse's friend and fellow FBI agent-in-training, Ardelia. Lemmons is best known for her work with actors such as Forrest Whitaker, Don Cheadle, and Samuel L. Jackson in three well-regarded films: Eve's Bayou, Talk to Me, and Black Nativity.

  • Sofia Coppola

    7

    The daughter of director Francis Ford Coppola tried her hand at acting (her performance in The Godfather 3 was panned), but eventually followed in his footsteps, becoming a director with an instantly recognizable brand of intimate, simple, yet deeply felt films such as The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation.

  • Robert Redford

    8

    He could have been a gorgeous, talented actor all career long and no one would have felt anything missing. But Robert Redford wasn't satisfied with being a pretty face, so he eschewed plastic surgery and a working life solely in front of the camera. Two of Redford's films are classics: Ordinary People and A River Runs Through It

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  • Ron Howard

    9

    Fans first became aware of him when he broke through as Richie Cunningham, the Happy Days cutie. But he quickly realized that he preferred a career directing films, and he's been infinitely more successful along that path. He's built a versatile and money-making filmography that includes heartwarming comedies such as Parenthood and dramas such as Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind, for which he won a best director Oscar.  

  • Barbra Streisand

    10

    After she'd already won a gazillion Grammys and two Oscars for her glorious singing and acting, Barbra Streisand sat in the director's chair. If anyone doubted whether the ultimate diva would make a good director, her accomplished films, in which she also starred, are proof: Yentl, The Prince of Tides, and The Mirror Has Two Faces. 

  • George Clooney

    11

    He's the male Angelina Jolie, at least when it comes to making the transition from actor to director. He's also a gorgeous, bankable star with do-gooder cred and a love of onscreen drama. Clooney's forays into directing have netted him praise and decent box office sales. Highlights include Good Night and Good Luck, The Ides of March and Monuments Men.

  • Sarah Polley

    12

    Canadian Sarah Polley was still in her mid-20s when she directed screen legend Julie Christie in Away From Her to an Oscar nomination. Not bad for someone previously known for her roles in small but impactful indies such as The Sweet Hereafter and My Life Without Me. 

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  • Penny Marshall

    13

    She was a gifted comedian best known for her iconic TV role as the feisty Laverne on Laverne & Shirley. But Penny Marshall soon moved from the small screen to the big, finding critical and commercial success with the now-classic A League of Their Own, starring Madonna, and Awakenings, starring Robert DeNiro.  

  • Tom Hanks

    14

    He may be the go-to actor when a role needs someone with All-American gravitas, but Tom Hanks likes to air out his fun side too, as director to films Larry Crowne and That Thing You Do. Don't expect him to quit his day job anytime soon though, or give up the side gig he seems to enjoy more than directing: producing.

  • Mel Gibson

    15

    Former action star Mel Gibson turned to directing to explore some of his personal interests and most deeply held beliefs in movies such as  Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ. His instincts proved to be on the money, as both films scored big with audiences, even while being controversial. 

  • Julie Delpy

    16

    French women have a reputation for doing everything with ease and class, and Julie Delpy is no exception, from her refusal to get plastic surgery to writing and directing films (2 Days in New York), in addition to acting in them. One thing she hasn't figured out: How to direct moneymaking films.  

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