It's not very common for artists in Hollywood to excel in more than one facet of the industry. Usually people will either stay in front of, or behind the camera, although a small number of talented performers have gone from starring in a feature, straight into the director's seat. Early on, greats including Charlie Chaplin and Orson Wells defined the trend of being sensational actors/directors. Now more than ever, it seems that actors and directors have been taking the risk of wearing multiple hats on a production, and doing an exceptional job. Here are the current top 10 actor/directors in Hollywood.
#10 - Seth Rogen
Seth Rogen has been writing, producing, and starring in movies for some time now, but he is relatively new to the directing game. With a couple of shocking films under his belt (This is the End and The Interview), he has definitely left a strong impression. More than just being a pretty solid actor and film maker, Seth has built a rather impressive crew of friends in Hollywood. One of his closest on screen collaborators, James Franco, has also been trying his hand at direction lately. Plus you have to give credit to his creative partner Evan Goldberg for being maybe half of the genius. Mostly though, you can't beat Seth Rogen's charm, and for a proclaimed pot head, he might be one of the most tenacious people on this list.
#9 - Jodie Foster
Jodie Foster is also pretty new to directing, but she would appear to be putting most of her efforts toward this craft nowadays. Having a solid first attempt with The Beaver, starring Mel Gibson (another decent actor/director), Jodie is going to release her second film later this year called Money Monster. From the trailer, it looks like it could be pulling for an Oscar, and Foster must like working with fellow actor/directors because it stars George Clooney, who is currently directing a project written by the Coen Brothers called Suburbicon. So, it might be a little early to determine if Jodie Foster is a good enough director to be on the list, but she is probably a little better than Angelina Jolie at filmmaking and a bit better at acting than Sofia Coppola.
#8 - Ben Stiller
Ben Stiller grew up in the industry, so he was destined to try a little bit of everything. Aside from starring in dozens of successful comedies, directing has been a very positive addition to Stiller's career. With a solid track record including The Cable Guy, Zoolander, and the critically acclaimed Tropic Thunder, he has directed some of the more classic comedies in the last 20 years. His recent Zoolander 2 hiccup will hopefully be a passing thing, since he still has a tremendous amount of potential. He is currently working on an interesting television series called Super Sad True Love Story, so time will tell if he has another brilliant project to add to his impressive repertoire.
#7 - Sean Penn
Sean Penn is coming back to the directing world this year with his new film The Last Face. With Into the Wild as almost his only other directing credit, it'll be interesting to see if he can bring the same amount of intrigue and intimacy to the big screen again. Although he has maintained a strange relationship with the industry, he still has a very unique vision and it shines through in most of his performances. The Last Face will star Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem, so it's almost a guarantee the film will be noteworthy, and will only add to the potential legacy of Sean Penn films.
#6 - Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Branagh is known for his mastery of Shakespeare, and this is apparent through films such as Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet. Even his take on Thor felt heavily inspired by classic theater, and for all the right reasons. He is also an exceptional actor, and has clearly proven himself to be a standout director, most recently reimagining the Disney classic Cinderella. Currently he is working on an Artis Fowl film which is more than likely based on the ongoing fantasy books by the same title. I wish he would come back to Marvel, but regardless, he is a prominent filmmaker for modern classic storytelling.
#5 - Trey Parker
Trey Parker might not have the complete support of Hollywood, but almost all of his projects have perfectly accomplished what they sought to achieve; offensiveness! On top of being brilliantly calculated and unlimited by their format, Trey Parker's films tend to push the edge of every envelope imaginable, but still have this incredible power of complex storytelling. From Cannibal the Musical, to the sports farce Basketball, to the animated South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut, and then the puppet show Team America World Police, Trey Parker doesn't seem to like to do the same thing twice, which always has me excited for what he might do next.
#4 - Jon Favreau
Jon Favreau is the man to thank for one of the greatest franchises in Hollywood history. This cinematic wonder is known as Iron Man, or otherwise an absolute game changer. He developed the possibility for an orchestrated full franchise crossover, on top of directing, producing, and acting in the film. But enough about this beautiful contribution — he is also responsible for remarkable films such as Elf, Chef, and has a lot of eyes on his upcoming adaptation of The Jungle Book. Basically, this guy is money, baby!
#3 - Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood is a literal Hollywood classic having been in the industry for about 60 years. Sometime in the '70s Clint decided to try directing his first film, and must have liked it because he's been doing it ever since. As his skills began to develop, the Academy started to take notice of his filmmaking and in '92 he won his first Academy Award for directing and acting. Since then he has won 3 more times for directing, and most recently his film American Sniper was up for Best Picture. Although he is getting pretty old, and hasn't acted for a few years, Clint can always pop in something or make an award winning film.
#2 - Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck only has a few films under his belt and can already be considered one of the top directors in Hollywood. His films, Gone Baby Gone and The Town, were both revered for their incredible realism and intense emotional characters. Also his film Argo (inspired by true events) won the award for Best Picture, but he was surprisingly snubbed in the directing category. Although, the main reason why he is so high on this list is that he is lined up to direct the new Batman film, which would make him the first director to also star in his own superhero film. Plus it's Batman!
#1 - Woody Allen and Mel Brooks
Woody Allen and Mel Brooks have had almost side by side comparable careers in the industry. While Woody Allen has starred in more of his own projects, and had an impressive one-film-per-year for nearly 40 years, Mel Brooks also had a huge impact on comedy and film as a whole. Both were known for satires and upheaving traditional filmmaking, but would typically create critically acclaimed masterpieces. With Allen films such as Annie Hall, Manhattan, and Sleeper, and Brooks movies like Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and Spaceballs, these actors/directors combine to take up most of the greatest comedies of all time. The surprising thing is, they are still working!
So while it is not extremely popular, establishing yourself as a popular actor and director in Hollywood is extremely impressive. There have been many other successful examples including Spike Jones, and some that haven't worked as well such as Ryan Gosling (although that might be too early to tell). Overall, it seems to add something special to the project when an actor attempts to have a larger creative voice. I'd at least like to see Jacob Tremblay take a crack at it.