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Character Actors Who Became Successful Movie Directors

March 17, 2020 278 votes 41 voters 1.0k views14 items

List RulesVote up the actors with the best directing careers.

In today's film industry, it's not uncommon to see mega-famous movie stars stepping behind the camera to direct. Clint Eastwood is almost as famous for works he's directed as he is for his acting. Bradley Cooper and Ben Affleck have also done stints helming movies that have won Oscars. Some might not even remember that Jordan Peele was an accomplished comedic actor before he became a household name for directing Get Out and Us

But not every actor who goes on to a successful directing career is A-list famous. In fact, some of them might even be people you didn't realize were directors at all. They stood out in recognizable roles in memorable movies, but never quite made it to the next level. This is a list of classic movie "That Guy" and "That Girl" actors who went on to greater success as directors. Vote up the actors you think went on to have the best directing careers.

  • Notable Acting Roles: Ronna Martin in Go, Merle in Existenz, Sally Salt in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

    Notable Films Directed: Away from Her

    After an acting career that started when she was a child in Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Canadian-born actor Sarah Polley turned heads with the critically acclaimed arthouse film Away from Her, about a couple struggling with the ramifications of Alzheimer's disease. The film, based on a short story by Alice Munro, earned Polley an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. It would be another four years before Polley would direct again: 2011's Take This Waltz, starring Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen, and 2012's documentary Stories We Tell, which centers around her own family life and questions about her parentage. 

    • Age: 41
    • Birthplace: Toronto, Canada
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  • Notable Acting Roles: Zed in Police Academy 2-4, Fred P. Chaney in Hot to Trot, Eliot Loudermilk in Scrooged

    Notable Films Directed: Shakes the Clown, World's Greatest Dad

    Stand-up comedian and actor Bobcat Goldthwait was one of the biggest comedy stars of the '80s, taking his well-established stage persona onto the big screen in the recurring role of Zed in three films in the long-running Police Academy franchise, plus the lead role in the talking horse movie Hot to Trot. Goldthwait became infamous for bizarre appearances on late-night talk shows. As his acting career slowed down, Goldthwait reinvented himself as a director of fiercely unique, uncompromising independent cinema, starting with 1992's black comedy Shakes the Clown, in which Bobcat also acts as the titular alcoholic birthday clown who gets framed for a crime he did not commit. He wouldn't return to the director's chair until 2006's controversial Sleeping Dogs Lie. He then directed his good friend Robin Williams in World's Greatest Dad in 2009. He continues to make well-regarded indie movies, direct TV shows like RuPaul's Netflix sitcom AJ and the Queen, and release new stand-up material.

    • Age: 58
    • Birthplace: Syracuse, New York, USA
    • Alternative Name: Jack Cheese^! Bobcat Boldthwait^! Bobcat Goldthwaite^! Bobcat Goldthwait
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  • Notable Acting Roles: Soap in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Cody in Kick-Ass, Marcus "Pinky" Pinzerowski in Doom

    Notable Films Directed: Rocketman, Eddie the Eagle

    Fletcher began his directing career by taking over for Bryan Singer when he exited the Oscar-winning Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody and directing the Elton John movie Rocketman. Prior to that, he was most well known for his memorable turn as low-level British hoodlum Soap in Guy Ritchie's debut film, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

    • Age: 54
    • Birthplace: Enfield, London, England, UK
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  • Notable Acting Roles: Commander Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Bob Spiegel in Camp Nowhere

    Notable Films Directed: Clockstoppers, Thunderbirds, Castle, Burn Notice

    Jonathan Frakes followed in the footsteps of fellow Star Trek first officer actor Leonard Nimoy when he was hired to direct the second Next Generation movie, Star Trek: First Contact. That film ended up being the second biggest Star Trek movie ever at the box office before inflation (until the J.J. Abrams reboots). He directed the follow-up to First Contact, Insurrection, and the hit kids' time-travel action movie Clockstoppers.

    After the box office success of First Contact and Clockstoppers, Frakes became one of the hottest directors in Hollywood. His third film, which hypothetically would have catapulted him to even greater heights, was Thunderbirds, a live-action adaptation of the British puppet spy series that gained a cult following in the United States. The expectation was that Thunderbirds would be a huge hit, which spawned reports that Frakes was in the running for the next Superman movie and had meetings with Warner Bros. executives about taking the job. He would have easily eclipsed Nimoy as the most accomplished Star Trek cast member turned director.

    Sadly, Thunderbirds was a box office dud, which grounded Frakes's movie directing career. Instead, he went on to find steady work directing and executive producing TV series like Roswell, Castle, Burn Notice, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Leverage, The Librarians, and Star Trek: Discovery. Still not a bad resume at all.

    • Age: 68
    • Birthplace: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA
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