Ups and downs of actor-directors

Actor-director Clint Eastwood (with Hilary Swank) shone in Million Dollar Baby (2004). Ben Affleck seen in Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice.
Ben Affleck seen in Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice.PHOTOS: WARNER BROS
Actor-director Clint Eastwood (with Hilary Swank) shone in Million Dollar Baby (2004). Ben Affleck seen in Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice.
Actor-director Clint Eastwood (with Hilary Swank) shone in Million Dollar Baby (2004).PHOTOS: WARNER BROS

As Ben Affleck pulls out of directing The Batman, which he will star in, here is a look at how some actor-directors fared

NEW YORK• One of the most ambitious challenges in Hollywood - actors doubling as directors on their films - has proved too much for Ben Affleck, who will no longer direct the upcoming movie, The Batman.

"Performing this role demands focus, passion and the very best performance I can give," he said in a statement on Monday. "I cannot do both jobs to the level they require."

Affleck - who will still play the title character while producing and co-writing The Batman - has had solid outings as an actor-director before with films such as The Town (2010) and Argo, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2013.

But for other actor-directors, the road to critical and box-office glory is strewn with as many failures as successes. Here is a look at some of the best-known projects and how they fared.

Denzel Washington

The movies: He has directed and starred in Antwone Fisher (2002), The Great Debaters (2007) and Fences (2016), an adaptation of the August Wilson play.

The verdict: He just earned a Screen Actors Guild Award for his acting in Fences and his co-star, Viola Davis, has a good shot at winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Although he has far more experience on the acting front, he seems to be doing something right.

Mel Gibson

The movie: Braveheart (1995), and the 1993 drama The Man Without A Face.

The verdict: It depends on who you ask. Braveheart, a war epic about a mediaeval Scottish warrior on a quest to avenge his beloved's murder, won the 1996 Oscar for Best Picture. Ten years later, the British magazine Empire declared it the worst best-picture winner ever.

Spike Lee

The movie: Spike Lee has appeared in several movies he has directed, but the best known is Do The Right Thing (1989), in which he starred as the pizza delivery man, Mookie.

The verdict: Near-universal acclaim and big box-office numbers. The movie put Lee on the map as a leading US film director. His acting received good reviews too.

Barbra Streisand

The movies: Yentl (1983), The Prince Of Tides (1991) and The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996).

The verdict: Very good. All three movies garnered multiple Oscar nominations. Streisand was not nominated for a directing Oscar for The Prince Of Tides, which received seven nominations in all, an omission that sparked an outcry in Hollywood over the lack of recognition for female directors. In 2010, she presented Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman to win an Oscar for directing, with her award.

Woody Allen

The movies: Allen has directed and starred in about 30 movies, many of which he also wrote. These include the recent Cafe Society (2016, which he narrates), and some of his best-loved movies from the 1970s and 1980s, such as Annie Hall (1977), Manhattan (1979) and Hannah And Her Sisters (1986).

The verdict: Allen has four Oscars - three for writing and one for directing Annie Hall - though in recent years his best-reviewed movies have not starred him. As he aged, he received criticism for casting himself as an increasingly improbable romantic lead.

Warren Beatty

The movies: Beatty starred in each of the movies he directed, including Heaven Can Wait (1978), Reds (1981), Dick Tracy (1990), Bulworth (1998) and Rules Don't Apply (2016).

The verdict: Beatty does not step into the director's chair that often, but when he does, it seems to work. He has earned widespread kudos for all of his directorial outings.

Jodie Foster

The movie: Foster's latest acting-directing foray was Beaver, a 2011 film about a man who begins to use a sock puppet of a beaver to communicate with his loved ones.

She starred alongside her longtime friend Gibson.

The verdict: Critical reception was decidedly mixed.

Some praised the movie's off-kilter humour, while others said that Foster brought an overly serious directorial hand to a comically twisted screenplay.

The movie did poorly at the box office, bringing in less than US$1 million in the US.

Clint Eastwood

The movies: Eastwood has made a career of directing and starring in his own films.

Among the best remembered are the 1992 movie Unforgiven, the 2004 film Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino (2008).

The verdict: Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby were beloved by critics and both won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Gran Torino earned mixed reviews, but critics praised the film.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2017, with the headline 'Ups and downs of actor-directors'. Print Edition | Subscribe