Top 22 Multi-Talented Actors Who’ve Directed Themselves

Last year, Bradley Cooper became the talk of the town after both directing and starring in the drama film A Star Is Born, and he even received Academy Award nominations for both his acting and directorial work. But as amazing as this may seem, actors becoming directors (or vice-versa) is actually a common tradition in the Hollywood world. So here’s a list of 22 multi-talented actors who’ve directed themselves. You’ll definitely be surprised by #8 and #4!

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#22. Barbara Streisand In The Mirror Has Two Faces

Barbara Streisand is a very talented singer and actress, most famous for her role in the 1976 drama-musical film A Star Is Born. However, in 1983, she made her directorial debut with another iconic musical, Yentl.

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During the 90s, she directed and starred in the drama film The Mirror Has Two Faces, which goes around two college professors who get involved in a romantic yet non-sexual relationship. Not only did she direct herself, but she also wrote the film’s song, for which she received an Academy Award.

#21. Dennis Hopper In Easy Rider

You probably know Dennis Hopper from his roles in classics like Rebels Without a Cause, Blue Velvet, and Apocalypsis Now. However, he’ll always be remembered as the man who starred, wrote, and directed the iconic indie film Easy Rider, released in 1969.

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This road drama film centers on the adventures of two bikers who travel across the American South all the way to Los Angeles while carrying the proceeds of a drug deal. Hopper received an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay, though everyone thought he also deserved to be nominated for his brilliant directorial work.

#20. Wen Jiang In Let The Bullets Fly

Wen Jiang is one of the most famous Chinese actors out there, and you’ve probably seen him playing a warrior in the action film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. He made his directorial debut in the mid-90s and went on to become a talented filmmaker.

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Even though he directed many successful films, his greatest classic is perhaps the 2010 action-comedy movie Let the Bullets Flywhich was a hit in the U.S. and received 28 awards and 39 other nominations. Critics praised his directorial work rather than his acting skills, and he was nominated for Best Director in the Asian Film Awards and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

#19. Woody Allen In Annie Hall

Woody Allen rose to stardom in the 60s thanks to his hilarious stand-up comedy shows, yet he launched his career as a director in the early 70s. However, he is most famous for his masterpiece Annie Hall, which he directed, wrote and starred in.

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Thanks to his work in Annie Hall, Allen received an Academy Award for Best Director and another one for Best Writing and Screenplay. He was also nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, which he lost to Richard Dreyfuss. It’s needless to say that Annie Hall was praised by the critics and became a box office hit. Beat that!

#18. John Waters In Hairspray

John Waters is one of the most famous yet controversial directors in U.S. history, rising to fame in the 70s after his transgressive cult classic Pink Flamingoes. In 1988, he wrote, directed, and even starred in the comedy musical Hairspray, turning it into a hit Broadway musical.

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Hairspray revolves around a chubby teenager named Tracy Turnblad who wishes to launch her career as a dancer by starring in a local TV show. Waters was praised for his directorial work, and he even made a minor appearance under the role of D. Fredrickson, a psychiatrist who tries to persuade Tracy’s friends into dating white boys only.

#17. Orson Welles In Citizen Kane

As incredible as it sounds, the all-time classic Citizen Kane was Orson Welles’ directorial and acting debut, although by that time he had already made a name of himself in the theater world. He received an Oscar nomination for Best Director and Best Actor but won neither.

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However, he did win the Academy Award for Best Writing and Original Screenplay, and the film went on to win 9 other awards. After Kane, Welles directed himself many other times, such as in Touch of Evil and The Other Side of the Wind

#16. Warren Beatty In Reds

Warren Beatty rose to fame after starring in acclaimed films such as Bonnie and Clyde and Shampoo. He made his directorial debut with the comedy-romance film Heaven Can Wait, in which he also starred in. However, his greatest masterpiece is the 1981 drama biopic about the Russian Revolution, Reds.

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Reds was one of the highest-grossing films of the decade, and it earned him an Academy Award for Best Director. Beatty was also nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Picture, and Best Writing and Screenplay.

#15. Jackie Chan In Armour of God 2: Operation Condor

Born in Hong Kong, Jackie Chan is one of the most famous Asian actors in Hollywood history and the greatest icon in the martial arts film industry. He has starred in 141 martial arts movies and made his directorial debut with the 1979 action film The Fearless Hyena.

Photo: Courtesy of Mubi

Did you know that Chan set the Guinness World Record for carrying out the most roles for one film? In the 2012 film Chinese Zodiac, he worked as a writer, director, producer, art director, lead actor, and even catering coordinator! He also directed himself in classics such as Police Story 2 and Armour of God 2: Operation Condor.

#14. Laurence Olivier In Henry V

One of the greatest acting legends of the 40s and 50s, Laurence Olivier rose to fame after starring in Hitchcock’s 1940 Oscar-winning mystery film, RebeccaHe made his directorial debut 4 years later with the biopic Henry V.

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The film focuses on the King’s early days as he sets off to conquer France. Olivier was praised for his directorial work and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role. In 1979, he received an Academy Honorary Award for his contribution to the film industry and for bringing Henry V to the screen.

#13. Nadine Labaki In Capernaum

Nadine Labaki is one of the most prominent female directors from the Arab world. Born and raised in Beirut, she rose to fame after starring and directing the 2007 drama film Caramel, which was critically acclaimed.

Photo: Courtesy of Gulf News

In 2018, she directed and starred in the heart-wrenching drama film Capernaumwhich became the second Lebanese film to ever be nominated for an Academy Award. Wow!

#12. Charlie Chaplin In The Great Dictator

While Charlie Chaplin started as an actor in a few comedy shows, he is mostly known for his work as a director. His two greatest classics are the parody films Modern Times and The Great Dictator, which he both starred in and directed.

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What’s special about The Great Dictator is that it’s one of the very few sound films ever made by Chaplin. The movie follows the steps of a poor Jewish barber who tries to escape persecution from dictator Hynkel’s ruthless regime, which is meant to be a parody of Hitler’s Nazi regime. Chaplin received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay.

#11. Jerry Lewis In The Nutty Professor

Jerry Lewis was one of the greatest icons within the comedy genre back in the 50s, but in the 60s, he went on to become a famous director. He directed himself in the comedy films The Bellboy, The Ladies’ Man, and The Nutty Professor.

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Released in 1963, The Nutty Professor was meant to be a parody of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and became one of the greatest comedy hits of Hollywood’s Classic era. A remake was made in 1996, starred by another comedy legend, Eddie Murphy.

#10. Julie Delpy In 2 Days In Paris

Born and raised in France, Julie Delpy was one of the greatest European acting talents during the 80s and 90s and got her big break after starring in the Three Colors franchise. She also made a name of herself in Hollywood, after starring and co-writing the romantic drama film Before Sunrise, for which she received an Academy Award nomination.

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Her first major hit as a director was the 2007 comedy-drama film 2 Days in Paris, which she also wrote and starred in. She was nominated for the “Best Leap from Actress to Director” category in the Alliance of Women Film Journalists Awards.

#9. Robert Duvall In The Apostle

Robert Duvall is one of the greatest actors of all time, famous for his roles in The Godfather trilogy, Apocalpyse Now, and The Tender Mercies, the latter of which earned him his only Academy Award.

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His directorial debut was somewhat unsuccessful since his 1983 drama film Angelo My Love was destroyed by the critics. However, he proved his talent many years later, after directing, writing, and starring in the 1997 drama film The Apostle.

#8. Danny DeVito In Matilda

Danny DeVito has had a prominent career as an actor, producer, and director, both in theater, television, and film. He starred in 136 films and series, though you probably remember him by his roles in Batman Returns and Matilda.

Photo: Courtesy of New York Post

We all had a laugh with his brilliant portrayal of the villainous high school principal in the 1996 film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s novel Matildabut did you know he was also the director?

#7. Kevin Costner In Dances With Wolves

Actor and heartthrob Kevin Costner rose to stardom in the 80s after his roles in Fandango and The Untouchables, but he left his mark on Hollywood history after starring in the epic drama film Dances with Wolves.

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Everybody loved his portrayal of Lieutenant Dunbar, but did you know that this film was also his directorial debut? In fact, he’s one of the very few people in history to ever win an Academy Award for Best Director in their debut.

#6. Clint Eastwood In Million Dollar Baby

Just like Kevin Costner, Clint Eastwood was one of the greatest actors and most beloved heartthrobs of his time. His spaghetti westerns and cop thrillers are regarded as classics to this day, but once he started directing, he delved into the drama genre as well.

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He won his first Academy Award for Best Director in 1993 for the Western film Unforgiven, in which he also starred in. However, his greatest masterpiece so far is the 2004 heart-wrenching drama film Million Dollar Baby, for which he received an Oscar for his directorial work and a nomination for his portrayal of the hardened boxing trainer Frankie Dunn.

#5. Bradley Cooper In A Star Is Born

Without a doubt, Bradley Cooper is one of the greatest Hollywood icons of the 21st century. In fact, he received 7 Academy Award nominations in only 6 years! Can you guess which movies he was nominated for?

Photo: Courtesy of Vanity Fair

He was first nominated for Best Actor for his role in the 2013 comedy-drama Silver Linings Playbook, but he broke his personal record last year after receiving a whopping 3 Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor in A Star is Born.

#4. Angelina Jolie In By The Sea

Did you know that Angelina Jolie is one of the highest-paid actresses of this day? While she is most famous as an actress, she made her credited directorial debut with In the Land of Blood and Honey, a drama film about the Bosnian War.

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4 years later, she directed and wrote the romantic drama film By The Sea, which she also co-starred with her then-husband, Brad Pitt. The movie tells the story of a marriage that falls apart, foreshadowing the future of her relationship with Pitt.

#3. Mel Gibson In Braveheart

If you grew up in the 80s, then I’m sure Mel Gibson was one of your role models. One of the greatest actors of his time, he made his first outing as a director with The Man Without a Face, but sadly, it wasn’t well-received by critics.

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However, a few years later, he hit it off with his second directorial outing, Braveheart. Not only did he earn his first Academy Award for Best Director, but he also took on the lead role of King Edward II. Bravo!

#2. Denzel Washington In Fences

Denzel Washington is one of the greatest actors out there, and his whopping 8 Academy Award nominations for Best Actor proves my point. He directed himself for the first time in 2002 in the drama biopic Antwone Fisher, but his most prominent directorial and acting work was in 2017 drama film Fences.

Photo: Courtesy of Clarín

Washington took on the role of a working-class African-American man who struggles to raise his family in the 50s. He received 2 Academy Award nominations, one for Best Picture and the other one for Best Actor in a Leading Role. He was also nominated for Best Director in the Black Reel Awards, among others.

#1. Marlon Brando In One-Eyed Jacks

Marlon Brando is one of the most prominent Hollywood legends of all time, and most famous for his roles in A Streetcar Named Desire, Mutiny on Bounty, and The Godfather. He made his first and only outing as a director in 1961 in the drama-western One-Eyed Jacks.

Photo: Courtesy of IMDb

Actually, Brando didn’t plan to direct the film at first, but he finally decided to step behind the camera once many other famous directors, like Stanley Kubrick, turned down the job. Nobody knows why he never directed again since he did a great job in his only shot!

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    Hernán Tamargo

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