One of the more interesting transitions in the world of film is the transition from actor to director. While working as an actor provides you ample opportunities for obtaining experience on a film set, not that many have made a smooth transition to the director's chair. I'm looking at you Johnny Depp, Eddie Murphy, and to a certain extent Mel Gibson. However, there have been some distinguished examples even if they only directed a film or two.
Clint Eastwood - Eastwood remains the most distinguished of all the current actors turned directors still making films today. From his most recent heroic true-story tale of Sully to the Academy Award winning films Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River his films are often both financially and critically successful. However, some of his more recent films have been unjustly neglected such as the J. Edgar Hoover biopic J. Edgar, and the battle of Iwo Jima drama from the perspective of the Japanese, Letters From Iwo Jima. Eastwood's career as a director didn't just begin this past decade and has been going strong for over 45 years. Be sure to check out some of his older directorial efforts like the stalker thriller Play Misty for Me and the eerie Sergio Leone influenced western High Plains Drifter.
George Clooney - It took decades for George Clooney to be taken seriously as an actor, but with his directorial debut Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Clooney quickly established himself as someone with a strong and fecund visual eye. Clooney's second feature Good Night & Good Luck was an even greater accomplishment and garnered several Academy Award nominations including Best Director and Best Original Screenplay nominations for Clooney. The beautifully filmed black and white true story about journalist Edward R. Murrow's verbal sparring with Sen. Joseph McCarthy gave Clooney a large amount of freedom on his future projects. However his more recent efforts have not been able to replicate the success of his first two films.
Ida Lupino - Ida Lupino had worked for years in the studio system during the 1930's and 1940's, but by the 1950's she had her eye on becoming the first woman director in the studio system. This was no small accomplishment, and Lupino even formed her own production company to produce her films. From the the social message picture, The Bigamist, to the only classic film-noir directed by a woman, Hitch-Hiker, Lupino was ahead of her time and not afraid to tackle controversial subjects.
Ivan DIxon - Known for his roles in Hogan's Heroes and such films as Nothing But a Man and A Raisin in the Sun, Dixon would on go to direct a wide variety of television show episodes, but his 1973 film The Spook Who Sat by the Door would go on to be one of the most controversial films of all time. Reportedly seized by law enforcement officials around the country, the film is the story of the first black man hired by the C.I.A. who quits the service and goes home to the south side of Chicago to start a race war with law enforcement. For years the film was bootlegged and it wasn't till 2004 when a negative of the film was found in a vault under a different name that it was released on DVD.
Marlon Brando - The greatest and mercurial leading man in Hollywood history did direct one film during his lengthy career, but it wasn't till recently that audiences could truly appreciate Brando's vision. Thanks to the Criteron company in partnership with the Film Foundation, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Spielberg a new 4K digital restoration of One-Eyed Jacks is available on DVD and Blu-ray after years of inferior versions. This expansive and nuanced widescreen western was ahead of it's time, and had a trouble production that saw the famous filmmaker Stanley Kubrick fired before Brando took over.
Charles Laughton - Saving the best for last we now come to the British actor Charles Laughton whose 1955 The Night of the Hunter is arguably one of the greatest films ever made. Laughton's expressionistic film features an iconic performance from Robert Mitchum, an unforgettable score from Walter Schumann, and it all comes together in one of the most nightmarish visions put to film.