Features
5 Greatest Oscar-winning actors turned directors


Date Posted: 03 February 2015


Russell Crowe as an Australian farmer, Connor in the scene from "The Water Diviner".

New Zealand-born actor Russell Crowe got his first big break in Australia playing the skinhead leader Hando in "Romper Stomper" (1992). Five years later, Hollywood finally took notice with his acclaimed performance as Officer Wendell "Bud" White in the well-received neo-noir crime drama, "L.A. Confidential". He received his first Oscar nomination as Best Actor in the tobacco-scandal drama, "The Insider" in 1999 but managed to win the award when he was nominated for the second time in "Gladiator" (2000). The year after his Oscar victory, he was nominated for the third time in "A Beautiful Mind" (2001) for his role as a schizophrenic mathematician John Nash.

After decades of acting experience, Russell Crowe finally made his long-awaited directorial debut with "The Water Diviner", an epic war drama set during the aftermath of the Battle of Gallipoli in 1919. To coincide with the upcoming release of "The Water Diviner", here is the selected list of the greatest Oscar-winning actors who also made their career as directors.

1. Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando as Rio in the scene from "One-Eyed Jacks".

Known for his unique mumbling voice and reputed for being notoriously difficult to work with, the late Marlon Brando was widely considered one of the greatest Hollywood actors of all time. Over the span of six decades, he had been nominated for a total of 8 Oscars for Best Actor beginning with his memorable role as Stanley Kowalski in "A Streetcar Named Desire" in 1951. However, out of eight nominations, he only has two acting Oscars for "On The Waterfront" in 1954 and again for "The Godfather" in 1972 (on which he famously declined to show up at the ceremony). He only directed once in a western called "One-Eyed Jacks" in 1961, a notoriously-troubled production originally slated to be directed by the legendary Stanley Kubrick. Although the reviews were mixed upon its release, "One-Eyed Jacks" was subsequently hailed as a cult favourite in the western genre.

2. Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson, on the set of "The Two Jakes" as a director.

For mainstream viewers around the world, Jack Nicholson was forever known for his memorable role as the Joker in the Tim Burton-directed "Batman" in 1989. With his signature devil-may-care attitude and magnetic charisma, Nicholson was famously known for portraying dark and psychotic characters throughout his long career as an actor. He had been nominated for 12 Academy Awards – the most nominated male actor ever seen in the Oscar history– and won twice for "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" in 1975 and in "As Good As It Gets" in 1998 for Best Actor. He also won Best Supporting Actor his role in "Terms Of Endearment" in 1984. Jack Nicholson made his directorial debut in the comedy drama called "Drive, He Said" in 1971. He made another comedy in 1978, this time in the form of a western genre in "Goin' South". His last directorial effort to date was "The Two Jakes" in 1990, a troubled sequel to "Chinatown" (1974) where he also reprised his famous private-eye role as J.J "Jake" Gittes. Despite its high-profile production, "The Two Jakes" was ill-received by the critics and flopped at the box office.

3. Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro (right) in the scene from "A Bronx Tale".

With 7 Oscar nominations and two wins, including Best Supporting Actor for "The Godfather: Part II" in 1974 and Best Actor for "Raging Bull" in 1980, Robert De Niro emerged as one of the greatest actors of the modern generation. Throughout his career, he was known mostly for playing gangster and intense role and often collaborated successfully with director Martin Scorsese in classic movies like "Taxi Driver" (1976), "Raging Bull", "Goodfellas" and "Cape Fear". He made his directorial debut in "A Bronx Tale" (1993), a 1960s-set gangster drama where he also starred alongside Chazz Palminteri. The movie was a minor success at the box office but many critics praised De Niro's robust direction. Despite his credibility behind the camera, it took him 13 years before he returned to the director's chair for the second time in "The Good Shepherd" in 2006. The star-studded drama, which chronicled the early history of the CIA organisation, received mixed reception and the US$90 million-budgeted movie barely covered back its huge production cost at the box office.

4. Sean Penn

Sean Penn (right) directs Emile Hirsch on the set of "Into The Wild".

A Hollywood bad boy during his younger days, Sean Penn had gone on to becoming a highly-acclaimed thespian with an equally successful career as an actor and a director. Throughout his acting career, he had been nominated five times beginning with "Dead Man Walking" in 1995, and won two acting Oscars for "Mystic River" in 2003 and "Milk" in 2009. As a director, his movies were often challenging and thought-provoking dramas including "The Indian Runner" (1991), "The Crossing Guard" (1995), "The Pledge" (2001) and "Into The Wild" (2007).

5. George Clooney

"Matt Damon (left) and George Clooney (right)".

George Clooney first got his big break playing the handsome Dr. Doug Ross in TV's medical drama "ER" from 1994 till 2009. After a successful career in the television, he made a smooth transition as a movie actor playing the charming criminal Seth Gecko in Robert Rodriguez's cult classic of the modern vampire-western hybrid, "From Dusk Till Dawn" in 1996. In 2005, he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in the political drama "Syriana". Apart from acting, he also had a respectable career in directing. His directorial debut in a crime comedy called "Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind" (2002) was an ambitious, if lacklustre movie featuring a star-making performance by then-unknown Sam Rockwell. However, his directing skill improved greatly with his sophomore effort in the Oscar-nominated black-and-white drama "Good Night, And Good Luck" in 2005. His third directorial effort in the football comedy-drama, "Leatherheads" in 2008 wasn't particularly well received, but he managed to bounce back with a thought-provoking political drama in "The Ides Of March" in 2011. George Clooney's latest directorial effort to date was the WWII heist drama, "The Monuments Men". Released last year in 2014, the movie was originally set to be a potential Oscar contender, but despite the star-studded cast and the movie's position as a "prestige picture", it didn't turn out as good as expected.

Writer: Casey Chong



Related Movies
The Monuments Men (20 Feb 2014)
The Water Diviner (29 Jan 2015)


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