December 4, 2003

Take One

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During his legendary career, Clint Eastwood has never been satisfied with simply acting. 1971 was the year in which he spoke one of the most famous lines in the history of cinema as Dirty Harry (watch the movie if you don’t know what I’m talking about); however, it was also the year he directed his first film, the suspenseful thriller Play Misty for Me. Later, Eastwood would direct films like Unforgiven, the Best Picture of 1992, and Absolute Power. Not so surprisingly, the vigorous 73-year old found the energy to be the man in charge of Mystic River. A recently released, critically acclaimed drama, River stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, and Kevin Bacon as friends reunited after 25 years by a police investigation into the murder of Penn’s daughter. Eastwood is undoubtedly one to have made it fashionable and admirable for actors to explore their interests in producing and directing.

Like Eastwood, Mel Gibson directed a Best Picture winner, garnering lofty praise for Braveheart. Yet remarkably, he has not tried directing since. Until now. His extremely controversial film The Passion details the final hours leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ; the film’s release continues to be delayed because of controversy regarding the storyline. Gibson also recently produced Paparazzi, now in post-production, the story of an over-zealous photographer who goes too far. The former Lethal Weapon star has not abandoned acting entirely, however, as he is set to star in the action adventure Mad Max: Fury Road as “Mad” Max Rockatansky, a role he originally played way back in 1979.

Other actors have not wasted any time diving into the behind the scenes production of films. Not only did Matt Damon and Ben Affleck write Good Will Hunting very early in their career, but they also co-produced the unique TV series Project Greenlight and are now the executive producers for the soon-to-be-released Turning it Over. While Affleck is still suffering from the effects of Gigli, Damon, unquestionably the superior actor of the two, is slated to appear in a sequel to The Bourne Identity and also in the much-anticipated Ocean’s Twelve, alongside George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, and the rest of the original cast. The aforementioned Clooney is another actor-turned-filmmaker. Already having produced Insomnia and Far From Heaven, Clooney will also produce Ocean’s Twelve, in which he reprises the role of Daniel Ocean, who this time attempts to pull off three major heists in London. Tom Cruise is another high profile actor involved in producing an upcoming sequel. Having already produced the first two installments of the Mission: Impossible series and despite planning to produce seven films over the next three years, the Syracuse, NY native will produce Mission: Impossible 3 as well.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with some famous actors sticking to their original talents. Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt are among many who have never really tried producing or directing. Also, aside from Band of Brothers and That Thing You Do, Tom Hanks (who has had the luxury of being directed by Steven Spielberg instead) has stayed away from much producing or directing of his own, though he now is set to produce several films over the next three years. Kevin Spacey, who many say is as enigmatic as some of the characters he has played, and who has had a career spanning almost twenty years, will direct for the first time next year. The film is entitled Beyond the Sea, and it tells the intriguing tale of singer Bobby Darin. Sean Connery, on the other hand, was almost thirty years into his famed acting career before he tried producing for the first time, for the 1992 film Medicine Man. The former James Bond also produced The Rock, Finding Forrester, and the recent failure The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Certainly, the trend to direct as well as act is not simply due to a need for power or control, but instead because of a genuine desire to be involved in all aspects of the creative project. It’s the same reason why Hitchcock, Scorsese, Tarantino, and even Spielberg like to do cameos in some of the films they direct. Eastwood understood at an early age that what happens behind the camera is probably even more important than what happens on screen, and that if you’re involved with the various aspects of creating art, then you’re all the more satisfied when it’s finished. Thanks to people like him, simultaneously having a hand in different facets of moviemaking is justifiably applauded.

Archived article by Avash Kalra