It’s not uncommon for an artist to try different avenues in their ongoing attempt to express themselves. For instance, David Lynch started out as a painter before ever picking up a camera. Tom Ford was one of the fashion industry's biggest designers before directing the Oscar-nominated film A Simple Man.
But it’s not always the case that being artistic in one medium means excellence in another. A person can even be considered a legend in his particular area of artistry, but completely ignorant when introduced to another. Such is the case with some of the world’s greatest actors. It may seem that choosing to being a prolific actor would make directing a movie a breeze by osmosis alone, but this has proven to not always be the case.
Here is a list of 15 great actors who should have stayed in front of the camera and far away from the director’s chair.
15 Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey used to be known as the creepy character actor from films like The Usual Suspects and Se7en-- that is until 1999, when American Beauty came out. Spacey’s performance as the ill-fated Lester Burnham was deserving of every award he won for it and Hollywood seemed hellbent on getting him more. From the American Beauty-esque Pay it Forward to his turn as an Oakley-wearing alien in K-Pax, but it was time for a change.
In 2004 Spacey decided to pull a Mel Gibson and direct and star in his own biopic about 1950s crooner Bobby Darin, entitled Beyond the Sea. Now, this could’ve made sense because Spacey actually looks a lot like Bobby Darin-- minus maybe a decade or two. See, Darin never lived past the age of 37 and here we had a 44-year old Spacey playing him as early as his 20s.
The film was plagued from the get-go, taking 17 years to complete. Beyond the Sea went through six writers, with some petitioning the Writer’s Guild to have their names taken off the project.
Beyond the Sea proved to be a disaster making only $6 million of its $23 million budget back.
14 Laurence Fishburne
Just like artists, some pieces of work are successful in one medium, but not always in another. Countless popular novels have been adapted to the big screen and completely bombed at the box office. And let’s not get started on video games movies. Plays have always been a popular medium to adapt to the big screen with many doing well. But that’s not always the case.
Among playing memorable roles in films like The Matrix and Boyz n the Hood, Laurence Fishburne has proven to be a top-notch actor, but many don’t know that he also writes and directs plays as well. One such play is Riff-Raff, about two brothers trapped in a crack house after a drug deal goes sour. The play did well off-Broadway and, coming from a film background, Fishburne thought it would do well in movie houses, so he adapted it into a feature film entitled Once in the Life.
But one-room movies are a tricky thing to pull off. The lack of space often means there’s little for actors to do unless of course zombies are involved. The film was bashed for not effectively making the transition from stage to screen.
13 Eddie Murphy
Before Eddie Murphy was putting on fat suits and starring in Disney movies, he was the biggest name in comedy. The comedy icon's career boasts a Grammy-winning comedy album, roles in classic films like Coming to America and Trading Places, and maybe his greatest achievement, the 1985 R&B hit “Party All the Time”. Murphy was influenced to follow a career in stand-up after growing up listening to his idol, the legendary Richard Pryor. So in 1989, he decided it was time to work with his long-time idol and cast him in his directorial debut, the comedy period piece Harlem Nights.
Harlem Nights actually had a lot going for it. In addition to Richard Pryor, Murphy also managed to lock down comedy icon Red Foxx, resulting in three generations of celebrated African-American comics... and Arsenio Hall. Despite all it had going for it, Harlem Nights was nominated for two Golden Raspberry Awards, one for Worst Director and the other for Worst Screenplay. Murphy later would admit that not enough attention was put into his first and only directorial effort, remarking that he was more interested in finding the next party than focusing on set.
12 Andy Garcia
Passion projects can be tricky sometimes. When a director is so invested in the creation of a film, they can wait years until the timing is just right. James Cameron waited 15 years before Avatar could be released in theaters. Martin Scorsese waited 24 years before attempting to make Gangs of New York. This level of dedication often translates into the creation of a solid movie, but that’s not always the case.
In 1961, Andy Garcia’s family moved from Havana, Cuba to Miami, Florida shortly after the Bay of Pigs invasion. A piece of Havana never left Garcia. In 2005, Garcia directed his love letter to 1950’s Cuba; The Lost City, about the violent upheaval that occurred when Fidel Castro took over.
The film took 16 years to finally get off the ground. Initially, Garcia’s first draft of the script was over 300 pages long, which in the world of screenplays makes it a bit shorter than the entire Oxford English Dictionary. After edits, the film still clocked in at a whopping two and a half hours.
Despite all the time it took Garcia to make the film, it was still panned by critics.
11 Roberto Benigni
Roberto Benigni was a virtual unknown in the states but a celebrated comedian in his home country of Italy. That was until a little foreign film by the name of Life is Beautiful made its way stateside and touched the hearts of millions. As a result, The Academy decided to award Benigni with an Oscar for Best Foreign Film and Best Actor. It was then that Westerners got their first hint that they may be dealing with a complete madman. After nearly trampling the poor guests in front of him and hopscotching up the stage like a kangaroo on cocaine, Benigni decided he’d complete his lifelong dream of directing and starring in a live-action version of Pinocchio.
The idea might not have been bad had Benigni decided to play the role of Geppetto. No, instead this 50-year-old actor decided to rosy up his cheeks and play the role of the little wooden puppet who wants nothing more than to be a real boy.
Pinocchio proved to be Italy’s most expensive film and biggest flop, costing a total of $45 million to make.
10 Dan Aykroyd
Dan Aykroyd is a true triple threat. He has provided us with laughs from his years on Saturday Night Live, he’s credited with writing one of the greatest comedies of all time (Ghostbusters), and he distils his very own vodka which comes in a really cool bottle that doubles as a Halloween decoration. With such talent, you would think directing would come naturally to him, but along with so many other actors who tried their luck behind the camera, this comedian was one and done.
In 1991 Aykroyd released Nothing but Trouble a film so hated by famed critic Roger Ebert that he refused to waste precious time even writing a review for it. At the surface, Nothing but Trouble seems like it should be a great comedy. Along with Aykroyd, it stars the comedic trifecta that is Chevy Chase and John Candy-- which should make the perfect recipe for a solid movie. Instead, Nothing but Trouble feels like what you would get if Rob Zombie tried his hand at straight comedy while still continuing to copy everything Tobe Hooper did before him.
The film was a monumental flop which cost studios over $30 million.
9 William Shatner
You would think that after 23 years of playing arguably the most popular captain in all of Starfleet, William Shatner would be able to deliver a Star Trek movie fans would go crazy over. Instead, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier plays like a hollow offering from a man who is beginning to resent the very franchise that made him a household name in the first place. Although Star Trek V is not the only dud in the franchise’s theatrical offerings, it may be the most haphazard.
Watch as the crew of the Starship Enterprise follow Spock’s wacky half-brother, Sybock, on a quest to find God himself at the center of the galaxy... Because where else would he be?
Other fun moments include Montgomery Scott’s attempt at slapstick comedy and a sensual, moonlight dance number by Nichelle Nichols.
Although fans did come out to make Star Trek V a success, the film still stands as a black eye on the franchise and is the lowest rated Star Trek film on Rotten Tomatoes.
8 Kevin Bacon
Kevin Bacon is many things, an actor, a singer, and as proven in the 1984 musical drama, Footloose, one fine dancer. But all these achievements might pale in comparison to his dedication to his family. Of the made-for-TV movies, theatrical features, and television series he’s directed, all of them have starred his long-time wife Kyra Sedgwick. But in the case of 2006’s Loverboy, he made it a true family affair, basically casting the entire Bacon clan.
Loverboy is about an obsessive mother played by Sedgwick, in a film critics called, “A creepy misfire” which will make you, “want to bolt from your seat and call Child Protective Services.”
Aside from wife Kyra in the lead role, Kevin also stars alongside daughter Sosie and son Travis Bacon. Kevin’s brother Michael Bacon provided the score, and in an attempt to keep cool with the in-laws, Kyra’s brother Robert Sedwick also makes an appearance in the film.
7 Mark Ruffalo
In The Avengers, Bruce Banner (played by Mark Ruffalo), states that the secret to controlling his alter ego, the Hulk, is that he’s always angry. But if Ruffalo’s many appearances on talk shows are any indication to his actual demeanor, he’s a laid back, deep thinking, and caring artist who seems like he’d also be a great drinking buddy.
In 2011, Ruffalo decided it was time to branch out into directing by releasing his debut film, Sympathy for Delicious. The film is about a promising DJ by the name of Delicious D who is involved in a tragic motorcycle accident that leaves him without the use of his legs. As a result, he watches his music career fade away, until he realizes he has the ability to magically heal others, but not himself.
The film’s unconvincing plot and faith-based movie vibe didn’t strike a chord with critics or audiences. The film took in a mere $13,000 at the box office.
6 Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando is probably the most celebrated American actor in film history, with iconic performances in Streetcar Names Desire, On the Waterfront, and The Godfather. He wrote the famous Horror Monologue he performed in Apocalypse Now which is arguably the film’s most memorable scene. So it would stand to reason that a man so deeply expressive and artistic would be able to make one hell of a film.
One-Eyed Jacks was originally set to be directed by Stanley Kubrick, but after the famed auteur dropped out, Marlon Brando jumped at the chance to take over.
Brando’s inexperience behind the camera was immediately apparent. He was indecisive, which resulted in a ton of footage being shot. Ultimately, he had shot over five hours of footage before he was eventually taken off the film by Paramount.
Although One-Eyed Jacks performed well at the box office, the amount of money Brando added to the overall budget made the film a financial disaster for Paramount. In an attempt to settle his debt with the company, Brando agreed to play in 5 films for Paramount, all of which performed badly.
5 Anthony Hopkins
Anthony Hopkins is a classically trained actor who has over 130 credits to his name. He’s played sadistic characters such as Hannibal Lecter as well as an all-powerful god in the Thor movies. But before he was creating lifelike robots in HBO’s Westworld, Anthony Hopkins tried his hand at creating a full-length feature film by the name of Slipstream.
Hopkins wrote, starred, directed and scored this film about an aging screenwriter who’s stuck in a world between fantasy and reality. Soon the characters in his scripts begin to enter into his world-- and he, theirs. Hopkins claims he wrote the script initially for a good chuckle, saying, “I always wanted to poke fun at the movie business and the acting profession – they take themselves so seriously. I wanted to poke them in the nose."
Details about the budget of the film are murky, but it’s estimated to have a price tag of under $10 million. The film was ultimately bashed by critics and only made a total box office take of $27,000.
4 Jon Voight
In the 1970s, Jon Voight was at the top of his game. Since his monumental role in the film Midnight Cowboy, Voight went on to star is such classic films as Deliverance, Coming Home, and Heat.
Things have changed a bit for Voight since the '70s. Aside from winning a Golden Globe for his role in Showtime’s Ray Donovan, he’s kind of just known as Angelina Jolie’s dad who almost certainly argues about politics at Thanksgiving dinner.
In 1995, Jon Voight directed The Tin Soldier, a family film about a boy who falls into the wrong crowd and needs the help of a toy knight, played by Voight, to set him straight. The film was your cookie-cutter imaginary friend film, where a child’s magical buddy comes to life while everyone else around him thinks he’s crazy for talking to thin air.
Voight’s legendarily bad accents, made famous in films like Anaconda, are in full force here. It’s clear Voight can’t tell the difference between Irish and Scottish, but also can’t be bothered with such details.
3 Johnny Depp
When 2013’s The Lone Ranger came out, many pointed out that Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Tonto was a clear example of racial stereotyping and cultural appropriation. What many didn’t know was that this wasn’t Depp’s first time playing a Native American.
In 1997, Johnny Depp directed the film The Brave. In it, he plays a bandana-wearing Native American father who agrees to star in a snuff film in an attempt to give his family a better life. He’s given one final week to live where he chooses to make amends with the family he’s about to leave behind.
Oddly enough, the film also stars Marlon Brando, whose protesting of the incident at Wounded Knee prompted him to decline the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1973 and instead send actress and Native rights activist Sacheen Littlefeather in his stead.
American critics were so harsh at The Brave’s Cannes premiere that Depp refused to release the film in the US. To this day it has never been released in theaters or on DVD in the US.
2 Nicolas Cage
Nicolas Cage is kind of a loose cannon when it comes to his film roles. There are video compilations all over the internet dedicated to the many examples of his maniacal overacting. Then again, his performance in Leaving Las Vegas won him the Academy Award for Best Actor. To quote another acting great, Cage is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.
In 2002, Cage drew upon his inner Coppola, hoping the genetic trait for filmmaking would bless him as much as it had for uncle Francis and cousins Roman and Sophia. The film was called Sonny, and unfortunately, it proves that sometimes the apple does fall far from the tree.
Sonny is a film about a returning Army veteran (played by James Franco) who returns home to find his family in dire financial straits. Luckily his mother trained him in the age-old profession of prostitution and convinces him to join the family trade.
The film was destroyed by critics and only managed to make $30,000 worldwide.
1 Alec Baldwin (as Harry Kirkpatrick)
Let’s be honest, Alec is the best Baldwin. Sure, William may be second best, but it’s not a close second. Alec Baldwin has starred in some memorable films such as Beetlejuice, The Departed, and The Hunt for Red October. His striking good looks and smoky voice have carried him far in this biz. Even in his later years, he managed to reinvent himself as a comedian by playing the memorable Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock.
In 2001, Baldwin wanted to release his first directorial debut, The Devil and Daniel Webster, about a writer who sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for fame and fortune.
Due to financial difficulties, The Devil and Daniel Webster didn’t have enough budget to get through post-production. So there it sat, in limbo, for 5 years till it was purchased by The Yari Group in 2006 and renamed Shortcut to Happiness.
The film was apparently so different from his original vision that Alec demanded to have his credit changed to Harry Kirkpatrick as to not sully the good Baldwin name.
The film sits on a 44% on Rotten Tomatoes with one critic calling it, “such an utter train wreck you can't stop watching.”