Everyone's a filmmaker


Not all filmmakers are to the celluloid born, as this selection of Johnny-come-lately directors makes apparent. These twelve individuals, all successful and in most cases better known in other fields, have dipped a toe (or two or ten) into the filmmaking waters, with diverse results.

Not surprisingly, Stephen King, whose books have leant themselves to numerous film adaptations over the decades, was once drawn to directing. In 1986 he attempted to film Maximum Overdrive, but the product was disappointing, due to spending the filming “coked out of [his] mind.” Novelist Norman Mailer became notorious for selecting an admittedly poor take of Ryan O’Neal repeating, “Oh, man! Oh, God!” in his film Tough Guys Don’t Dance, adapted from his own novel. Reviews were mixed at the time, but the scene won Mailer a Razzie in 1988 and lives on as an internet meme today.

A more successful venture into cinema was undertaken by comics writer/artist Frank Miller, whose arm was twisted by veteran filmmaker Robert Rodriguez into co-directing the 2005 adaptation of his own graphic novel, Sin City. The outcome met with a strong positive reception.

Some music professionals have tried their hand at directing as well. Music producer Lou Adler became a cult movie stimulus in the 1970s, first by shifting his production focus to the screen with The Rocky Horror Picture Show and then by directing Cheech and Chong’s stoner classic, Up in Smoke.

Singer/songwriter/guitarist/artist John Mellencamp added two more slashes to his string of proven talents by directing and starring in 1992’s Falling From Grace, centering on a country music star returning home. Pop superstar Madonna, meanwhile, migrated her uneven acting career to the other side of the camera for a pair of films that received a similarly uneven critical response. If Filth and Wisdom and W.E. have inspired some to quip that Madonna shouldn’t quit her day job, they needn’t worry: she has no interest in giving up the music biz.

Eclectic multi-tasker Andrew Jarecki, television composer and business founder, turned to documentary filmmaking when AOL purchased his enterprise, Moviefone, for a bundle in 1999. He began by exploring the world of children’s entertainers and came upon the unsettling story captured in his acclaimed Capturing the Friedmans. In contrast to others profiled here, filmmaking was Jeff Probst’s first goal.

Hosting the long-running reality series Survivor was initially a detour. A year into the hosting gig, production on Finder’s Fee took place, but it was back to the tropics for Probst since. Fashion designer and sometime mainstay of the Gucci fashion house Tom Ford brought Christopher Isherwood’s novel A Single Man to the screen. The 1960s-era film about a gay man mourning his partner’s death provided Colin Firth with a role that drove him straight to an Oscar nomination in 2010.

Finally, artistic vision need not restrict itself to a single medium. Sculptor and photographer Steve McQueen—no relation to his actor namesake—has been making films as part of art pieces since 1993, but 2008’s Hunger, his first theatrical release, became the festival favorite that may just propel him into a new phase of his career.

Art dealer Arne Glimcher spent the 1980s producing films before he was inspired to take the directing reins with The Mambo Kings in 1992. His interests in art and film continue to intersect in his more recent project, Picasso and Braque Go To the Movies. Painter Julian Schnabel likewise launched his filmmaking career through inspiration from the world of art, with Basquiat. Before Night Falls and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, as well, secured Schnabel’s reputation as a deeply talented director.


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