Actors who made terrible directors

Idris Elba’s directorial debut Yardie is in UK cinemas today, and it’s a respectable effort.

Especially when you line it up against some of the previous attempts by actors to make the career move. For some, the director’s chair feels like a throne. For others, it creaks and topples over.

Today, we’re more interested in the latter. Here’s our selections for the worst actors turned directors of all time.

Nicolas Cage – Sonny (2002)

Cage’s career is already erratic before you add in his directorial debut – with his performances veering from sublime to the ridiculous. His first film is neither, it’s just a bit boring. Cage clearly didn’t enjoy the experience, it’s the only film he’s directed.

Still, there’s some good news – Tommy Wiseau is a fan, with James Franco’s central performance in Sonny the deciding factor when Wiseau gave his approval to let him star in The Disaster Artist. But we guess if the director of The Room is a fan of your work, maybe it’s best you don’t carry on with it.

Madonna – Filth & Wisdom (2008)

Madonna’s made two movies so far in her directorial career, one’s bad, one’s boring – and neither demonstrate any of the electric taste / vibrancy of her musical career.

The first, Filth & Wisdom, was released in 2008 and is essentially a pretentious flatshare drama. The second, W.E, is a bit more ambitious – but still forgettable, even if it does parallel the affair between King Edward VIII and American divorcée Wallis Simpson, with a contemporary romance between a married woman and a Russian security guard.

Angelina Jolie – In The Land Of Blood And Honey (2011)

While Jolie has arguably got better as she’s gone along (she’s made four features and one documentary), her debut fiction film is so bad it’s a miracle she got to have another chance to call ‘action.’ Despite an admirable ambition to throw light of the plight of Bosnia, a messy script, bad editing and dull composition adds up to a movie that has a 55% on Rotten Tomatoes – and even that score feels kind.

Joseph Gordon Levitt – Don Jon (2013)

The sort of movie critics love (80% on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences hate (58% on Rotten Tomatoes) Don Jon is clearly divisive – even if it’s hard to actually remember what happened in this tale of a porn addict’s attempts to find love.

To give him credit though, like Nic Cage, Gordon Levitt quickly realised the job wasn’t for him, and has only made one movie.

Keanu Reeves – Man Of Tai Chi (2013)

Keanu Reeves
Keanu Reeves

We love Keanu Reeves. We love The Matrix. We do not like Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut, which feels like a lo-fi Matrix (he knows kung fu), but with none of the fun. Again, Reeves only made one film and gave up, a decision which led to the existence of the John Wick series, so at least some good came out of it.

Eddie Murphy – Harlem Nights (1989)


Stand-up / Saturday Night Live icon Murphy was such a huge star in the ‘80s he was able to write, executive produce, and direct his debut feature. Sadly, he may have taken on one (or two, or three) too many roles. At just 25% on Rotten Tomatoes, the critical reaction was a major blow to Murphy’s career – he never directed again.

Johnny Depp – The Brave (1997)

A lot of people complained about Johnny Depp playing a Native American in The Lone Ranger, but it wasn’t the first time – but we can’t blame people for not knowing that fact, because no-one actually watched The Brave. That’s possibly because it’s a slow-paced dirge, with a plot that appears to be taking a Bill Hicks joke about snuff movie actors so seriously we’re not sure Depp understands comedy (more evidence: he thinks that The Fast Show is good as Monty Python).

Despite the fact The Brave seems to provide solid evidence that Depp’s a self-indulgent narcissist, at least he had the good sense to never pick up a camera again. Though if his current career carries on the same trajectory, we expect the announcement of The Brave 2 to be announced any day now.

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