Bradley Cooper and 12 other successful actors-turned-directors

Bradley Cooper had been a director for approximately five minutes when people began buzzing about his Oscar potential. When A Star is Born first debuted at TIFF in the fall, all people could talk about was Cooper’s ~discovery~ of Lady Gaga, both their performances in the film and, of course, how he could be looking at an Academy Award for his directorial debut.

Though Gaga and the movie itself got Oscar nods, Cooper didn’t get a Best Director nom—a bit of a bummer for all those Cooper stans out there—but hey, eight Oscar noms ain’t bad for your first time out.

Cooper definitely isn’t the only actor to make the leap from in front of the camera to behind it and impress. Check out these 12 other actors-turned-director who prove some people really can do it all!

1. Jordan Peele

Peele, like Cooper, seemed to shoot straight from onscreen actor to critically-acclaimed director in the span of a single awards season. One moment he was cracking jokes with his Key & Peele pal Keegan-Michael Key and the next he was making incisive social commentary while simultaneously scaring us silly with Get Out. Peele earned an Oscar nom (and a win for writing!) his first time in the director’s chair and his upcoming film, Us, starring Lupita Nyong’o, looks like he's poised for more accolades with his second.

2. Greta Gerwig

Greta first stretched her director muscles in 2008 with the indie film Nights and Weekends but it wasn’t until last year’s Lady Bird that she really made her mark. The film garnered five Oscar nominations and won two Golden Globes including Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical. Her next venture is Little Women starring Lady Bird’s Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet, Emma Watson and it's safe to say expectation is high.

3. Ben Affleck

Now here is someone who knows exactly what Bradley Cooper is going through. Affleck’s film Argo was nominated for an Oscar in 2013, yet he was noticeably absent from the Best Director ballot (though he won the Golden Globe). The omission was made all the more noticeable when the film won Best Picture and Affleck accepted the award as a producer but didn’t even get a nod for directing.

4. Jon Favreau

You may know Jon Favreau as Tony Stark’s stoic head of security, but he’s also the director behind some of your favourite films including Elf, the live-action The Jungle Book and both Iron Man and Iron Man 2. Right now, he’s hard at work on the much-anticipated live-action The Lion King starring Donald Glover and Beyoncé.

5. Kenneth Branagh

It would seem Marvel likes hiring actors-turned-director. Kenneth Branagh directed the first Thor movie and his credits just get more random from there. He’s a classically trained Shakespearean actor and directed quite a few adaptations of Shakespeare plays but he also helmed the recent live-action Cinderella, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and 2017's Murder on the Orient Express.

6. Clint Eastwood

Is there an actor-director more famous for starring in his own movies? Clint Eastwood has been acting since 1955 and made his directorial debut in the ‘70s with Play Misty for Me which he also—you guessed it—starred in. He’s won two Oscars for his directing (for Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby) and his 2014 film American Sniper (starring Cooper) won Best Picture. Eastwood is still at it at 88 with his 2018 film, The Mule (which, yes, he also stars in) and you may have heard of thanks to Pete Davidson and John Mulaney's SNL bit.

7. Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster might still be more famous for her acting than directing, but considering she took a seat in the director's chair for the first time way back in 1991 with Little Man Tate, she's proven herself as a dextrous artist. In recent years, you might have seen her work and not realized it since she's helped episodes of House of Cards. Orange is the New Black as well as the “Arkangel” episode of Black Mirror. She most notably took her talents to the big screen in 2016 with Money Monster starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts.

8. George Clooney

Speaking of George Clooney, good ol’ George has also periodically dipped behind the camera, including last year’s Suburbicon starring Matt Damon and Julianne Moore. He also took the liberty of starring in some of his own projects including The Ides of March with Ryan Gosling and The Monuments Men, also with Damon.

9. Robert Redford

Robert Redford may have retired as an actor, then recanted, but even if his days onscreen are numbered, he had an impressive directing CV to fall back on. Over his decades in the industry, he’s dabbled in directing, bringing us such film juggernauts as Ordinary People (his Oscar-winning directorial debut) and Quiz Show (for which he was nominated). He most recently participated in the documentary Cathedrals of Culture.

10. Ron Howard

Ron Howard may be almost exclusively a director now (apart from his spectacular work on Arrested Development) but before he was “Ron Howard: Director,” he was “Ronny Howard: Actor.” Ever heard of Happy Days? Howard made a name for himself on the iconic sitcom before becoming a revered director and even tied with co-star Henry Winkler in 1978 with both winning the Golden Globe for Best Comedy Actor in a TV Series. Winkler may be the real comedy star now (with an Emmy win this year for Barry) but Howard does have a Best Director Oscar for A Beautiful Mind.

11. Ben Stiller

Another funny-man turned director, Ben Stiller is now pretty well known for stepping behind the camera to direct some of his biggest comedies including Zoolander, Zoolander 2 and Tropic Thunder. Recently, he’s branched into drama with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and last year’s mini-series Escape at Dannemora, which was nominated for a Golden Globe, and earned Patricia Arquette the Best Actress Globe and a SAG Award.

12. Sarah Polley

Canadian actress-director Sarah Polley is probably best known for appearing in The Sweet Hereafter and My Life Without Me, but her greatest critical achievement is her 2009 film, Away From Her. Polley was nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar and star Julie Christie won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama. Recently, she's taken to producing and is one of the brains behind the TV adaptation of the Margaret Atwood book, Alias Grace.

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