Movie Article

Director Effect

What's the best movie ever directed by an actor? Owen Gleiberman answers this and other reader questions

Robert Duvall, The Apostle | PREACHER MAN Duvall don't need no stairway, he's got a bus
Image credit: The Apostle: Van Redin
PREACHER MAN Duvall don't need no stairway, he's got a bus

What's the best movie ever directed by an actor?

What is the best movie ever directed by an actor? --Robert
Actors who step behind the camera bring a distinct advantage to movies that is also, quite often, a disadvantage. They understand other actors better than almost anyone else, and the result is that they tend to conceive of a film as a glorified performers’ showcase, without enough of the flow and shape that a story needs. That was true, I would argue, in John Cassavetes’ celebrated, quasi-improvised character studies or in a picture like Warren Beatty’s Reds (1981). Here, however, are four exceptions. Marlon Brando’s sole directorial effort, the 1961 Western One-Eyed Jacks, has a captivating grandeur cut with intimacy and rage. Robert Redford dug deep inside himself to stage the suburban catharsis of Ordinary People (1980), and Steve Buscemi’s Trees Lounge (1996) is a superb tale of booze, lost youth, and Long Island. To finally address your question, I’d say that the greatest film ever directed by an actor is Robert Duvall’s The Apostle (1997), a masterly study of a modern tent-show preacher torn -- sublimely -- between grace and sin.

(Got a movie-related question for Lisa or Owen? Post it here.)

Originally posted Sep 24, 2004 Published in issue #785 Sep 24, 2004 Order article reprints
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