50 Greatest Actors Turned Directors

Stars who stepped behind the camera

Dexter Fletcher

The Actor: Generations of Brits have grown up with Fletcher's cheeky chappy persona, via Bugsy Malone , TV's Press Gang and Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels .

The Director: Fletcher seemed an unlikely choice to achieve success as a director but has silenced his critics with the swift 1-2 of Wild Bill and Sunshine On Leith .

Acting Vs Directing: Fletcher's C.V. is united by a single thread - likeability. No wonder he managed to avoid Brit-grit clichés in Wild Bill , and then make a hit with a musical about The Proclaimers.

Bobcat Goldthwait

The Actor: Can't place him? All we need to say is, "he played Zed in the Police Academy films," and now you can't get his strangulated voice and mad hair out of your mind.

The Director: If you thought Zed was weird, check out his directorial debut, Sleeping Dogs Lie , about a woman who gets into trouble for admitting a youthful act of bestiality.

Acting Vs Directing: Zed's dead, baby, Zed's dead. With World's Greatest Dad and God Bless America , Goldthwait is becoming one of American cinema's most interesting satirists.

Kasi Lemmons

The Actor: Not a household name, but Lemmons impressed as a reliable character actress in the likes of Candyman and The Silence Of The Lambs , in which she played Clarice Starling's best friend, Ardelia Mapp.

The Director: Lemmons made her acclaimed debut, Eve's Bayou , in 1997 and scored a modest hit with Don Cheadle vehicle Talk To Me , positioning her as a smart and perceptive chronicler of black America.

Acting Vs Directing: Whether in front of or behind the camera, Lemmons is talented but unassuming - and probably the best kept secret on this list.

Paul Bartel

The Actor: A longstanding associate of Roger Corman, Bartel brought his waspish, witty presence to independent hits like Rock 'N' Roll High School before scene-stealing cameos in Gremlins 2 and The Usual Suspects .

The Director: Bartel's subversive humour made him a natural for the 'midnight movie' crowd, especially in Death Race 2000 and Eating Raoul .

Acting Vs Directing: Bartel is funny in other people's movies, but he's hilarious in his own.

Julie Delpy

The Actor: French star who seemed destined for art-house success after Three Colours: White before becoming an unexpected icon of American indie cinema thanks to Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise .

The Director: After being Oscar-nominated for co-writing Before Sunset , Delpy has made a run of similarly low-key, talky affairs like 2 Days In Paris and its New York-bound sequel.

Acting Vs Directing: While her directorial style is clearly influenced by Linklater, the character she has established across the Before and 2 Days series - quirky, bordering on manic - seems very much her own creation.

Tim Robbins

The Actor: Robbins began as a bit-part player in teen comedies before hitting his stride as The Player , before The Shawshank Redemption catapulted him into cinematic immortality.

The Director: The same year as The Player , Robbins' unleashed his political satire Bob Roberts before shepherding long-term partner Susan Sarandon to an Oscar in Dead Man Walking .

Acting Vs Directing: Robbins hasn't directed a film since 1999's Cradle Will Rock , although he's active in theatre and on TV shows like Treme . He's been relatively quiet on-screen too, certainly since winning an Oscar for his role in Mystic River .

Richard Ayoade

The Actor: Cambridge-educated comedian with a flair for playing geeks. TV stardom awaited as Moss in The I.T. Crowd .

The Director: Ayoade brought a refreshing blend of childish comedy and hip art-house influences to his debut, Submarine .

Acting Vs Directing: With The I.T. Crowd now over and his Hollywood acting career stalling with The Watch , it is likely that Ayoade's directorial promise will be fulfilled, not least by his eagerly anticipated second film, The Double .

Sean Penn

The Actor: Wild child who had a reputation for trouble even before he married Madonna, but who gradually showcased a range and depth to warrant the attention he received, in films like Colors and Casualties Of War .

The Director: 1991 debut The Indian Runner was based on a song by Bruce Springsteen, and subsequent films The Crossing Guard , The Pledge and Into The Wild have furrowed the same intense furrow.

Acting Vs Directing: The persona of Penn as serious and self-important (as seen in Team America: World Police ) probably owes more to his directorial style than his acting, where - contrary to popular belief - he is capable of cracking a smile. See: Fast Times At Ridgemont High or Milk .

Sarah Polley

The Actor: Canadian child actress who impressed in The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen before embarking on an interesting indie-flavoured career ( The Sweet Hereafter , Splice ) mixed in with the occasional multiplex hit ( Dawn Of The Dead ).

The Director: A specialist at emotionally complex relationship dramas after Away From Her and Take This Waltz , she has extended the same theme to her own family in documentary Stories We Tell .

Acting Vs Directing: Still only 34, Polley is one of the most promising directors around and this could be her future path… although her youth means there's also plenty of time for her to bloom as a character actor.

Thomas McCarthy

The Actor: Jobbing supporting player who appeared in bit parts in the likes of Meet The Parents and The Guru .

The Director: McCarthy's debut, The Station Agent , was a huge audience hit at Sundance and went on to a BAFTA for McCarthy's screenplay.

Acting Vs Directing: McCarthy is still in demand as an actor and has worked with Peter Jackson and Roland Emmerich. But he remains far better known as a director, with The Visitor and Win Win confirming him as a distinctive voice in independent cinema.