As a film director wannabe, I tend to follow the careers of professional filmmakers. To me,they’re more interesting than movie stars. Yes, I’m one of the few people who doesn’t really care about stars. Years ago, I met Tom Cruise in person and all I said to him was how much I enjoyed his films and didn’t even ask for his autograph or take a picture with him, even though he’s my favorite actor. But if I ever run into Spielberg, Nolan, Fincher, Tarantino or Scorsese, I’d probably be excited and try to talk to them about their films and the movie-making business.
Movie-making is a tough business to get into and that’s why it’s kind of sad when I see some promising filmmakers career never took off or just go down the toilet. Maybe because they made some bad choices by choosing to direct a certain film or just have bad agents, their career is not once what it used to be. Below are some directors whom I thought had great promise when they burst into the scene but somehow they never became a household name like Nolan or Tarantino.
1. John Singleton
He first film was a success, Boyz n the Hood, he’s only in his early 20s when he made it. Not only was he a young successful director but he’s one of the few African American directors working in Hollywood at the time. Instead of jumping into doing big budget production, he decided to stick with small budget dramas for his next few films. Then he made his first big budget film in 2000, a semi-sequel/remake of Shaft.
Apparently he had ran into a lot of problems while shooting the film, he fought with his star Sam Jackson constantly on the set and didn’t agree with tone of the film with producer Scott Rudin. The movie was a mild success and many thought Singleton would keep making big action pictures. Well his next film was another low budget drama, Baby Boy, it didn’t jell with critics or audiences. He decided to jump back into another big budget action film by directing 2 Fast 2 Furious, the worst in the series in my opinion. The film turned out to be his most successful yet at the box office.
After 2 Fast 2 Furious’ success, I thought for sure Singleton would be on his way to becoming one of the A-list directors in Hollywood. Well that never happened, his next film was an action drama, Four Brothers, it’s kind of weird movie that I’m still scratching my head as to why it even got green lighted by the studio and released in the summer time. Now, the film didn’t bomb at the box office but somehow Singleton’s career went downhill fast. During this time, he was attached to direct the long in development Without Remorse, a film based on Tom Clancy’s excellent novel. Of course the film never got made and Singleton’s last film was the atrocious looking, Abduction, an action (comedy?) starring that boy from the Twilight films [Taylor Lautner]. I do hope he makes a comeback someday because I like him as director.
2. Neil Jordan
When his film The Crying Game became a hit here in the States, Jordan name was everywhere in Hollywood and he took an offer to direct a big budget adaption of Anne Rice’s popular novel, Interview with a Vampire. The film was a hit at the box office but instead of directing another big budget tentpole type of film, he decided to make a more personal film, Michael Collins. It didn’t click with the critics and not many people went to see it in theater. After Michael Collins, Jordan’s career sort of mellowed out and he didn’t make another big budget film until 2007’s The Brave One, a female version of Death Wish that I thoroughly enjoyed. I didn’t see any of his films after The Brave One but I’m curious about Byzantium.
I really like Jordan’s directing style and wish he’d tackle other genre, like sci-fi or action/espionage. I don’t know if he’ll ever make a comeback and reach the status as he did with The Crying Game and Interview with the Vampire. I sure hope so because the man is very talented.
3. Curtis Hanson
Hanson has been in the movie business for a long time but he didn’t get any recognition until he made L.A. Confidential in 1997. The movie scored big with critics, got a lot of Oscar nominations and was a hit at the box office. After the film’s success, Hanson’s name was everywhere in Hollywood and he got offer to do a lot of big films but he decided to make a small drama, Wonder Boys, as his next film. It’s a very underrated movie, I really enjoyed it but somehow it never garner the attention like L.A. Confidential.
A couple of years later he made a huge come back with 8 Mile starring the then hugely popular rapper Eminem. Now I think the film’s success was mostly because of Eminem’s popularity, not because of Hanson’s work. But the film was good and I though Hanson did a great job with the material. He then tried his hands at romantic/comedy in In Her Shoes, the film got some good reviews but it didn’t click with the audience.
His next film may have been his downfall, the romantic/drama Lucky You was supposed to be his next big hit. But after some bad test screenings, the studio kept pushing the release date back. Finally they decided to open it on the same day as Spider-man 3 and of course it got crushed. His last film, Chasing Mavericks, was another dud starring the king of romantic/comedy bombs, Gerard Butler. I’m not sure if Hanson will ever make a comeback again, the kind of films he likes to direct aren’t popular anymore at the box office, unless he tries his hands at popular genre like sci-fi, action/spy or comic book, he may never gain the attention like he used to back in the late 90s.
4. Walter Hill
Hill is one of my favorite directors, here’s a man who was responsible for some of the great action films of the late 70s and early 80s. The Warriors, The Driver (if you’re a fan of Drive, you’ll like this one), The Long Riders, 48Hrs, Extreme Prejudice and Southern Comfort are some of his best work. He was on his way to becoming an A-list director but a film called Streets of Fire put a stop to that. The film was a big budget (for its time) rock ‘n roll action adventure that studio hoped would spawn many sequels. Unfortunately it tanked at the box office and Hill’s career never really recover. He continued to make action films throughout the 80s, 90s and 2000s but none of them were hits.
To be fair, some of the films he made were pretty bad, Wild Bill, Last Man Standing and Supernova were some good examples. Don’t waste your time on those films. I haven’t seen his last film, Bullet to the Head, but from what I read it’s another one of his bad films. Not many people know this but he’s one of the producers of the Alien franchise and at one point he’s going to direct Alien 3 before David Fincher was hired. I’m not sure if Hill will ever make another great film, seems to me he sort of gotten lazy and don’t care about his work anymore.
5. Mimi Leder
Leder’s been doing TV work for a while and then got a chance of lifetime by directing Dreamworks’ studio first big action film, The Peacemaker. Apparently Spielberg was so impressed with her work on the TV show E.R. that he personally offered her the gig. The film wasn’t a big hit but it got her to direct another big film, 1998’s Deep Impact, it’s one of the biggest hits of the summer. After Deep Impact‘s success, I thought for sure she’s be doing more tent pole type of films. But she decided to do a drama, Pay It Forward, it was ravaged by critics and many people hated it, especially the downer of an ending. After this film’s failure, she went back and only work on TV series.
It’s a shame that Leder never got a chance to make more action movies since she’s one of the few female directors in Hollywood and she knows how to shoot good action scenes. That climax in The Peacemaker was one of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen.
I didn’t want to put him on the list because it’s too obvious but M. Night Shyamalan‘s career has been on the downhill slide ever since TIME magazine put him on the cover and called him the next Steven Spielberg. Well as we all know that statement turned out to be WRONG! After I saw The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, I thought he’s one of the great young directors at the time. I didn’t mind Signs like some people did, but then he made the atrocious The Village followed by an even more atrocious film, Lady in the Water. I skipped The Happening and The Last Airbender because they looked so bad and I already gave up on him. He’s now on my list of hack directors working in Hollywood today. His newest film, After Earth, doesn’t look too appealing to me and [surprise, surprise] it underperformed again at the box office.
Is there any hope for M. Night to make another good movie? I don’t know, he’s still relatively young and obviously Hollywood studios don’t mind footing the bills for his films. But I think he needs to work with some good writers and only handle the directing part.
What do you think folks? Are you a fan of any of the directors I mentioned? Feel free to comment below.