This week sees the release of John Slattery’s directorial debut God’s Pocket. Slattery is better known for his on-screen skills, notably in television’s Mad Men, as well as roles in The Adjustment Bureau and Iron Man 2. John Slattery’s debut is the latest in a long line of actors who have stepped behind the camera following an already successful on-screen career. Here I take a look at previous directorial debuts…
Robert De Niro
After two decades and numerous acolades for his acting skills, Robert De Niro turned director in 1993 with A Bronx Tale. Critically successful if not a commercial smash, A Bronx Tale saw De Niro taking cues from his long-time collaborator Martin Scorsese in terms of themes and style. De Niro’s only other directing credit is The Good Shepherd (2006).
After starring in numerous high-profile movies and winning an Oscar for his writing, Ben Affleck’s directorial debut arrived in 2007 with Gone Baby Gone. The film was well-received, although Affleck’s directing skills may have flown under the radar in the UK at that time as the film was not released due to similarities to a high profile case. However if anyone was in doubt of Ben Affleck’s directing abilities, he displayed them ably in 2010’s The Town and 2012’s Argo, for which he was awarded the Best Director Oscar.
Former child star and Hollywood stalwart Drew Barrymore directed a documentary for television in 2004. However it was her feature debut Whip It in 2009 which brought her to the attention of critics and audiences as a director. Since then, Barrymore has only stretched her directing muscles with a Best Coast music video, featuring an array of young Hollywood talent.
Another former child actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt had reinvigorated his acting career with roles in 500 Days of Summer and Inception before turning his attention to directing. With a number of shorts under his belt, Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut came in 2013 with Don Jon, which he also wrote. Starring in the title role, Gordon-Levitt displayed a promising talent as filmmaker.
God’s Pocket is out in UK cinemas on 8th August 2014.
Like a phoenix risen from the ashes of Gigli and Jersey Girl, Ben Affleck lives up to his early promise with the accomplished crime thriller The Town. The film deserves its place at the top of the United States box office, and will most likely replicate this success when it is released in the UK this weekend.
Bank robber Doug McKray decides to befriend a woman who was taken hostage by his crew, to discover how much she has told police. When a relationship flourishes between the two, Doug finds it difficult to balance this new development with his life of crime…
Affleck proves himself to be a competent director with The Town. He appears as adept in directing big action sequences as he does with the quieter, more emotional scenes. The action scenes in particular are frenetic in their editing; cutting frequently between long shots, close-ups and different points of view. This goes a long way to generate the tension that runs throughout the film.
The Town deftly manoeuvres between the gritty reality of crime and poverty and a high-octane action movie. The film works well as it does not allow itself to get too entrenched in the pessimism of deprivation, yet at the same time has more depth than most run-of-the-mill action thrillers. To some, the romance between Doug and Claire may seem contrived, but it is integral in its function as a catalyst to propel the events that follow.
As protagonist Doug, Affleck is measured in revealing his feelings; maintaining a calm that make the spurts of aggression or emotion appear authentic and in-keeping with the character. There are the prerequisite shades of grey so ingrained in a character such as this. Neither wholly good nor bad, Doug weighs heavy with the burden of his actions but strives for something more than the Charlestown way.
Jeremy Renner is excellent as loose-cannon best friend Jem. Renner effectively portrays the violence of the character, thus illustrating a stark contrast between the outlook and ideals of the two best friends. Blake Lively gives an admirable performance as the sister of Jem, and sometime girlfriend of Doug. Lively exhibits a range greater than her Gossip Girl appearances would suggest. Elsewhere, both Jon Hamm and Rebecca Hall put in decent performances in their respective roles.
The Town is an effective thriller precisely because it maintains the element of suspense throughout. It is never clear which way events will turn, or exactly how the film will reach its conclusion. Affleck’s aptitude for suspense demonstrated in The Town will undoubtedly produce much anticipation for his next effort.