That Thing You Do! is the kind of movie only a man with a particular amount of clout can get made. An off-beat comedy about a fake rock band from the ’60s starring a bunch of unknowns and unfamiliar songs to boot? Maybe if it was a comic book first.
But thank the powers that be for Tom Hanks and his odd sensibilities. He may be a two-time Oscar winner and an impassioned producer of WWII serialized dramas, but when it came to his directorial debut, the end product was something closer to his Bosom Buddies/The Man with One Red Shoe days.
When That Thing You Do! hit theaters it bombed, barely making back its budget and putting Hanks’s directing career in question. Not even Tom Freakin’ Hanks could get his passion project to play with audiences. That very well could have been the end of the actor behind the camera.
But lo and behold, a decade and a half later, Hanks returns this weekend with another oddball flick, Larry Crowne. Whether the new comedy (sporting plenty of familiar faces) can counter-program Transformers 3 and survive the competitive summer isn’t the point – we should be happy enough he made something.
With Larry Crowne, Hanks has succeeded in doing what so few of his actor-turned-director friends have managed: to make a second movie. Here are a few thespians who took the plunge into filmmaking, only to return to their day jobs after one outing.
Crazy on the Outside, Directed by Tim Allen
Tim Allen hasn’t seen much critical love in the last decade, with most of his films employing lowest common denominator humor to rope in the young ones (except for Wild Hogs, which appealed to a broad enough audience to rack up $168 million). When it came time for Allen to tackle his directorial debut, the crime comedy Crazy on the Outside, the actor/comedian didn’t stray far from his roots. Coincidentally, neither did the critics.
Not even Allen pushing over small children while wearing a pirate outfit could deliver comedy gold, so the movie was universally panned after being dumped in January of 2010.
One-Eyed Jacks, Directed by Marlon Brando
No one messes with Marlon Brando, not even Stanley Kubrick. The famed director was originally hired to helm One-Eyed Jacks with a script by Sam Peckinpah, but Brando (the rights owner of the source material, “The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones”) was unsatisfied by the script and the whole project went bottom up.
Eventually Brando hired himself to direct the picture and didn’t let pussyfootin’ studio suits stand in his way. Apparently, the original cut of One-Eyed Jacks was eight hours long, with Brando eventually buckling and turning in a four hour cut. Paramount seized the movie and cut it down to a slim two hours…and any chance of Brando returning to the director’s chair was pretty much out the window. He turns in a terrific performance, but doing whatever you damn well please is a lot easier when you just have to show up to set.
You can watch One-Eyed Jacks in its entirety on YouTube
P.S. Your Cat Is Dead, Directed by Steve Guttenberg
You would think the backbone of the Police Academy films may sharpened his directing skills on one of the later sequels Star Trek/Shatner style, but instead, Guttenberg went for something a little meatier and a hell of a lot weirder (even from Police Academy standards). P.S. Your Cat Is Dead, adapted from an award-winning Broadway play, sees Guttenberg as a failed actor who kidnaps a burglar attempting to rob his apartment. No, it’s not autobiographical (maybe?), but it is unlike anything Guttenberg’s ever done.
Apparently the only person who was going to let him play a neurotic, murderous, gay actor was himself.
LolliLove, Directed by Jenna Fischer
If you’re wondering why Jenna Fischer is such a natural talking to cameras, look no further than LolliLove. Fischer cooked up the mockumentary with her then-husband James Gunn, taking aim at the charity world of Los Angeles and its backwards approach to helping the world. Made on a shoestring budget with the help of her friends (note: it’s always good to have friends like Jason Segel), LolliLove would be Fischer’s only directing effort. One interview reveals why we may not see another out of the witty comedienne: “I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. It was a lot of hard work. The directing was exhausting and the writing was painful.”
Not a bad reason.
The Players Club, Directed by Ice Cube
When you do it all, somethings simply fall to the bottom of your priority list. Maybe that’s why we’ve never seen Cube tackle another film after The Players Club, a film that assembled a who’s who of African American comedians, many of whom Cube recruited from Friday. With rapping, producing, running a clothing line and acting all on his plate, directing fell to the wayside.
There are easier ways for media moguls to hang out with strippers then directing films set in clubs.
Sonny, Directed by Nicolas Cage
Now, moreso than when the movie debuted in 2002, it seems appropriate that Nicolas Cage would call upon the whacked out talents of James Franco to star in his first directing effort, Sonny. Unlike Woody Allen, Nicolas Cage doesn’t ask Franco to embody his own “Nic Caginess,” allowing the actor to do his spaced-out, handsome thing while Cage fills the world around him with kookiness. The material is just off-kilter enough to fit the duo’s sensibilities, focusing on a man enlisted by his mother to be a gigolo. The movie is Cage through and through (for better or worse) and, thankfully, the actor turns up for a few moments in the film, as a character named “Acid Yellow.”
Pootie Tang, Directed by Louis C.K.
Louis C.K. is a self-professed “black white man,” which makes more sense after you see his directorial debut, Pootie Tang. Based on a character he created while writing for The Chris Rock Show, Pootie Tang is a spoof on blaxploitation movies that follows the titular character as he fights evil and makes the world infinitesimally cooler. On the movie, Roger Ebert asked, “How did this train wreck happen?” Surprisingly, he wasn’t a fan.
After a few false starts, Louis C.K. is working his magic on the small screen with his own equally profane and hilarious show, Louie, which one assumes Ebert would also not enjoy.
Shortcut to Happiness, Directed by Alec Baldwin
Alec Baldwin’s directorial debut was plagued with so much financial trouble and studio interference, you won’t even find his name branding the picture. Shortcut to Happiness was directed by “Harry Kirkpatrick” back in 2001, but only saw limited release in 2007 after Yari Film Group bought the movie from a bankruptcy court. Not as appealing as a film festival acquisition.
Baldwin rounded up an…eclectic cast for his adaptation of The Devil and Daniel Webster, including Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Dan Aykroyd and Kim Cattrall, but things never clicked and Baldwin never returned to directing.
Thankfully, Stephen Baldwin’s currently keeping the Baldwin directing legacy alive.
Freddy Got Fingered, Directed by Tom Green
For a short lived period between 1999–2001, Tom Green was everywhere. He had a successful TV show, a few movie roles under his belt and newfound love in the form of Drew Barrymore.
Then Freddy Got Fingered happened.
The comedian’s magnum opus dropped like an atomic bomb on his career and suddenly, Tom Green was gone. The star’s perverse sense of humor (no film has ever made better comedy out of sausages) didn’t fly with the mainstream and the movie tanked while Green faded out of the spotlight. In recent years, Freddy Got Fingered has found developed something of a cult following, so who knows – maybe one day Green will whip up a sequel.
What’s your favorite?
Editor’s Note: This is a bittersweet entry because Matt Patches has taken on a steady gig at another site, leaving the freelancing world of ramen noodles and Swedish massages behind. That means this is his last list with FSR. We wish him all the best in his next endeavor and know fully that he will succeed in such great measure that he will most likely be writing lists on his yacht soon.