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    14 Actors Who Made The Leap To Directing Movies And Why They Took The Risk

    From Greta Gerwig and Regina King to Bradley Cooper and Michael B. Jordan.

    Barbie is finally out! On July 21, the highly anticipated film made its way to theaters after an intense and much-discussed promo campaign. It's a major moment for director Greta Gerwig, who is impressively on her third solo film in about five years. Better yet, she got her start in movies as a successful actor, though she's always dabbled in work behind the camera, too.

    closeup of greta at the barbie premiere

    In honor of her latest film release, here are 14 well-known actors (including Greta) who tried their hand at great success for directing:

    greta starring in 20th century women and then behind the scenes directing barbie

    1. Greta Gerwig, Barbie (2023):

    closeup of greta during barbie press

    As for why she took the leap to solo direct Lady Bird, Greta told Vulture in 2017, "When I finished the script, I had a moment with myself where I thought, 'You’re either going to do this now or you’re never going to do this. Now you have to make your mistakes and get your gifts because you have to, at some point, jump.'"

    closeup of greta at an event

    2. Molly Gordon, Theater Camp (2023):

    closeup of of her wearing an oversized blazer

    As for why she co-directed Theater Camp, Molly told Nylon, "Especially as a woman, I needed to assert myself and not wait for others to give me that, because they’re just not going to.”

    3. Eva Longoria, Flamin' Hot (2023):

    closeup of her in a skirt and blazer

    As for why now was the moment for Eva to direct her first feature, she told The Hollywood Reporter she first had to find the confidence to direct. “The industry’s definitely wary of an actor coming in [to direct]. For me, it was about overcoming that. It wasn’t sexism or racism. It was like, ‘Here comes a dumb actor,'" she said.

    closeup of eva

    4. Ben Affleck, Air (2023)

    ben in a suit for the premiere

    As for why Gone Baby Gone was the right film for his feature directorial debut, Ben told SFGate in 2007, "On some level, I wanted to do a movie set in Boston. I thought it would make me feel more secure and comfortable because it's a place I know better than anywhere. I wanted to show the city the way I know it, to say something personal. Nobody could say I don't understand that place."

    ben during the premiere of gone baby gone

    5. Michael B. Jordan, Creed III (2023)

    closeup of him

    As for why Creed III was the right directorial debut for Michael, he told Deadline he resonated with the film's story about a young Black man dealing with fame, career, and family dynamics. "I [thought] much of that could be universal and relatable to a lot of different people. For me, it felt like who else was gonna be able to direct me in something that I felt like I’ve lived?" he said.

    6. Olivia Wilde, Don't Worry Darling (2022)

    closeup of her during an event

    As for why Olivia Wilde wanted to get into directing, she told Variety in 2020, "I never wanted to pigeonhole myself. I was just, like, ‘I love everything. I’ll do anything.’ That was evidence that what I really love is the process. That was a clue that I was supposed to be directing.”

    closeup of her

    7. Jordan Peele, Nope (2022)

    closeup of him in a suit

    As for why Jordan wanted to direct, he told the Los Angeles Times in 2018 that he always felt compelled to but "left [his] dream of being a director behind" because he didn't see "a place for very many black directors." He said, "I thought it would be harder for me as a person of color to convince someone to let me use their money to make a movie. Many years later after an odyssey through acting and comedy, I came back to my original dream. And the fact that it’s been received the way it has been received teaches me a lot about how I internalized the system."

    closeup of him in a suit

    8. Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Lost Daughter (2021)

    her wearing a suit standing next to a poster of her movie

    As for why Maggie wanted to direct, she told Deadline inspiration came in part from playing a porn director on the HBO series, The Deuce. "I had sort of opened the gates a little bit and was talking about it with [The Lost Daughter producers] a little. And they were, 'Run, don’t walk. This is what you should be doing,'" she said.

    closeup of her in a dress at an event

    9. George Clooney, The Tender Bar (2021)

    george smiling and pointing at the camera

    As for why George started directing, he told CNN last year, "When you're acting in a film, you're basically one of the paints. When you're directing the film, you're the painter. You get to pick and choose, and it's infinitely more exciting."

    10. Denzel Washington, A Journal for Jordan (2021)

    closeup of him holding a mic

    As for why Denzel enjoys directing, he told PBS in 2021, "I prefer not being in the films [he directs.] Early on, it had to do with me being able to raise the money to get the films made. Then Fences, obviously we had great success onstage, so that translated to film. But I enjoy being a more behind-the-scenes kind of guy.”

    11. Regina King, One Night in Miami... (2020)

    closeup of her wearing a beret

    As for why she made her feature directorial debut with One Night in Miami..., Regina told Thrillist in 2021, "Reading Kemp's script, the way he humanized these four men made me feel like I believe every Black man that I know and love can see himself in this piece."

    12. Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born (2018)

    closeup of him in a 3-piece suit

    As for why Bradley directed A Star Is Born, he told Time in 2018, "I’ve always known I wanted to direct. Always. So it was about facing the fear of doing it. I said by 40 if I haven’t taken a shot, shame on me.”

    him wearing a suit and sunglasses at an event

    Finally, here are two well-known actors that will make their directorial debuts very soon:

    13. Randall Park, Shortcomings (2023)

    him wearing a suit and sunglasses at an event

    As for why Randall wanted to direct, he told GQ earlier this year, "I was almost blown away by how comfortable I felt in that position. Being involved in every facet, feeling like the leader of this team, reshaping your vision with the help of others—all of it was really exciting to me.”

    closeup of him

    14. Chelsea Peretti, First Time Female Director (2024)

    closeup of her at an event

    As for why Chelsea wanted to direct, she told the Associated Press, "I feel like you just have to have this part of you that says, “F—- it.” I always want to be like trying new things and I always want to be growing. That’s the fun of being creative to me. And that doesn’t mean that all these ideas work. But I love spontaneity and following inspiration and seeing what happens."