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Clint Eastwood has surprised us many times over the years, from arguing with chairs to taking on unexpected genres of movies as a director. This includes his latest effort, an adaptation of the hit musical Jersey Boys. So now is a great time to look at directors who have surprised us with some unexpected movies.
10. Steven Seagal – On Deadly Ground
Steven Seagal has an ego to match his current waistline and back in the 1990s when he was a raising action star, he forced Warner Brothers to let him star in and make his directorial debut with On Deadly Ground. On Deadly Ground is your typical action fare from Seagal, but what makes it notorious is its use of environmental themes (undercut when oil refineries keep getting blown up) and has a wonderfully mad speech about the media, politicians and corporations suppressing environmentally efficient technologies. Even the most hardened environmentalist will scoff at this flick.
9. Roland Joffe – Captivity
Many directors have started their careers in the horror genre or have worked mostly as horror directors. It is a genre that many are passionate about, but the Russian-American co-production Captivity was a highly criticized movie. Roland Joffe directed this horror flick, someone who had had award calibre movies in the 80s with The Killing Fields and The Mission. Sadly, this is a case of how the mighty have fallen.
8. Guy Ritchie – Swept Away
Fans of Guy Ritchie would say his marriage to Madonna had a poisonous effect on his career and Swept Away is compelling evidence for this case. His career started well enough with the crime comedies Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch: but it went pear shaped when he directed his then-wife in a remake of Swept Away which earned five Razzie awards. It got worse when Ritchie made the highly pretentious gangster movie Revolver before returning to form.
7. M. Night Shyamalan – The Last Airbender
M. Night Shyamalan was once seen as a hot young talent after making The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. But his ego was his hubris and his reputation took a massive tumble with the releases of Lady in the Water and The Happening. Despite these bombs, Paramount thought it was a smart idea to let Shyamalan make his big budget debut with an adaptation of the beloved cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Shyamalan was also allowed to write and produce, making all the problems of this much hated movie, his fault. Even if you are not a fan of the show, The Last Airbender is a perfect storm of bad filmmaking, featuring wooden dialogue, awful acting, horrendous special effects and stiff action sequences.
6. Chris Weitz – The Golden Compass
The His Dark Materials Trilogy is a wonderfully rich and complex series of books that won many awards and has fans the world over despite the controversy surrounding them. It would have taken filmmakers of great skill to adapt them with success and filmmakers like Ridley Scott and Sam Mendes were linked to the project before New Line Studios turned to Chris Weitz, the director of American Pie. The man who made a joke out of a teenage boy trying to shag a pie was handed the reins of the adaptation of a dark, serious series of fantasy/sci-fi novels. To be fair to Weitz, the project was a troubled production, he was booted off the film before being re-hired and New Line was very hands on during filming. But that does not excuse Weitz ditching a screenplay by the playwright Sir Tom Stoppard and writing the adaptation himself.
5. Roland Emmerich – Anonymous
Roland Emmerich has built a reputation for being the Master of Disaster and he has predominately worked in the action genre. He has made historical movies before, The Patriot being the biggest one of note, but Anonymous was a real surprise from the German filmmaker. Anonymous was passion project for Emmerich, a drama set in Elizabethan England about the controversial theory that William Shakespeare was not really the writer of some of the greatest plays in history. It is a theory that does not hold water, particularly in the film with Shakespeare being able to read but not write. Then again, Emmerich does like his madcap conspiracy theories.
4. Kevin Smith – Red State
Best known for making indie comedies, Kevin Smith became a film fans favorite and in 2010 he made the big buddy cop movie Cop Out. Cop Out was a critical and commercial failure and Smith hated the experience and returned to independent filmmaking. But he took a different course, making a serious horror movie that served as a criticism of Christian Fundamentalism in the mold of the Westboro Baptist Church.
3. Zack Snyder – Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole
The family animated movie Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole was based on a series of children’s novels by Kathryn Lasky. This animated movie was made by Animal Logic, the company that made Happy Feet and it was directed by the action filmmaker Zack Snyder. At this point of his career Snyder was best known for making violence stylized flicks like 300 and Watchmen, so it is quite a change for him to make a photo-realistic PG rated animated movie.
2. Joe Wright – Hanna
Joe Wright started his film career making the historical costume dramas Atonement and Pride and Prejudice, so it was an unusual turn for him to make the action-thriller Hanna. And it was a move that really paid off, becoming a cult classic and was a highly received movie by us here. Hanna is a wonderfully stylist movie with great action sequences and a fantastic soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers. A potential Bond director?
1. Martin Scorsese – Hugo
Raging Bull, Taxi Driver and Goodfellas, just a sample of the excellent work that Martin Scorsese has made in his career. He is seen as one of the greatest directors in the world and he has often made very violent, adult movies. He has occasionally had detours into historical movies and early in his career he made the musical New York, New York. But one of the most surprising movies he has made was 2011’s Hugo, a 3D family film set in a Parisian train station in the 1930s. This was a movie that was met high praise from critics and audiences, including here.