Actors aren’t the only ones who get typecast and put into a category. Prestigious filmmakers are almost always given projects that fit their signature work. You usually don’t hear of a horror filmmaker directing a romantic comedy, per say. But every now and then, directors will venture outside of their comfort zones and shock us with something truly different, as Michael Bay is trying this weekend with Pain and Gain. This is how masterpieces are made. Unfortunately, not all of these deviations are successful. (You can’t teach all old dogs new tricks.) But it’s still fascinating to see branded filmmakers try something new for a change. Here are ten directors who went out of their comfort zones.
10. Wes Craven – Music Of The Heart
Music of the Heart tells the true story of a violin teacher at an East Harlem school who wins the hearts of her students with dedication and hard work. Wes Craven is a filmmaker famous for classic horror movies. He’s given us The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and the Scream franchise. Oddly enough, Music of the Heart is also one of his movies. In 1999, he teamed up with Meryl Streep and made a movie that even kids could see, and they wouldn‘t have nightmares.
9. Kenneth Branagh – Thor
Kenneth Branagh was known for his adaptations of Shakespeare, so when it was announced that he would be directing a superhero movie, people were taken aback. How could Marvel give Thor to the guy responsible for Henry V, Hamlet or Much Ado About Nothing? Well, it was the match made in heaven that no one saw coming. Brannagh was able to balance his knowledge of Shakespearean themes with a contemporary action fantasy.
8. James Cameron – Titanic
It’s funny to think of one of the most popular movies of all time as “the different one.” If you look at James Cameron‘s resume, pre-Titanic and post-Titanic, you notice one thing – almost everything is sci-fi related. He started his career with indestructible robots and aliens, and then made Titanic, an epic romance movie set against a history event. Was he successful? You bet he was. Love it or hate it, Titanic made Cameron the “king of the world.”
7. Sidney Lumet – The Wiz
Sidney Lumet brought us legit classics like 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon and Network. All of his films are an important part of film history, including the musical adventure film The Wiz, which is regarded as one of the worst commercial flops of all time. The film is an urbanized retelling of The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy is played by Diana Ross, and the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion are played by Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell and Ted Ross. Needless to say, The Wiz isn’t regarded as one of Lumet’s best works. The cinematography was off, the choreography was bad and the performance were embarrassing.
6. Spike Lee – Inside Man
Spike Lee is one of the best filmmakers we have right now. His films are confident, unique, political and often concerned with race. Inside Man is some of those things, yes, but still feels very different from any other film Lee has ever made. Inside Man wasn’t the first time that Lee stepped out of his comfort zone, but it is his first thriller and genre picture that awesomely enough also made a ton of money. Denzel Washington starred as a smart investigator trying to make a deal with a smooth bank robber, played by Clive Owen. Even though Inside Man is a shiny piece of mainstream Hollywood entertainment, Lee makes it his own by letting the scenes breath and allowing the actors to give great performances.
5. Sam Mendes – Skyfall
Sam Mendes took a huge risk when he agreed to direct a James Bond movie. Not only was he putting his prestigious Oscar-winning career on the line, but he was also under a lot of pressure to make a damn-good Bond flick. Mendes had ventured into action films before, with Road To Perdition and Jarhead; but he was better known as the stage-turned-film director behind American Beauty and Revolutionary Road, two films set in suburbia-land. Skyfall was a very different kind of James Bond movie, but it was successful nonetheless. It also proved that Mendes has the skill to tackle a big, fancy action-thriller.
4. Alfred Hitchcock – Mr. And Mrs. Smith
Even if you’re not familiar with the man, you know that Alfred Hitchcock is known as the master of suspense. His thrillers are filled to the brim with tension and horror. But in 1941, Hitchcock took a break from the macabre and made a standard screwball comedy. Mr. and Mrs. Smith is delightful and charming, and has two great comedic actors – Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery – engaged in a humorous battle of the sexes. Indeed, comedy was always a part of Hitchcock’s films, but that element always came second to suspense. Mr. And Mrs. Smith is a full-blown comedy that doesn’t involve mystery or murder.
3. David Lynch – The Straight Story
The mad mind behind Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive, also directed The Straight Story, a super-sweet and compassionate film about an old man who makes a long journey by tractor to mend his relationship with his ill brother. This film was free from the mystery and darkness usually seen in Lynch’s work. For that reason, The Straight Story is probably one of Lynch’s weirdest works. (Not because it’s a strange story, but because it’s such an un-Lynch-y movie.) This film is gentle and straight-forward, and also one of Lynch’s greatest triumphs. Go figure.
2. Martin Scorsese – Hugo
Martin Scorsese surprised us all when he announced that his followup to Shutter Island, a mystery thriller not suitable for children, would be an adaptation of the children’s book The Invention of Hugo Cabret. This was definitely a first for one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Hugo wasn’t only his first family-oriented movie, it was also his first venture into 3D. The director admitted that he was in-love with the technology, but many worried that he was selling out. How could the guy who brought us Taxi Driver say yes to god-awful 3D? Well, when critics finally got to see the film, the first reactions were phenomenal. Not only did Scorsese deliver a touching, magical story, his use of 3D technology was probably the best we’ve seen since its reintroduction.
1. Michael Powell – Peeping Tom
Michael Powell, along with his long-time collaborator Emeric Pressburger, produced, wrote and directed prestigious British movies like The Red Shoes, Thief Of Baghdad, I Know Where I’m Going and Black Narcissus. Thus, when the nasty, serial-killer flick Peeping Tom was released in 1960, crediting Powell as its director, everyone was shocked. Here was a film about a creepy man-child who murders women using a movie camera to film their deaths. Today, Peeping Tom is considered a masterpiece, but during its initial run, critics neglected it… reviled it. The film was pulled from movie theaters in Britain, and died a quick death in the U.S. Powell’s career was over. Thankfully, Martin Scorsese reintroduced the film to audiences in the late 70′s, and people did re-evaluate it. It’s now regarded as a key film in British cinema history and one of the greatest horror films of all time.
What do you think? Do you have an example?