Although these famous directors have left their indelible mark on film history, their names have been absent from movie screens in recent years. There are many possible reasons why some of these big name directors may not be financially viable to make films anymore.
Some have had a history of creative conflicts with studio heads, or their most recent films were financial failures. They may be out of touch with the latest filmmaking techniques and possibly their absence could be attributed to Hollywood’s shift to focusing on big budget franchise properties as opposed to medium budget personal works spearheaded by a visionary director.
Take a look at the careers of the most famous film directors who can’t seem to get a film made these days.
10. Francis Ford Coppola
Arguably the most well known and accomplished film director of the 1970s, with a string of commercial and critical hits beginning with The Godfather (1972), followed up with The Conversation (1974), the even more ambitious The Godfather: Part II (1974), and finishing off the decade with Apocalypse Now (1979).
By the dawn of the 1980s and the end of the New Hollywood era, the influence and importance of auteur directors such as Coppola began to fade. Financial disappointments One from the Heart (1981) and The Cotton Club (1984) forced Coppola into directing more commercially friendly projects such as Peggy Sue Got Married (1986).
After the melodramatic, but fiscally disappointing The Godfather: Part III (1990) and visually opulent Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Coppola was practically reduced to a “director for hire” status while helming impersonal studio projects Jack (1996) and The Rainmaker (1997). In the late ‘90s Coppola began to focus on producing films for his daughter, Sophia as well as other commercial enterprises such as his very successful winemaking business.
After a decade long hiatus from directing, Coppola self-financed a few smaller, more personal endeavors in late 2000s, Tetro (2009) and Twixt (2011) which were met with a mixed reception by critics.
9. David Cronenberg
From his early work on Canadian low budget B grade horror films to mainstream Hollywood productions, David Cronenberg always maintained his status as the master of body horror and psychological thrillers. Making a huge cultural impact with films like Scanners (1981), Videodrome (1983), The Dead Zone (1983) and The Fly Cronenberg’s high creative period reached its apogee with Dead Ringers (1998).
A few controversial cult hits such as Naked Lunch (1991) and Crash (1996) still kept him as a relevant name in contemporary film. But by the end of the 20th Century, his cultural relevance began to wane until a creative wellspring came forth from his collaboration with Viggo Mortensen on A History of Violence (2005) and Eastern Promises (2007) and ended with the tepidly received A Dangerous Method (2011).
Since then, Cosmopolis (2012) and Maps to the Stars (2014) were commercial flops and widely slammed by critics. Coupled with the recent changes in the distribution of government funding from Canadian film institutions Telefilm and OMDC, the financial viability for Cronenberg’s future work has seriously been in doubt.
8. Peter Bogdanovich
A promising young film critic and esthete, turned New Hollywood upstart Peter Bogdanovich’s career began working with Roger Corman who financed the highly controversial film Targets (1968). Bogdanovich subsequently disowned the film due to its exploitative and violent subject matter. Bogdanovitch Bogdanovich soared to prominence with the release of the highly personal and moving The Last Picture Show (1971) which earned 8 Academy Award nominations. Followed up with the Barbra Streisand screwball comedy What’s Up, Doc? (1972) and the utterly charming Paper Moon (1973).
Unfortunately his three subsequent films were increasingly commercial failures, along with a scandal plagued personal life that was marked by a public break up with actress Cybill Shepherd and the devastating murder of his lover, Dorothy Stratten (he later married her much younger sister Louise Stratten).
Despite the commercial and critical successes of Mask (1985) Bogdanovich found himself increasingly artistically compromised by the studios and possibly out of touch with the needs of contemporary audiences. Gradually through the mid-‘90s he resigned from feature filmmaking. The later part of his career has been focused on working in television, mainly popping up in front of the camera for the occasional host or cameo role while wearing his signature ascot.
7. John McTiernan
Director of mega-blockbuster hits such as Predator (1987), Die Hard (1988) and The Hunt for the Red October (1990) John McTiernan defined the gold standard of the Hollywood action genre of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. However his life and career took a dramatic and bizarre twist in early 2006 when he was charged and later convicted for committing perjury in an FBI testimony over hiring a private investigator to illegally wire tap the conversations of Charles Roven who served as producer of the film Rollerball (2002).
McTiernan served 328 days in federal prison and the remainder of his 12 month sentence under house arrest. In 2013 due to accumulated legal fees and tax debts, he claimed chapter 11 bankruptcy in which all his personal assets were liquidated. His last film credit as director was Basic (2003).
6. Peter Weir
Throughout his varied career, Australian director Peter Weir has shown that he is highly skilled at directing films in any genre. From his early films, The Cars That Ate Paris (1974), Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) and The Last Wave (1977) Weir helped launch an Australian film renaissance.
In America he went on to direct several Oscar nominated pictures including Witness (1985), Dead Poets Society (1989), Green Card (1990) and The Truman Show (1998). His last majorly successful film, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) was a meticulously crafted historically accurate nautical warfare adventure. From dramas, thrillers, and comedies to social satires and even epic historical period pieces, Peter Weir has proven to be a journeyman director who can tell a great story.
Although Weir has been notorious for taking long gaps between productions, his last directorial effort was The Way Back (2010) and sadly doesn’t appear to be working on pre-production on any future films. At 74 years of age, one can wonder if he is semi-retired, or is merely looking for the next great script to put on screen.