5. Kevin Costner – Dances With Wolves – 1990
Mr Nice Guy, modern day Jimmy Stewart, the guy who upset Madonna by describing her show as ‘neat’… Kevin Michael Costner is the son of a ditch digger and a welfare worker. They moved around a lot during his youth which meant he never settled in and became a bit of a dreamer. His confidence was further hindered by the fact that he was a late developer being only 5’2” on leaving secondary school; he is now 6’1”.
He enrolled at California State University majoring in business studies and he developed an interest in acting during his final year. On graduation he married his girlfriend and on the return flight of their honeymoon they were on the same plane as Richard Burton. Despite Burton buying all the seats around him for privacy, Costner managed to have a few words and got some advice off him.
To be honest, KC is first and foremost an actor having only three directing credits under his belt. Some might argue that he went the wrong way in the mid 90’s and should have given up on ‘The Postman’ instead playing the president in ‘Air Force One’ as the part had been written for him…
4. Robert Zemeckis – Forrest Gump – 1994
Robert Zemeckis is a career film maker; no time spent driving vans, digging graves, playing sports, or studying other subjects. As a child he picked up an 8mm cine camera and that, as they say, was that. His only tertiary education choice was USC’s School of Cinematic Arts from where he graduated in 1973.
The next ten years were spent writing and directing a number of features until he broke through with ‘Romancing The Stone’. After that it seemed he could do no wrong… ‘Back To The Future 1-3’, ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’, and ‘Death Becomes Her’. Not intellectually challenging but definitely entertaining.
After his one and only Oscar for ‘Forrest Gump’ he went onto make more good films… ‘Contact’, ‘What Lies Beneath’, ‘Cast Away’, ‘Flight’, ‘A Christmas Carol’. All of them, in my humble opinion, were way better than ‘Forrest Gump’.
It may be heresy to some but I don’t get ‘Forrest Gump’. I’ve never yet managed to sit right through it, it’s just too silly and pointless to relax into but not silly and pointless to flip over into outright comedy. ‘My momma always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”’ Funny… every box of chocolates I’ve ever had has come with a little leaflet showing what they look like so you know exactly what you’re going to get!
3. Sam Mendes – American Beauty – 1999
An only child, Mendes’ was brought up by his university professor father and children’s author mother until they divorced during his childhood. He went to Magdalen College School, Oxford where, according to Wisden no less, he was a brilliant cricketer. From there he went to Peterhouse, Cambridge and graduated with a first in English. Before long he was directing in the West End, The National and the RSC.
In 1999 he had his film debut with ‘American Beauty’ which won him the Best Director alongside four others including Best Picture. Beginner’s luck? Not really. His seven films have received 68 nominations for Oscar, BAFTA, and Golden Globes and won 24. His films usually prove popular with the critics even when they don’t do so well at the box office. It could be argued that he rescued the James Bond franchisees after the disastrous ‘Quantum Of Solace’ with ‘Skyfall’ and ‘Spectre’ but he’s passed on James Bond 25… allegedly!
2. Clint Eastwood – Unforgiven – 1992
And now we come to the last of the six men best known as actors who went on to win the Best Director Oscar as mentioned in the 80s article.
This one could be tricky… I mean, who doesn’t know everything there is to know about Clinton Eastwood Jr.? He worked odd jobs during and after high school, with stints as a hay baler, logger, truck driver and steel-furnace stoker. In 1950, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and stationed at Fort Ord where he served as a swimming instructor.
After his discharge in 1953, Eastwood went to Los Angeles, where he took classes at Los Angeles City College and worked at a gas station. Tall and handsome, he landed a screen test with Universal and signed a contract despite minimal acting experience… but this isn’t about his acting.
His directorial debut was 1971’s ‘Play Misty For Me’, to my mind one hell of a start! That was followed by, among others, ‘High Plains Drifter’, ‘The Eiger Sanction’, ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’, ‘Bird’, ‘Pale Rider’… not a bad canon of work for an actor working as a director! And he didn’t stop there… ‘Million Dollar Baby’, ‘Gran Torino’, ‘Invictus’, and, my all time favourite Eastwood directed film ‘Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil’.
1. Steven Spielberg – Schindler’s List – 1993 & Saving Private Ryan – 1998
Ahh… Steven Speilberg. Heard of him? He’s made a few films, some of which you may be aware of if not actually seen.
Born in Cincinnati to a concert pianist and restaurateur mother and an electrical engineer who worked in computer development for a father. Growing up he struggled with the religion imposed upon him; beatings due to him being an Orthodox Jew followed him through to secondary school.
At age 12 he started playing with the family cine camera making action films of his train set crashing and went on to make a cowboy short to get a boy scout merit badge. He was turned down by USC’s film school, which they are probably still kicking themselves about, but he then managed to get into California State.
While there he started interning in the Universal editing department. During this time he was given the chance to make a short film and thus was born ‘Amblin’’ which he wrote, directed and won a number of prizes with. Sidney Sheinberg, the studio VP at the time, was so impressed he offered him a seven year directing contract. He dropped out of college but don’t panic education fans, he completed his degree in 2002.
Many don’t think that Speilberg winning two Best Director Oscars in a decade isn’t as odd as him not having won one sooner! I mean… ‘Jaws’, ‘Close Encounters’, ‘The Colour Purple’, ‘Raiders’, ‘E.T.’, ‘Jurassic Park’…