The 10 Worst Examples of Screenwriters Turned Directors

Sometimes, letting a screenwriter direct a movie turns out to be a terrific idea. Here are 10 examples, however, where that promise translated into something pathetic.

"But what I REALLY want to do is direct..."

It's an adage so ancient amongst Hollywood types that the last time it was original, dinosaurs were battling leprechauns for control of Middle Earth. It seems like everyone in the business wants to sit behind the lens, offering up their unique vision to a world already weary of such motion picture promises. Actors who think they know better than those bellyaching at them turn to a place behind the camera all the time (and sometimes, they're right!). In other instances, a stellar career in front of the lens or behind a laptop leads to a chance to cash in such commercial credits for your one (and often only) chance at celluloid self-expression. In either case, the results can frequently be very good. Several name auteurs both past and present got their start either playing a part or putting pen to paper. On the other hand, there are an equal number of would-be movie maestros who ended up insulting the artform with their foray into novice filmmaking.

We mention this because screenwriter turned scandal Roberto Orci has just been confirmed as the director for the upcoming Star Trek sequel. While the movies he's been involved with as a writer have almost all made money, he has absolutely no experience as a filmmaker. None. As we said in a think piece recently, his hiring is like asking someone with a knowledge of fine ingredients to make you a gourmet meal... and said pseudo-chef has no idea how to use a kitchen. There is more to being a director than "ideas" or "vision". It's often been called a series of micromanagement decisions that frequently contradict and/or conflict with those already made or that will be determined later. Orci's inexperience will be an albatross around his neophyte neck until he can prove we critics wrong. On the other hand, here are 10 examples of writers turned wannabes that, so far, haven't worked out all that well. They may be able to put a good script together, but their efforts in the director's chair have been painful at best.

Oh, and by the way, we left off Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer off on purpose. They are beyond bad.

#10 - The Spirit (Frank Miller)

Though some technically consider his work with Robert Rodriguez on the first Sin City to be his directing "debut", the famed comic book writer and graphic novelist struck out on his own with this oddball take on the famed '40s hero by Will Eisner. Audiences, expecting more four panel excitement got instead a series of bizarre performances, some surreal storytelling, and more computer generated splash than coherent cinematics. While there are a few of us in the fanbase that find this to be a defiantly guilty pleasure, it's safe to say that, without Rodriguez and his commitment to Sin, Miller won't be sitting behind the lens alone anytime soon.

#9 - The Trigger Effect (David Koepp)

Throughout the '90s, David Koepp was a known name. He wrote or co-wrote Death Becomes Her, Carlito's Way, and two monster hits, Jurassic Park and Mission: Impossible. So for his mandatory reward, he was given the chance to loosely adapt a British documentary series about science and humanity's interconnections. Specifically, what happens to society when technology shuts down and it is left to its own devices. Some critics enjoyed this thoughtful, albeit boring overview of our microcosm in chaos. Audiences, however, rejected what Koepp had to offer. Since then, his other directing efforts (Stir of Echoes, Ghost Town, Premium Rush) have meet with indifference.

#8 - London Boulevard (William Monahan)

Novelist turned screenwriter William Monahan only had one previous credit to his name -- Ridley Scott's epic Kingdom of Heaven -- when he took on the adaptation of the brilliant Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs. The result was the Oscar winning The Departed, earning its author an Academy Award. So naturally he was given a chance to direct his "dream project" (we'll be hearing that a lot in the next few paragraphs). Taking on Ken Bruen's British neo-noir novel, he crafted this craptacular piece of self indulgence, an effort which clearly indicates why he should stay behind the keyboard.

#7 - Virginia (Dustin Lance Black)

Yes, for this entry, we are discounting the little seen sexual awakening effort The Journey of Jared Price. Instead, the writer of Pedro, J. Edgar, and Milk (for which he won an Oscar), decided to deconstruct small town shenanigans with an attempted satire which struck none of the right notes and ended up becoming a little seen disaster. Even with such talent as Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Roberts, and Toby Jones involved, the humor was flat, the characters cartoonish, and the overall tone a terrible combination of mismatched styles. While his ongoing support of LGBT issues is commendable, his efforts behind the lens are not.

#6 - Paradise (Diablo Cody)

You know you're in trouble when the main character of your supposed religious satire is named...Lamb. That's right, from the mind of Juno and Young Adult comes a droning, ditzy comedy about a sheltered innocent from a faith-based family who loses her beliefs after a plane crash nearly kills her. Grabbing a wad of cash, she heads to Vegas to sew the wild oats she has held back on for so long. Naturally, she meets a bunch of quirky characters. While Cody shows some promise as a filmmaker, this movie is just plain dumb. Unless you sync up with Lamb's sensibility, you'll find yourself praying for relief.

Next Page




12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.


Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."


David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.


On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.


Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.


Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.


Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."


How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.