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The 10 Highest Grossing Debut Efforts from Actors Turned Directors

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | September 30, 2013 | Comments ()


ThatThingYouDo1.jpg

The Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs sequel took the top spot at the box office this weekend to absolutely no one’s surprise, particularly given the lack of competition with the target audience (I believe it’s the first kids’ film to be releases since Pixar’s Planes in early August). It made $5 million more than its predecessor, and it’s the fourth highest September opening of all time. Yet, it’s still something of a so-so debut, falling slightly below expectations.

The bleak Prisoners, meanwhile, held on to to the second spot with $11 million, narrowly edging out the wide release of Ron Howard’s Rush, which only mustered $10 million, proving once again that audiences don’t care about race-car films. Olivia Wilde’s box-office poisonous streak also remains intact. She just can’t catch a break, with Rush failing despite an A- Cinemascore rating.

What did not receive a good Cinemascore rating, however, was the number five film, Don Jon, which received a C+. I screened it for a second time this weekend (still great, and an absolute must-see for intelligent people looking for an alternative to typical rom-coms), but I did see a number of people stream out early, clearly uncomfortable with the amount of porn and nudity in the film (and not willing to stick around to learn that Don Jon is actually an indictment of it). The $9 million take, however, was not a bad one for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who made his directorial debut with Don Jon (he also wrote and starred in the film). The $6 million budgeted film should show a profit, but it will likely end its run at the box office in the lower $20 millions, not quite enough to put it among the ten highest grossing debut efforts from directors better known as actors.

Here’s the top 11 in that category. I’m sure I’m forgetting someone, and I’m also sure that someone will alert me to the omissions, although I would not count those who were not particularly well known as actors before they became directors.

10 (tie). Jodie Foster: Little Man Tate — $25 million

10 (tie). Mel Gibson: The Man without a Face — $25 million

10 (tie). Tom Hanks: That Thing You Do! — $25 million

8. Zach Braff: Garden State — $26 million

7. Dennis Hopper. Easy Rider — $41 million

6. Penny Marshall. Jumpin’ Jack Flash — $29 million

5. William Shatner: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier — $52 million

4. Robert Redford: Ordinary People — $54 million

3. Eddie Murphy: Harlem Nights — $60 million

2. Warren Beaty: Heaven Can Wait — $81 million

1. Kevin Coster. Dances with Wolves — $184 million

(Other notable debuting box-office successes among actors turned directors include: Bill Murray’s Quick Change ($15 million); Clint Eastwood’s Play Misty for Me ( $10 million); Denzel Washington’s Antwone Fisher ($21 million); Ron Howard’s Night Shift ($21 million); Ben Affleck’s Gone Baby Gone ($20 million); Ben Stiller’s Reality Bites ($20 million); Robert DeNiro’s A Bronx Tale ($17 million); George Clooney’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind ($16 million); and Billy Bob Thornton’s Sling Blade ($24 million).


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Two more debuts of note include Paula Patton’s Baggage Claim, which had a decent $9.3 million opening, and Metallica Through The Never, which underperformed, putting up only $1.6 million on an $18 million budget.


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Matt C.

    Planes is not a Pixar movie, and I'd have to say that calling it one is a sin.

  • Ben

    I keep trying to point this out whenever I see it mentioned but it seems no one cares what animation studio actually does what film around here. They're all just Pixar or Dreamworks.

  • e jerry powell

    Not a critisism:

    I think Ordinary People is the point where Redford crossed over from being an actor to being primarily a director. His on-screen appearances in films dropped off significantly after that, didn't it?

  • Robert

    "clearly uncomfortable with the amount of porn and nudity in the film"

    Sold. Seeing it tomorrow for sure.

  • Georgia

    I seriously just texted that to my favorite movie-going friend... although her and I have been discussing how we'll probably love this movie ever since women began walking out of it in the first review I read

    edit: she and I? who cares, it's the internet

  • Here's one you forgot: Leonard Nimoy - Star Trek III: The Search for Spock! Box office $87 million

  • capcalhoon

    Do you not remember JJ Abrams turn as Entitled Son in Six Degrees of Separation! I thought that would be his crowning achievement until he tried this whole directing/producing thing.

  • Michelle

    Well now I need to watch That Thing You Do! Love that movie. (Remember when everyone was convinced Tom Everett Scott was going to be a thing? That was nice.)

  • Eh, Tommy's still working. He just never became a leading man. He gets plenty of TV work and does smaller films. Last time I checked in with him, he was pretty happy with how his life is going.

  • Becks

    Is his hair floppy in real life? I bet it is.

    /patiently awaits response.

  • I haven't seen him in person in over 20 years, but it absolutely was when we did regional theatre. Also, that smile is even better in person. Super nice guy way back when. I've no reason to believe that's changed, not least because he actually remembers who the hell I am when we FB/tweet back and forth.

  • Becks

    Aw, he sounds sweet. I always felt Tom Hanks cast him because he was kind of a young Tom Hanks.

  • Becks

    Um, I think you're forgetting about Tom Everett Scott's brilliant turn on a little television gem called Grace Under Fire. And that's not even mentioning his magnum opus, Dead Man on Campus.

    It's possible that I'm not willing to accept that I was wrong about Tom Everett Scott.

  • Michelle

    HOW could I forget about Dead Man on Campus?!

  • Becks

    It gave me a more practical, utilitarian reason to wish my college roommate dead.

    My original reason was that she preferred Felicity with shorter hair. Preferred it.

  • Michelle

    No one should prefer short-hair Felicity.

  • idiosynchronic

    Oh my soul . .
    5. William Shatner: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier — $52 million

    I love Trek, it's the gullibility of the Trekkies that brings me down.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    Only Even Numbered Treks Are Worth Watching.

    This is a fact.

    I -Boorrring
    II Khannnnnnnn!!
    III Boring with a side of that guy from Taxi and Back to the Future
    IV - Fun with Whales!
    V - Oh dear God, make the pain stop.
    VI - Sound of Music Guy, but the story kept you humming
    VII - Oscars style review of dead people prolog
    VIII - The BORG!
    VIIII - Soliari from Amadeus, still hitting the wrong notes
    IX - Tom Hardy
    annnnd here's where the reboot f's it all up. Maybe the Reboot means that only odd numbered Treks won't suck?

  • e jerry powell

    Not a rip, just me being a pedantic musician and theater queen.:

    F. Murray Abraham as Antonio Salieri.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    yep, I admit to my spelling error and will endeavor to not fail you in the future.

  • e jerry powell

    Honey, I ain't nobody in particular.

  • VonnegutSlut

    Aaaaaaannnnndddd, now I have to go watch Quick Change & Night Shift again.

  • blacksred

    i was 11 when Quick Change came out I have wanted to be Geena Davis and marry Bill Murray

  • Idle Primate

    Night Shift is an underappreciated gem.

  • Becks

    And now I have to sing That Thing You Do! all damn day.

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