The Case of the Disappearing Director
A couple of our more popular Seriously Random Lists in the past were lists that explored once popular actors and actresses who have seemingly fallen off the face of the Earth (or at least, no longer appear in movies with which we are familiar). People like Rene Russo or Paul Reiser, who were once ever-present, and then just vanished. Today, we’re going to do the same with directors. It’s more difficult with directors because they work behind the camera and, in many cases, weren’t very familiar to begin with. But you knew their movies. Many of the directors below had considerable success before all but vanishing — some of them still work, on TV or making Direct-to-DVD movies or movies no one has ever heard of. But the fall from their peak has been precipitous and, in some cases, mysterious.
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10. Joe Dante
Signature Movies: Gremlins, Gremlins 2, The Howling, Twilight Zone: The Movie, the ‘burbs
Last Significant Work: Looney Toons: Back in Action (2003)
What’s He Doing Now? He’s still working, most recently with a web series called “Splatter,” and a movie called The Hole, which came out last year starring Teri Polo. He’s also directed a couple of episodes of “CSI:NY.” At least it wasn’t “CSI: Miami.”
9. Amy Heckerling
Signature Movies: Clueless, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Look Who’s Talking, Look Who’s Talking 2, European Vacation
Last Significant Work: Loser (2000)
What’s She Doing Now?: She made a movie a couple of years ago called I Could Never Be Your Woman with Paul Rudd and Michelle Pfeiffer that, ummm … it did well in Brazil. It went straight-to-DVD in America. No one saw it, and perhaps for the best, as it was awful. She is attempting another comeback with a female vampire romantic comedy, with Alicia Silverstone and Sigourney Weaver. It’s in pre-production; we’ll see if it makes it any further.
8. Savage Steve Holland
Signature Movies: Better Off Dead, One Crazy Summer
Last Significant Work: One Crazy Summer
What’s He Doing Now?: Maybe Holland doesn’t even belong on this list. Maybe, to many, Better off Dead and One Crazy Summer don’t even merit consideration as significant works to begin with. But they were to me. I’ll concede that what Steven Holland is doing now — directing and producing TV shows for kids, like “Lizzie Maguire,” or “Zooey 101,” or “Even Stevens” — is probably more in line with what our expectations should’ve been of Holland after his two teen movies.
7. Ron Shelton
Signature Movies: Bull Durham, Tin Cup, White Men Can’t Jump
Last Significant Work Hollywood Homicide (2003)
What’s He Doing Now?: I think Hollywood Homicide basically killed his career. He wrote Bad Boys 2 around the same time, but he hasn’t made anything else in seven years. He does have three movies in development (a baseball movie, a golf movie, and a boxing movie) but I’ve not heard of any of them, or of any movement on those projects.
6. Andrew Davis
Signature Movies: Fugitive, Perfect Murder, Holes, Collateral Damage, Above the Law, Under Seige
Last Significant Work: The Guardian (2006)
What’s He Doing Now?: The Guardian, with Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Costner, wasn’t a terrible film, nor did it perform terribly ($50+ million). I have no explanation for what has happened to him in the last five years — he’s got no projects in development. He just kind of vanished. The last we heard of him, he said he’d planned on making a movie fusing Don Quixote and Tom Jones. That was in 2006. He’s since gone radio silent.
5. Allan Moyle
Signature Movies: Pump Up the Volume, Empire Records
Last Significant Work: Empire Records (1995)
What’s He Doing Now?: Despite having made two generation-defining movies (one that ended one era of teen movies and another that began the next), Moyle hasn’t made anything significant in 15 years. He’s still working, however, most recently with a 2007 film called Weirdsville with two actors in danger of appearing on a future disappearing lead actor list, Scott Speedman (“Felicity”) and Wes Bentley (American Beauty). I actually saw about half of Weirdsville and then got bored and forgot about Allan Moyle again until now.
4. Michael Lehmann
Signature Movies: Heathers, The Truth About Cats and Dogs, Hudson Hawk, and Airheads
Last Significant Work: 40 Days and 40 Nights (2002)
What’s He Doing Now? I think Josh Hartnett may be a career killer, having starred in the last significant work of two of the directors on this list (he was also in Ron Shelton’s Hollywood Homicide Note, also, that Brian de Palma has made nothing of significance since The Black Dahlia, also with Hartnett. See a pattern? After the failure of 40 Days and 40 Nights, Lehmann moved on to television, where he’s had fairly steady work directed TV episodes for shows like “True Blood,” “The West Wing,” “Californication,” “Big Love,” and “Bored to Death.” He has no feature projects in development.
3. John Landis
Signature Movies: Animal House, The Blues Brothers, American Werewolf in London, Three Amigos, Trading Places, Coming to America, Beverly Hills Cop III
Last Significant Work: Blues Brothers 2000 (1998)
What’s He Doing Now?: One of the most successful directors of the ’80s was basically anihiliated by Blues Brothers 2000. Since then, he’s directed a few episodes of “Psych” and “Masters of Horror,” and a TV movie. Of the people on this list, however, he’s the only one with a decent shot at a real comeback — he’s completed a movie called Burke and Hare with Simon Pegg and Isla Fisher about 19th Century grave robbers. The worry, of course, is that — save for Star Trek — Simon Pegg hasn’t been able to carry a movie without Nick Frost.
2. Stephen Herek
Signature Movies: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, The Mighty Ducks, The Three Musketeers, Mr. Holland’s Opus, 101 Dalmations
Last Significant Work Rock Star (2001)
What’s He Doing Now? Herek is also still working, currently on a television movie sequel to The Cutting Edge, as well as a straight-to-DVD sequel to Into the Blue. He also directed a DVD movie for “Dead Like Me,” but a movie no one saw — and for good reason — called Man of the House (with Tommy Lee Jones) pretty much killed his career for good.
1. Martin Brest
Signature Movies: Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run, Scent of a Woman, Joe Black
Last Significant Work: Gigli (2003)
What’s He Doing Now?: Nada. Nothing since Gigli. Has one movie ever decimated a career so badly? Martin Brest was an Oscar-nominated director. Granted, Meet Joe Black was a disaster, but Gigli, man: That just annihilated this man’s career. He’s got nothing in development. He’s written nothing. So far as I know, he’s gone completely off the grid. Not a peep.