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9 Directors Who Deserve Comebacks

By Rebecca Pahle | Lists | September 11, 2015 |

By Rebecca Pahle | Lists | September 11, 2015 |

M. Night Shyamalan, director of several famed boils on the ass of cinema history, is paring things down a bit for his low-key found footage thriller The Visit, in theaters today. It’s not a bad movie. It’s not a great movie, either, but it’s kind of refreshing to see Shyamalan let go of his I AM A VISIONARY DIRECTOR WITH BIG IDEAS THAT MAKE PERFECT SENSE schtick and make a movie that’s fun and good, if slightly predictable. If it makes me feel a little bit sad, too, like maybe we, the collective moviegoing populace, were a bit too gleeful and building this guy up and tearing him down, like maybe we played some part in taking someone with big creative ambitions and breaking him… well, he directed The Last Airbender, so fuck it.

Shyamalan isn’t the only director whose best days are behind him, either because they started making shit or stopped directing at all. If there can be a Johnny Depp comeback narrative (guys, I am not ready for that, Mortdecai was eight months ago), I can damn well pray for the return to glory of these creatives from the other side of the camera.

Ridley Scott

The last four movies directed by Ridley Scott are Robin Hood, Prometheus, The Counselor and White Moses. Even if you’re a Prometheus defender (why), you have to admit that, taken as a whole, Ridley’s hit a rough patch. I really hope that The Martian, out next month, reminds us that this is a three-time Oscar nominee who made Alien, God dammit. The fact that Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods), not Damon Lindelof (Prometheus), wrote the script is my security blanket. It’s a pro-science space exploration movie based on a great book. Don’t fuck this up for me, Ridley.

Tom Hanks

What have you been doing, my man THanks?! You directed That Thing You Do!, then a pair of TV episodes, then Larry Crowne, then nada. I saw That Thing You Do!, THanks. Everyone my age has. I know you can direct, but you’re stepping back and letting plebes do it instead, while you… what, produce award-winning movies and TV shows and rake in million-dollar paychecks for acting work? You’re a lazy sonofabitch, and I demand that Director THanks come back and give me a That Thing You Do! sequel.

Luc Besson

In recent years, most of Besson’s success has come from producing—he’s largely responsible for the Taken and Transporter movies, for example. The man behind The Fifty Element and The Professional still does direct, but since 1999’s The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc his movies have mostly been extremely modest and haven’t done much of anything, critically or financially. For example, did you know he’s done not one but two Arthur and the Invisibles sequels? Yeah, I don’t fucking know, either. The one exception was Lucy, which made as shitton despite not being all that good.

Penelope Spheeris

Penelope Sphreeris directed Wayne’s World. Why has that not entitled her to a lifetime of high-profile directing gigs? Why was her most recent film a made-for-TV Christmas movie starring actors from Pretty Little Liars and The Originals? What have we done to offend God this way?

Rob Reiner

We’ve talked about Rob Reiner’s epic cold streak before. Can the director of The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Stand By Me, This is Spinal Tap, Misery, and A Few Good Men not get a few more good movies in? Now it’s all shitty rom-coms and schmaltzy feel-good dramas like The Bucket List. Call William Goldman, and let’s get cracking.

Michael Lehmann

The man who directed Heathers, underrated comedy classic Airheads (“I ain’t farting on no snare drum”), and The Truth About Cats and Dogs… and, er, Hudson Hawk… has been stolen away by TV, where in recent years he’s directed episosdes of True Blood, Bored to Death, American Horror Story and Californiacation, among others. Is that the way we’re going to treat the guy who delivered the line “You want to fuck with the eagles, you have to learn to fly” to the world?

Josh Trank

The director of this summer’s ill-fated Fantastic Four can’t have a comeback now obviously, because he’s only been gone for like… three weeks. That said, after the (alleged) substance abuse problems, (allegedly) getting fired from Star Wars, and (definitely) throwing his own movie under the bus, do you honestly think people will be lining up to let him direct anything besides infomercials for the next few years? But Chronicle was a great movie, and for all that Fantastic Four was a milquetoast mess, there were brief glimmers of the potentially interesting film Trank must have wanted to make before he, or the studio, or the ghost of William Howard Taft, fucked the movie up beyond recognition. (For more on the Fantastic Four meltdown and who’s responsible for it, consult one of the 200 or so thinkpieces that came out in late August.) Trank fucked up, big-time. He wasn’t ready for a big studio movie like this. But I don’t think his career should be over. Let’s give it a few years and try again with something small.

Tarsem Singh

I refuse to admit that the man who directed The Fall has nothing left to offer the world of cinema, no matter how much evidence (Self/Less, Mirror Mirror, The Immortals) there may be to the contrary. He has one upcoming project, NBC’s gritty The Wizard of Oz reimagining Emerald City, which… eh?

Then again, Tarsem’s already done his service to humanity…

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…so maybe we should let him relax and direct whatever the fuck he wants from here on out.

Jonathan Demme

How the mighty have fallen. From The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia (and, more recently, Rachel Getting Married), to Ricki and the Flash. Great turn from Meryl Streep. Meh movie.

John Carpenter

The director of Escape from New York, The Thing, They Live, Halloween, Big Trouble in Little China, THE LIST GOES ON, has been flying mostly under the radar as of late, directing only two films, the critically panned Ghosts of Mars and The Ward, this century. Fuck, they should just get him on the Dwayne Johnson-starring Big Trouble remake. Come back to us, John! We believe in you!

Runners-up: Francis Ford Coppola, Michel Gondry, Peter Weir, Oliver Stone, Tim Burton, Kevin Smith, Richard Kelly, Curtis Hanson

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