Nine Artists and Musicians Who Tried Their Hand at Directing

Robert Longo’s Johnny Mnemonic

"But what I really want to do is direct!" It's one of the great cliches in film: everybody wants to call the shots, to play the "visionary". A lot of A-list actors, writers, and cinematographers have had that chance. A few even got to do it more than once. But occasionally someone makes a name for himself in another field - in the case of this list, fine art or pop music - and manages to channel it into the opportunity to direct a movie. Let's see how they fared.

  1. Robert Longo. '80s superstar artist best known for his paintings of yuppies in contorted poses, Longo made a few music videos (including New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle") before scamming people into letting him direct the infamous Johnny Mnemonic (1995), which tanked. Hip cast? Keanu Reeves, Ice T, Henry Rollins. Critics? Hated it. Audiences? Avoided it. Directed since? Nope.
  2. David Salle. Another '80s art star, this painter had plenty of well-placed Hollywood connections, so his directing dream came true with the forgettable Search and Destroy (1995), a tired Tarantino ripoff. Hip cast? Dennis Hopper, John Turturro, Christopher Walken, Ethan Hawke. Critics? Hated it. Audiences? Avoided it. Directed since? Nope.
  3. Cindy Sherman. Sherman has been in the art world pantheon since the mid-'70s, when she released a series of untitled self-portraits in poses reminiscent of 1950s B-movies. The talented photographer proved herself to be an untalented movie director, though, when her film Office Killer (1997) fizzled. Hip cast? The sort of kitschy-hip Molly Ringwald and Carol Kane. Critics? Hated it. Audiences? Avoided it. Directed since? Nope.
  4. Julian Schnabel. Yet another '80s art star, much of Schnabel's work consists of painted "collages" of broken plates and crockery glued to a canvas. He was shrewd to set his debut Basquiat (1996) in a world he knew: the New York art scene in the 1980s. The self-loving Schnabel even cast Gary Oldman as his alter ego, a kindly painter with a heart of gold. Hip cast? Oldman, Dennis Hopper, David Bowie, Willem Dafoe, Courtney Love, on and on. Critics? Thought it was okay. Audiences? Made it a modest success at art house theatres. Directed since? Yes. Schnabel made the respectable Before Night Falls in 2000, starring Javier Bardem. [2009 UPDATE: Schnabel also helmed the acclaimed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly in 2007.]
  5. Bob Dylan. Dylan actually made two films: the first, Eat the Document, was a tripped-out doc on his own world tour (call it an "auto-documentary") that nobody saw. But his real foray into feature filmmaking was Renaldo & Clara, a drama based on his "Rolling Thunder" tour. Notable for Dylan casting himself as Renaldo, then casting actor/musician Ronnie Hawkins as Bob Dylan, this pretentious four-hour(!) mess was hated by virtually everyone. Dylan's answer? "Watch it stoned." Hip cast? Harry Dean Stanton, Sam Shepard, Allen Ginsberg, Joan Baez. Critics? Hated it. Audiences? Avoided it. Directed since? Nope.
  6. Neil Young. Like Dylan, Young's first chance at filmmaking came with two short concert "auto-documentaries". Then came Human Highway (1982), which Young codirected with actor Dean Stockwell, a boring comedy starring - surprise! - Young and Stockwell. Hip cast? Dennis Hopper, Russ Tamblyn, Sally Kirkland, DEVO. Critics? Hated it. Audiences? Avoided it. Directed since? Nope. [2009 UPDATE: In 2003, Young did make a little-seen indie musical called Greendale.]
  7. David Byrne. The Talking Heads front man got his shot at the big time with True Stories (1986), a smirky mockumentary about a fictional white trash Texas town. Talking Heads, naturally, provided the music, and one popular song ("Wild, Wild Life") is the best legacy this turkey leaves behind. Hip cast? John Goodman, Spalding Gray, Byrne himself. Critics? Hated it. Audiences? Avoided it. Directed since? One short concert film (another "auto-documentary").
  8. Laurie Anderson. Byrne's kooky female counterpart was smart enough to direct what she knew she could handle: a Laurie Anderson concert film. Home of the Brave (1986) was often paired with Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense because of the Heads' and Anderson's shared audience and sensibilities. Hip cast? William S. Burroughs. Critics? Thought it was pretty good. Audiences? Avoided it. Directed since? Just one short film.
  9. Dave Stewart. The first musician on this list to actually helm a feature film that did not star himself and is not a concert video, the famed Eurythmic and frequent film composer (he scored Showgirls) helmed the period comedy Honest in 2000. It was a vehicle for the fleetingly popular British girl band All Saints. Hip cast? Bootsy Collins. Critics? Hated it. Audiences? Avoided it. Directed since? Nope.