Nine Movie Stars Who Won Oscars for Directing – But Never for Acting

Kevin Costner

It's Oscar season! And in honor of one of our culture's most celebrated trivial events, I give you trivia. The title of this list says it all. (Note: the years mentioned are for the year of the Academy Awards ceremony in which each director won, not the year the film came out.)

  1. Warren Beatty in 1982 for his boring film Reds. (The film itself lost to Chariots of Fire.)
  2. Kevin Costner in 1991 for his bloated film Dances with Wolves. He took home a second Oscar as producer. Has anyone dared to sit through his 4-hour "director's cut"?
  3. Mel Gibson in 1996 for Braveheart. He also took home an Oscar as producer. Are you detecting a trend of actors winning Oscars for directing themselves in self-important, epic-length vanity projects?
  4. Robert Redford in 1981 for Ordinary People. It was his directorial debut. At least he didn't star in it!
  5. Clint Eastwood in 1993 for Unforgiven, plus an Oscar for producing it. I can't hail this as a vanity project, since the Clintster had already directed himself in so many films, and also because he's cool. [2005 update: He won again for 2004's Million Dollar Baby.]
  6. Woody Allen in 1978 for Annie Hall. Fans of Star Wars will never forgive him for beating out George Lucas. Allen also won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar that year, and again for Hannah and Her Sisters in 1987. For a guy who never even shows up for the ceremony, the Academy sure loves him.
  7. Richard Attenborough in 1983 for Gandhi. Attenborough had been a screen actor in his native England for many years; even after his win, he still appears once in a while as a tweedy old fuddy duddy type (Jurassic Park et al).
  8. Christine Lahti in 1996 for her short film Lieberman in Love. This is a great bar bet: Challenge your friends to name the one actress who has won an Oscar for directing. In this case, short films count, but you don't have to tell them that in advance.
  9. ...and the rest. All right, there aren't any more actors who have (yet) won for directing. But let's give kudos to those who have picked up Oscars for other feats. Best Screenplay: Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade); Emma Thompson (Sense & Sensibility - she also won Best Actress for Howards End, the only person to win in both categories); Orson Welles (Citizen Kane); Mel Brooks (The Producers); Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting). Best Song: Keith Carradine ("I'm Easy" from Nashville). Best Score: Charles Chaplin (Limelight - 21 years after the movie was made!). Best Picture (as producer): Michael Douglas (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest).