Zoe Kravitz to Angelina Jolie: 10 actresses who swapped acting for directing

As Kravitz makes her directorial debut with a film she also co-wrote, we take a closer those at those who have swapped being on camera for a job behind the scenes

Everyone in Hollywood knows the most powerful person on a film set is the one calling out “Action!”. While directing was long the province of men in Tinseltown, over the years many successful women have proven the influx of new directors makes for more interesting movies made from different perspectives.

From Marielle Heller directing Tom Hanks in the acclaimed Mr Rogers biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, and documentary and filmmaker Ava DuVernay's Oscar-nominated Selma, to Oscar-winning directors Chloe Zhao for Nomadland and Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker, more women than ever are being inspired to get behind the camera and tell diverse stories.

Scroll through the gallery above for the actresses' thoughts on directing.

Zoe Kravitz is the latest star to make the leap from front of camera to behind the lens. Recently announcing her directorial debut, a thriller which she also co-wrote, Kravitz said Magic Mike's Channing Tatum will star in it, telling Deadline: "This is my first feature and it's taken many years to get to this point and I'm very excited to step into this new phase. There's absolutely a thriller element to the film, but it has comedy, drama and real heart."

Here are 10 stars who swapped acting for directing …

Zoe Kravitz

With roles in Mad Max: Fury Road, X-Men: First Class and Divergent under her belt, the daughter of musician-turned-actor Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet will next be seen as Catwoman in The Batman.

But the actress and model is keen to add another bow to her string, with her directorial debut a tale about a Los Angeles cocktail waitress called Frida who finds herself invited to party on philanthropist and tech mogul Slater King’s (Tatum) private island. She soon discovers something’s not quite right about the party isle.

"I'd watched her in movies, knew she produced High Fidelity and had seen that, but I didn't know she was creating on a level like this, where she wanted to direct," Tatum told Deadline about his director.

Olivia Wilde

First appearing on Hollywood's radar as Alex Kelly in teen drama The OC, Wilde has the TV show House MD to thank for really putting her on the map, and the actress hasn't looked back since.

Earning critical acclaim for directing 2019's Booksmart, Wilde, 37, has been busy at work directing her new partner, former One Direction singer Harry Styles, in her latest film, Don't Worry Darling.

"I never wanted to pigeonhole myself," she told Variety. "I was just like, 'I love everything. I'll do anything.' That was evidence that what I really love is the process. That was a clue that I was supposed to be directing."

Angelina Jolie

The Oscar winner might have returned to acting in the coming The Eternals and Netflix's Those Who Wish Me Dead, but she has remained firmly behind the camera since her 2011 directorial effort, In the Land of Blood and Honey. Preferring to make films about real-life events, the actress then followed up with 2014's Unbroken and 2017's First They Killed My Father.

"I never thought I could make a movie or direct," Jolie said at the Toronto Film Festival. Of her 2011 Bosnian war drama In the Land of Blood and Honey, she said: "I wanted to learn more about the war of Yugoslavia. I had been in the region and travelling in the UN. It was a war I really couldn't get my head around ... It was not a goal to become a director."

Jodie Foster

Having started her career at the age of 3 and won two Best Actress Oscars, she now has 10 directing credits to her name, with two more in the pipeline.

Foster, 58, became the first woman to direct on Netflix's acclaimed Black Mirror anthology, helming the Arkangel episode. Prior to that, she had directed episodes of Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards. On the big screen, she went behind the camera for 1991's Little Man Tate, a film about a child genius in which she also starred.

"I wanted to be a director by the time I was 6," she said during a panel at the New York Comic-Con. "I did a television show with an actor-director and I was just amazed that those two things could happen."

Greta Gerwig

"I told them no one else could direct it; I must direct it," Gerwig told podcast The Big Ticket, about having her heart set on helming 2019's Little Women. "They were like, 'Alright. Well, you've never directed anything or … you've never solo directed anything.'"

The actress, 37, enjoyed success straight out of the gate when she switched from acting to directing with her 2017 film Lady Bird, which she also wrote. It was Oscar-nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. Her all-star Little Women received a Best Adapted Screenplay nod.

Regina King

As an actress, King is at the top of most directors' wish lists, and has landed starring roles in the likes of the Oscar-winning Ray and If Beale Street Could Talk, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

As a director, she's been getting behind the camera since 2013, helming episodes of TV shows, including Scandal and This is Us. Her most recent feature film, One Night in Miami, won a mantlepiece full of accolades.

“It’s being a woman, it’s being black, it’s being raised in LA, it’s being my mother’s daughter. It’s all of those things … that’s what I bring to telling the story,” she says of her unique filmmaking perspective.

Elizabeth Banks

With no fewer than seven directing projects lined up for release once cinemas open fully, it would be easy to assume that Elizabeth Banks had given up on acting.

However, she also has nine acting projects in the pipeline, making her one of the busiest and most in-demand multi-hyphenates in Hollywood.

Banks both starred in and directed 2015's Pitch Perfect 2, as well as the 2019 reboot of Charlie's Angels.

"It's something I've always wanted to do," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "I directed plays in college. I'm very bossy, and I got to a point as an actor where I'd been on 65 or 70 sets. It's a big job, and I like the constant challenge."

Sofia Coppola

Having appeared in music videos for the likes of Madonna, The Black Crowes and The Chemical Brothers, Coppola's big foray into film as Mary Corleone in The Godfather Part III was not the success she had hoped for. The daughter of The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, her acting was derided as "hopelessly amateurish" by The New York Times, of which she later said: "It wasn't my dream to be an actress, so I wasn't crushed."

Turning to directing, her 1999 effort The Virgin Suicides was critically acclaimed, along with 2003's Lost in Translation, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and became the third woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director.

“Make something you want to see,” she advises budding filmmakers. “Now that there are video cameras, it’s easy to get together with friends and make things you’re into.”

Nandita Das

Her decades-spanning career has made her a force to be reckoned with in Bollywood, so when Das, 51, decided to go behind the camera, it's perhaps no surprise her directorial debut, 2008's Firaaq, won more than 20 awards.

Following up with 2018's Manto, the actress told The National: "In the last few years, we have been talking about the need for more female directors. If we say that, we have to own the term. So I've begun to say, 'Yes, I am a female director' and I don't shy away from that. Ideally, I want to be treated as a 'director' but until it's a level playing field, I'm fine being a 'female director'."

Amy Poehler

The comedy actress, 49, is well known for creating memorable characters on Saturday Night Live, and for her turn as Leslie Knope in fan-favourite TV show Parks and Recreation. And as well as starring in it, she also directed three episodes.

Recently moving into the director's chair to helm movies, Poehler directed 2019's Wine Country, which featured her close friend Tina Fey, and Netflix's 2021 high school-based hit Moxie.

"I've learnt that to create something doesn't require chaos," she told USA Today, "I put up with a lot less."

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Read more:

Oscars 2021: 'Nomadland' filmmaker Chloe Zhao becomes first woman of colour to win Best Director

How women are dominating 2021's record-breaking awards season

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