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There are a few movies I can note where their directors also played a role in their films:

  • Orson Welles tended to star in many of his films, but that was during the 40's
  • Roman Polanski played the role of the man who cut Jack Nicholson's nose in Chinatown, but Chinatown was released in 1974
  • The most recent film I can think of where this happened was when Quentin Tarantino played Jimmy in Pulp Fiction, which was released in 1994

I can't really think of any recent movies where directors did this. Is it common to see directors acting in their own films these days?

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    How do you define "common"?
    – Flimzy
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 17:59

2 Answers 2

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It is a very common occurrence. To quote a recent instance, Jon Favreau played the chauffeur in both Iron Man and Iron Man 2. Quentin Tarantino acted in Grindhouse, From Dusk Til Dawn, and had several other films. Clint Eastwood appeared in Gran Torino and Million Dollar Baby. I could cite even more if I could recollect year by year.

This Wikipedia article could be of some help.

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  • Another modern example: British actor/writer/director Noel Clarke has a major acting part in many of the films he's directed. Commented May 27, 2012 at 12:21
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    M. Night Shyamalan appears in most (maybe all?) of the films he directs.
    – Flimzy
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 18:00
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    Well, Favreau and Eastwood also do (or did) acting as their primary job. On these lines you could also mention George Clooney. Shyamalan and Tarantino are much better examples, being mainly directors and not appearing in other movies than their own (though one could argue about Tarantino). And by the way, wasn't From Dusk Till Dawn and Planet Terror (for I don't think he was in Death Proof) from Rodriguez. I know they are pals, but well. But +1 for the Wiki link.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented May 30, 2012 at 14:16
  • That list has (rough guess) approximately 250 movies where a director appeared in his own movie. In recent years, Hollywood produces approx. 600 movies per year. I don't know whether that is a more or less steady number over the decades, but let's assume so. So assuming we're talking about the period 1960-2010, then a "back of the envelope" calculation -- (250*100)/((2010-1960)*600) -- puts the % at... less than one percent. I wouldn't call that "a very common occurrence".
    – BCdotWEB
    Commented Apr 23, 2021 at 13:56
  • @BCdotWEB Your statistics are skewed. You assume everyone has seen every film. It is more likely that the majority of movie-watchers have seen closer to 1% of all films, in which a high percentage of those have had their directors acting. Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 19:10
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Speaking as a director-

To step back, one has to consider what the job of directing is. It's a story teller who sees the big picture. Directors have to be able to create the scene and the tone with picture, framing, editing, and of course acting.

Some directors are stronger at pulling the best performance out of an actor; some are better at setting the scene. But inevitably, everything you see they've had their hand in.

Being part of the final product, even for just a split second lets them take the ride they are building. Chris "X-Files" Carter went so far as to have Ten-Thirteen Production's Logo include a voice saying, "I Made This!"

Finally, who better to figure out where to put a little bit of self-homagistic fun into a film than the person directing it.

Not every director will have the desire to do so, and there may be many cases of directors in films that haven't been caught; but it's very common and very likely to continue.

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