Today marks the Blu-ray debut of Good Will Hunting, Gus Van Sant’s acclaimed 1997 drama that became the breakthrough film for writer/stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The pair, who had been friends since childhood, famously wrote the screenplay out of struggling-actor frustration, figuring that if they couldn’t find any good roles (or convince people to give them good roles), they’d write some of their own. The strategy paid off in spades; the film was a critical and financial smash, and the duo won that year’s Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Damon and Affleck weren’t the first frustrated actors who turned to the typewriter to take control of their careers; it’s a common strategy for young actors who can’t get a job, albeit not one that always works out quite as spectacularly. Young actors on the rise aren’t the only ones prone to take a shot at screenwriting, though — more established actors have frequently been known to try their hand at the gig as well, either to redefine themselves and redirect their careers, or to realize a personal, important project. And, let’s be honest, some have probably just done it to satiate their own massive egos. Whatever the case, there’s an abundance of movies written by actors out there; after the jump, we take a look at ten titles, and rank them in order of their artistic (and career-trajectory-influencing) success.
Eric Schaeffer is best known these days as a (richly deserving) target of Gawker and other websites, thanks to his autobiographical blog (and, later, Showtime reality series) “I Can’t Believe I’m Still Single.” But once upon a time, Schaeffer was a struggling young actor/writer/director; he teamed with another multi-hyphenate, Donal Lardner Ward, to make the low-budget 1993 indie film My Life’s In Turnaround, which was a festival success and got the duo a short-lived Fox sitcom called Too Something. Somehow, Schaeffer managed to use those those two credits to convince Columbia/TriStar to hand him a $3.5 million budget for If Lucy Fell, a 1996 romantic comedy that he wrote and directed, with Sarah Jessica Parker, Elle MacPherson, and Ben Stiller in the cast. Oh, and Schaeffer, who humbly wrote himself the leading role of the irresistible painter who nearly beds MacPherson (who calls him “a cute, smart, sexy, good-looking guy” — writing that line for someone else to say to you is a high watermark for narcissism, even in Hollywood) and ends up with Parker. Yes, everyone in If Lucy Fell is utterly in love with Eric Schaeffer; too bad that didn’t rub off on the critics (“Schaeffer… can neither write, direct nor act. His characters are sketchy and his storytelling arbitrary. He can’t sustain a narrative flow, his staging is clumsy and his few ideas are only partly articulated.” – Washington Post) or ticket buyers.