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The Unexpected Movies of Famous Filmmakers

We were all a little surprised when we heard that Steven Soderbergh’s next film was Magic Mike, a beefcake comedy/drama inspired by star Channing Tatum’s early days as a male stripper, and its trailers have been a little worrisome, at least in terms of what we’ve come to expect from even Mr. Soderbergh’s more crowd-pleasing efforts. Thankfully, the film itself is an enjoyably fizzy and funny entertainment — and, true to form, Soderbergh keeps things interesting by making the entire picture into a sly subversion of traditional on-screen gender roles.

Soderbergh is far from the first famous filmmaker who threw audiences for a loop by directing a film that seemed far removed from their usual style; after the jump, we’ve got ten other directors and the out-of-character movies they made.

David Lynch, The Straight Story

Lynch is a filmmaker who has carefully cultivated a body of work that is, to say the least, a little weird. From Eraserhead to Blue Velvet to Twin Peaks to Wild at Heart, the Lynch universe is one of frothing freaks and fever dreams — not the stuff of G-rated Walt Disney movies. But that’s exactly what he made in 1999, when he directed The Straight Story, a film co-written by his wife (and frequent producer) Mary Sweeney, based on a true story. Richard Farnsworth stars as Alvin Straight, a wily old coot who takes a 240-mile journey on a tractor (his vision is too poor for a driver’s license) to visit his dying, estranged brother. It’s a charming, likable picture, with a marvelous, Oscar-nominated performance by Farnsworth, but watching it is a bit unnerving; you keep waiting for the idyllic events on-screen to take a dark, Lynchian turn, for Sissy Spacek to discover an ear or for Farnsworth to start talking backwards. Lynch later said that Straight was “my most experimental movie,” which sounds like a gag, until you realize that, for the guy whose brain hatched Eraserhead, The Straight Story probably seems like pretty far-out stuff.

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