Sam Mendes And Five Other Directors Who Made The Jump To Action

By Colin Greten

The 23th installment of the James Bond franchise, “Skyfall” is finally here and has already generated serious box office and critical success.

With a franchise such as Bond, one that is literally action packed, it is interesting that Sam Mendes was chosen as the director. Mendes is a superb director and “Skyfall” is already this is being heralded as one of, if not the best, Bonds of all time. However, none of Mendes’ previous films can be considered action movies as his films generally are about people dealing with inner issues such as “American Beauty” and “Revolutionary Road.”

Even the more action-esque films he has done previously, like “Road to Perdition” and “Jarhead,” do not really have much action in them at all. Mendes’ jump from drama to action is not an unprecedented one, but already seems to be successful. Here are a few directors who have made or are going to make a transition to the action genre, with varying degrees of success.

Jon M. Chu
Starting off with the least recognizable name on the list, Jon M. Chu’s upcoming divergence into action is perhaps one of the most head scratching ones ever. Chu will direct the upcoming “G.I. Joe Retaliation” which features Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Bruce Willis and is sure to have plenty of insanely implausible yet awesome action sequences. The head scratching part you ask? Chu’s few previous directing credits include “Step Up 2: The Streets”, “Step Up 3D” and the groundbreaking documentary “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never”. Transitioning from working with the Biebs to working with John McClane himself has got to be a challenge.

Jon Favreau
Jon Favreau has had a solid acting career for a long time. I mean, he started the “Rudy” chant, enough said. As a director his career took a huge step forward with “Elf,” an instant Christmas movie classic. After seeing “Elf” in 2003, few probably thought that the same guy would direct “Iron Man,” but that’s exactly what Favreau did. “Iron Man” really rejuvenated the at-the-time slightly stale superhero movie genre and its rousing success helped Marvel launch its “Avengers” plan. Sure, we all wish “Cowboys and Aliens” was better, but when it comes to action, Favreau is still money baby, whether he knows it or not.

Marc Webb
Marc Webb is still very early in his directing career with only two feature films under his belt. The first, “500 Days of Summer” was a bigger success than anyone could have hoped for as the offbeat romantic comedy really connected with audiences. After it was decided that the “Spider-Man” franchise was getting a reboot, Webb was picked to helm the project. (Maybe it was the name?) Going from directing a low budget rom-com to directing the first installment of a new “Spider-Man” has got to be daunting. Despite hit or miss types of responses, “The Amazing Spider-Man” was successful enough that a sequel is already in the works with Webb attached. (That name works so well here). Jamie Foxx as Electro is questionable, but fans will have to wait until the sequels 2014 release to know for sure.

Rian Johnson
Johnson is name that dedicated “Breaking Bad” fans may know, as he directed a few episodes of the hit AMC series. While he has directed features previously, Johnson basically went from the aforementioned “Breaking Bad” to the mind-bending action thriller “Looper” which was more critically successful than many would have probably guessed. In Johnson’s case he made a compounded change in directing going from drama to action as well as jumping from television to film, no easy feat. It can be argued that “Breaking Bad” has plenty of action, however one of Johnson’s directing credits on the show is “Fly”, an episode that is literally the opposite of action-packed.

Doug Liman
Doug Liman was the director of “The Bourne Identity” a film that launched a still running and very successful franchise. However, the only really recognizable film before “Bourne” that he directed is “Swingers” a classic late 90s comedy. Basically Liman went from Jon Favreau (so money for getting on this list in two different sections) being unable to get over a bad breakup to Matt Damon being unable to remember that he is a super solider/spy. Maybe Favreau was inspired by Liman’s transition from comedy to action, following the same path a few years later, probably not, but maybe.