As Sick Boy in Trainspotting says: “one time, you’ve got it, and then you lose it, and it’s gone forever.” This particularly seems the case in regards to film directors as once they enter a rut, they seemingly can’t get out no matter what they try. Sometimes they go back to their roots, sometimes they go independent and sometimes they try something completely new, but very few directors have ever been able to resurrect their careers once they’ve had a few flops.
‘Losing it’ happens to the best of them as this list illustrates, but they’re not the only ones. Directors who are no longer with us such as Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock, Sergei Eisenstein, Elia Kazan and Howard Hawks all had middling conclusions to their careers. Eisenstein in particular completely regressed into conformity and his career ended so sadly considering his early work is some of the most pioneering in the history of cinema. What this list proves more than anything else is that not everybody can have a career like Martin Scorsese or Andrei Tarkovsky or Ingmar Bergman or Sergio Leone and make masterpiece after masterpiece.
There’s no shame in admitting you haven’t got it anymore and thatyour work no longer compares to the high standards you set yourself. At this point, the directors on this list are only going to do more damage to their fine legacies if they continue to churn out flops nobody is interested in. The directors on this list are all approaching the end of their careers anyway, and none of them seem set to have a William Friedkin-esque comeback.
10. Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood’s extremely lengthy and prolific career features over 50 films and along the way he has picked up two Best Director Academy Awards, a feat only bettered by John Ford, William Wyler and Frank Capra. Eastwood’s best pictures are Unforgiven, Mystic River and The Outlaw Josey Wales. Now into his 80′s, Eastwood is more prolific than ever, but he appears to have favoured quantity over quality of late. His last good movie was Mystic River, but it would have been Million Dollar Baby if the ending wasn’t one of the most misjudged of recent years.
Most recently, Eastwood has had a tendency to churn out one film a year around awards season as Oscar bait. Films such as Invictus, Changeling, Gran Torino, Hereafter and J Edgar were all dreary, unimpressive pieces of work that were seemingly created for Academy voters as Eastwood seems intent on adding one more Oscar to his shelf. Eastwood went from an exciting director who could work with any subject matter and make it interesting to a man churning out commercial, conformist, boring films annually.
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