Last weekend Judd Apatow’s latest produced feature; The Five-Year Engagement co-written by the film’s lead Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother, I Love You Man) was released in UK cinemas. As with most Apatow outings it had a lot of heart and a lot of humour, I thoroughly recommend it. The film marks the second pairing of Segel and director Nicholas Stoller (he also produced The Muppets), the first being the delightful Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
This got me thinking back to the fact I’ve noticed Segel always seems to choose/write himself roles in which he plays a cute, adorable, flawed but still great-all round guy. Hey I’m not complaining, I love Segel as much as the next person, but I do find it intriguing when an actor writes a script even more so when he write himself a large role in it.
Segel isn’t the first actor to do this and he won’t be the last. This year alone has seen some fresh Thespians catching the writers bug. Prison Breaks Wentworth Miller has scribed Park Chan-Wook’s English language début Stoker and Brit Marling (Another Earth) wrote and starred in festival hit Sound Of My Voice. Some actors do this to get themselves noticed; they can’t win the lead roles, or they don’t have a big enough name to carry top billing so they write themselves into a film. Others do it for the love of the craft or as part of a writing team; but for the most part it’s an actor whose had enough of the endless auditions deciding to make their own mark on the industry, a chance for them to showcase their acting chops.
It’s inspiring stuff, so below is a list of my top 10 favourite films written by actors. I decided to shy away from movies which the same actor directed, so there’s no Woody Allen films, no George Clooney, no Garden State, Gone Baby Gone or Zoolander. Why? Because when an actor writes a script you get to see an entirely new side to them, an insight into their own ego, personality, if someone else directs it becomes less personal yet even more revealing sometimes as the actor can concentrate on their own role and the director can explore the script more openly.
10. Swingers (Jon Favreau)
Written by and starring Jon Favreau, Swingers is a great little movie which got not only Favreau but Vince Vaughn, Heather Graham and Ron Livingstone noticed in the mid-90s. Favreau plays a struggling comedian, yet that can so easily be replaced with ‘struggling actor’ in LA who’s looking to kick start his life once again.
Oozing with insecurity and awkwardness, Swingers perfectly encapsulates the bashful every man with some classic scenes (Favreau leaving many cringe-worthy messages on the answer machine is a highlight). It proved a great way for Favreau to break into Hollywood.