I am of the opinion that everyone loves horror movies. Even if you say you don’t, you do, because somewhere deep down inside, everyone likes being scared—even if it’s just a little. Horror encapsulates so many things: it’s not just Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers. That goes for Hollywood’s elite too—even A-list celebrities dabble in the dark side every now and again and they’re really good when they do it! But unfortunately they don’t do it all that often because, let’s face it, much to this horror fan’s chagrin, the genre is still the red-headed stepchild of entertainment. Which is why we’re using today’s Nerdoween vlog to discuss the best examples of Hollywood stars not known for horror.
From Mark Duplass to Tom Cruise and Elijah Wood, the most funny, charming, and wholesome of actors can be downright terrifying when it comes time for them to partake in horror. It’s not just actors, either: would you believe that some of the most beloved horror classics from were directed by people who are best known for their comedies?
Richard Donner—probably best known for making Superman fly for the first time on the big screen or for action packed adventures like The Goonies or Lethal Weapon—actually got his start directing television, including a bunch of Twilight Zone episodes. In 1976 he directed The Omen, which is now considered a horror classic and one of the classiest horror movies ever made. Starring Gregory Peck, another star not known for his genre work, Donner’s movie made both Damien Thorn and that haunting score iconic. Donner hasn’t dipped his toes into the horror waters in a while, although he did direct a few episodes of Tales from the Crypt in the 90s. Come back to us, Richard!
Similar to Richard Donner, Rob Reiner is best known for turning comedy up to eleven with movies like This Is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally and The Princess Bride. But what you probably didn’t know is that Reiner directed Kathy Bates to an Oscar win in the 1991 adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery—and it doesn’t get much more horrific than Stephen King, y’all!
But finally, the horror movie director who is absolutely not a horror movie director, yet left an impact on the genre that is still being felt to this day is The French Connection’s William Friedkin, who directed one of the greatest horror movies of all time, The Exorcist. It’s arguably Friedkin’s documentary background that gave The Exorcist it’s stark realism—or the fact that he did most everything in the film practically (for better or for worse, depending on who you ask). The Exorcist is known as “the scariest movie ever made,” earning ten Oscar nominations including Best Picture, and winning two in 1974. And while Friedkin has since dabbled in the genre with some television work and a few films, he’s arguably not a horror director, although I would say things like Bug and Killer Joe are quite satisfying for a genre hound like myself.
These are just a few names of talented entertainers who dipped their toes in the genre waters and gave us some classics before flying off into the sunset never to be heard from again. So who are some of your favorite stars not known for their genre work? Authors, actors, directors — let’s hear it! I’m always looking for a new recommendation.
Featured Image Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment