Aaron Sorkin, Andy Serkis, Kumail Nanjiani, these and other Hollywood figures are learning new behind-the-camera skills.
by David Compa
"It's not true that I always wanted to direct," says Aaron Sorkin, who audiences know best for his balletic verbosity in such screenplays as "A Few Good Men" and "The Social Network," and from the TV series "The West Wing." "I've never felt that screenwriting was a stepping stone to another job – it was the job I wanted." Yet Sorkin is now a debut helmer with "Molly's Game" -- a Christmas release starring Jessica Chastain and featuring Idris Elba and Kevin Costner -- despite his admission: "I can't pick a long lens out of a police lineup. Jumping into the deep end of a big pool is true on a lot of levels." Anthony Russo / For The Times Some notable film directors have started their careers in different disciplines of the business, actors, writers, etc. Some notable film directors have started their careers in different disciplines of the business, actors, writers, etc. (Anthony Russo / For The Times) Making that leap into the virtual unknown didn't stop Sorkin or other Hollywood vets best known for expertise in other areas of filmmaking. This year, writers-turned-first-time-directors include Danny Strong ("Rebel in the Rye"), Marti Noxon ("To the Bone") and Sorkin. Actors too are changing chairs. Greta Gerwig made her directorial debut with “Lady Bird,” Jordan Peele with “Get Out,” Andy Serkis with "Breathe" and actor Kumail Nanjiani wrote and starred in "The Big Sick." For some, this has been a long-planned move. Strong says he wanted to direct once he watched his first screenplay, "Recount," being produced in 2008. "It turned it from a 'one day I'll do this' to an actual goal," he says. I saw [director] Jay Roach up close making decisions and realized I wanted to be in charge of the company." Serkis' first turn as a director is the upcoming "Jungle Book," but it's his second film, "Breathe," that hit theaters last month. For him, wanting to direct "goes all the way back to before even becoming an actor," he says, when he studied visual arts in college and then got bit by the acting bug. Spending years working on Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" and "Hobbit" films was an "extraordinary film education," he says. Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times Actor