Switcheroo! Filmmakers who switched genres to huge success… from John Landis to Kenneth Brannagh

This week, comedian Jordan Peele turns away from the genre that made his name, with his thrilling and horrifying directorial debut; ‘Get Out’. The film follows Chris (Daniel Kayuula), a young African-American man who journeys with his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to meet her family for the first time. When the couple arrive, it is not long before Chris begins to feel uncomfortable, and when a party erupts around them, Chris goes from uncomfortable to be frightened for his very life.

To celebrate the release of ‘Get Out’ in Irish cinemas, Movies.ie has taken a look back at other filmmakers who moved away from the genres they are best known for, to huge success. Keep reading to find out more…

John Landis – ‘An American Werewolf in London’
Although we now remember him for his work in the horror genre, up until the release of ‘An American Werewolf in London’ in 1981, John Landis was best known for his comedic work on films including ‘National Lampoon’s Animal House’ and ‘The Blues Brothers’. So when Landis turned his hand to horror, fans were shocked.
‘An American Werewolf in London’ follows two American students on a walking tour of the UK, who are attacked by a werewolf… A creature that none of the locals will admit exists. Landis had been trying to get the film made since 1969 when he came up with the idea while in Yugoslavia working on ‘Kelly’s Heroes’. Although ‘An American Werewolf in London’ has comedic moments, it was this film that proved that Landis had a horror streak, which he then went on to explore in ‘Twilight Zone: The Movie’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ music video.

George Lucas – ‘American Graffiti’
Four years before he took us to a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas brought us to Modesto, California in his coming of age comedy ‘American Graffiti’. The director had already made several short films and his student short film had been turned into a feature length film; ‘THX 1138’. ‘THX 1138’ is a sci-fi film set in the 25th century where love is illegal, but a man and woman fall in love, and decide to rebel against their controlled society.
‘American Graffiti’ was a complete departure for George Lucas, who was, and is, best known for his love of fantasy and sci-fi. The film focused on two best friends who are just about to head off to college, and spend one last night cruising the strip with their best friends. ‘American Graffiti’ was nominated for a whopping five Oscars in 1974, including Best Picture and Best Director, and has gone on to become one of the most profitable films of all time. As well as this ‘American Graffiti’ paved the way for George Lucas to make his passion project; ‘Star Wars’.

Joss Whedon – ‘Much Ado About Nothing’
Having made his name in TV with ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, ‘Angel’, ‘Firefly’ and ‘Dollhouse’ it was only a matter of time before Joss Whedon made the move to the big screen. Fans were delighted when Whedon brought the conclusion of ‘Firefly’ to the big screen with ‘Serenity’, then stepped into the Marvel Cinematic Universe to take on two ‘Avengers’ films, and this move felt like an obvious one for the director who had helped to bring nerd culture into the mainstream. When Whedon sneakily released ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ in 2012, it was a subversion of expectations.
‘Much Ado About Nothing’ stars many actors who have appeared throughout the Whedon universe, including Clark Gregg, Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof and Nathan Fillion, and is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s classic play ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. The film focuses on two different couples who are coming together, even though they have very different views on love and romance. ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ was filmed in Joss Whedon’s own home during a break in making ‘Avengers Assemble’ and was kept secret until filming was complete.

Wes Craven – ‘Music of the Heart’
Another director known for his work on horror films, including the ‘Scream’ franchise, ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and ‘The Hills Have Eyes’, Wes Craven surprised audiences in 1999 when he released ‘Music of the Heart’, a drama about a violin teacher struggling to teach inner city Harlem children.
‘Music of the Heart’ stars Meryl Streep as Roberta Guaspari, a woman who has been left by her husband, and is feeling abandoned and suicidal. On her mother’s advice, Roberta takes on a post as a substitute music teacher in a disadvantaged area. ‘Music of the Heart’ is Craven’s only foray outside of the horror genre – other than his work on ‘Paris, Je T’aime’ – and is the only film of Craven’s that has been Oscar nominated. Craven returned to horror just a year after ‘Music of the Heart’ with ‘Scream 3’.

Kenneth Brannagh – ‘Thor’
Before he signed on to direct ‘Thor’ in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Brannagh was best known for his Shakespearean work – he had directed adaptations of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, ‘As You Like It’ and ‘Love’s Labours Lost’. Of course there are times when ‘Thor’ feels like a Shakespearean tragedy, but the modern fantasy genre was a departure for the director.
‘Thor’ stars Chris Hemsworth as the title character who, after defying his father’s wishes, is cast out of Asgard, leaving his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to take the throne. On earth, Thor meets astrophysicist Jane (Natalie Portman) and must find a way back home before Loki destroys Asgard forever. Although ‘Thor’ may have been a departure of genre for Kenneth Brannagh, he had actually been a fan of the Marvel character since he was a child, and of course he took inspiration from Shakespeare for the film, specifically the 1989 version of ‘Henry V’.

Words: Brogen Hayes

‘Get Out’ is released in Irish cinemas on March 17th 2017. Watch the trailer below…