What everyone in Hollywood would really like to do is direct. But before you get to call "Action!," you have to take some.
Clockwise: Ariel Vromen, Mark Webber, Fred Savage, Max Winkler, Lake Bell
If there ever was a road map available to aspiring multi-hyphenates hoping to find their way through Hollywood's power labyrinths, it's been replaced by a machete and a torch. "Rather than pitch someone your idea of how you want something to look or feel, you can, for a relatively low price, get your friends and just go make something," says rising writer-director Max Winkler. "Not long ago, it was almost impossible to even get your hands on a camera, so it's on us to prove why something is relevant or funny or worth buying." For your consideration, a new class of trailblazers, all of whom have beaten their own paths to success: an Israeli transplant who had to overcome the Qaddafi regime and Mickey Rourke to bring his passion project to fruition; a dramatic actress turned comedian turned offbeat auteur; a character actor who has taken a dangerously personal approach to making his own movies; a beloved former child star who, instead of settling for a life as a pop-culture punch line, has fashioned himself into one of TV comedy's most valuable players; and a precocious Hollywood scion who's manically working to emerge from the shadow of his surname and become the architect of his own happy days.
|Ariel Vromen, 39|
Credit check: Writer-director, The Iceman
The hit parade: For five years, this Tel Aviv–born director struggled to make a movie about Richard Kuklinski, a New Jersey hit man pegged to over a hundred murders, with Michael Shannon. After a rival version starring Channing Tatum got whacked, another with Mickey Rourke (financed by Al-Saadi Qaddafi, son of Muammar) was green-lit. "At that moment, I knew I'd lost," Vromen says. "Then Obama froze the Qaddafi family's assets, there's a revolution in Libya, and we had a clear path." Vromen sees The Iceman as a triumph of perseverance, not luck, so he's ready for the opportunities that cometh. "People get sucked into a vortex of their own ego," he says, "but it's all about what comes next. It's okay to feel like everything's going to go wrong."
Clothing by Prada, socks by Falke, shoes by Bottega Veneta.
|Mark Webber, 32|
Credit check: Writer-director-actor, Explicit Ills, The End of Love
Candid camera: "I'm fascinated with incorporating real-life elements into film, and I've gotten as personal as I can," says the veteran actor turned writer-director. His debut feature, 2008's Explicit Ills, was based on his experiences growing up in the slums of Philadelphia, but The End of Love (out in early 2013) ups the ante: To capture the travails of a single father, Webber starred opposite his own, oblivious, then-two-and-a-half-year-old son, Isaac. "You make movies as an actor for so long, you naturally start fiending for more control," he says, saving genre fare for his acting gigs, which include the upcoming horror flick Jessabelle and the sci-fi drama Uncanny. "I can't just do these little indies and have no money," he says. "I have to provide for someone."
Clothing by Dior Homme, socks by Falke, shoes by Allen Edmonds.
|Fred Savage, 36|
Credit check: Director, Party Down, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia; executive producer, 20Nothings
Look back in wonder: What could be more rebellious than quietly transitioning from childhood sitcom stardom into a steady career as one of the most respected figures in TV comedy? "When I was doing The Wonder Years, I would look at the directors and think, 'God, I'd really like to do that,'" says Savage, who's now parlaying his behind-the-scenes prowess into a production deal at CBS. The first show in that deal may be 20Nothings, a recently sold pitch about Hollywood assistants, and Savage is looking forward to the change of pace. "A freelance television director can be lonely work, so when a network says, 'We are invested in you, we want more of what you're doing,' that's really gratifying."
Suit by Burberry London, shirt by Bottega Veneta, tie by BOSS, socks by Falke, shoes by Dior Homme.
|Max Winkler, 29|
Credit check: Writer-director, Ceremony, The Coward (pending)
Rebirth of the cool: If growing up in Hollywood with a TV icon as a dad breeds entitlement, Winkler, son of the Fonz, is the exception. In the two years since his debut, the semiautobiographical Ceremony, he's been in constant demand. He has at least two features nearing preproduction, has sold a series with Glee and American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy to NBC and one with Jake Johnson and Brian Grazer to Fox, has another with Mitch Hurwitz in the works, and directs the odd commercial or TV episode to fill in stray hours. "I wish my father was more powerful—we'd make more movies," he says. "Although, he was very conservative with my allowance. I'm sure that's why I like to work as much as I do."
Jacket by Bottega Veneta, shirt by Band of Outsiders, pants by John Varvatos, socks by Falke, shoes by Allen Edmonds.
|Lake Bell, 33|
Credit check: Writer-director-producer-actor, In a World . . .
Coming attraction: "In comedy, if you've got an idea, you just go and do it," Bell says. Before her entry via Children's Hospital, she was known for straighter fare like How to Make It in America and Boston Legal. But palling around with the likes of Rob Corddry, David Wain, and Ken Marino triggered her pioneer spirit: In a World . . ., her feature-length directorial debut, which she also wrote and stars in alongside Marino and Corddry, is about a voice coach who takes on the brotherhood of movie-trailer narrators. "It's a gentle, neo-feminist comment on the fact that omniscient voices are always men," she says. "To get anything made takes a massive amount of resilience and ambition and luck and not taking no for an answer."
Clothing by Gucci, shoes by Nicholas Kirkwood.
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