Albert Brooks' (born Albert Einstein) path to director-dom came via a stand-up comedy career in the 1960s and '70s, which would help explain his ease in front of an audience. In 1975, he made his directorial debut with the short film The Famous Comedians School, followed by a half-dozen shorts for Saturday Night Live, then a slew of well-received features including Real Life (a pioneer of the mockumentary genre), Lost in America, Defending Your Life, and Mother. But Brooks is one of those rare directors whose acting career has overshadowed his efforts behind the camera.

He brought a memorable level of comic relief to Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, was a standout in Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight, played a great badass in Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, and was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1987 for his hilarious turn as a newsman with a perspiration problem in Broadcast News. (He is also someone you should absolutely be following on Twitter.)