Actors and Actresses Who Write, From Tom Hanks to Molly Ringwald

Tom Hanks © Shutterstock

Shooting a movie involves a lot of downtime for actors. While the crew sets up scenes, the lighting technician fiddles with bulbs, and the director fights with the camera operator, actors sit around in the trailers, waiting to be called to set. Some knit, some play video games, some, presumably, nap. Most ambitious, multi-talented types put their free time to productive use, typing out short stories or even a novel between takes. The number of actors who also write is surprisingly long, given that one profession requires extroversion; the other, not so much. But Pamela Anderson, Sylvester Stallone, and Marlon Brando all tried their hands at fiction. To judge their success, you’ll have to hunt down those books yourself. For more noteworthy attempts, check out these books by actors.

  • The cover of the book Uncommon Type

    Uncommon Type

    Some Stories

    Yes, that Tom Hanks. In this impressively robust story collection, Hanks writes in the same wryly deadpan tone he adopts when making the rounds of talk shows to promote his movies. He’s affable, funny, perfectly likable – but something in his voice suggests darker, more mischievous intent. In these stories, his narrators tell their tales straight, but with a hint of more going on under the surface, a suggestion all the more intriguing because of the nice guy persona of their creator.

  • The cover of the book The Insanity Defense

    The Insanity Defense

    The Complete Prose

    Allen got his start in comedy writing jokes for other people, and published three critically acclaimed volumes of stories and comedic sketches over the years even as he became a director and actor. While maintaining a twice-yearly production schedule for his films, he published stories and short pieces in publications such as The New Yorker. Here, his absurdist, wildly inventive take on life and its myriad comic possibilities comes across as strongly on the page as it does onscreen.

  • The cover of the book Ash Wednesday

    Ash Wednesday

    Ethan Hawke first captured audiences’ imagination as a shy boarding school student with the soul of a poet in Dead Poets’ Society. He went on to have a successful film career, but also pursued his own literary interests. In this novel, Hawke takes the reader on a movie-ready road trip, describing the quest of a young, AWOL soldier and his pregnant girlfriend. As with his previous novel, The Hottest State, Hawke is concerned with the Texas landscape, the fracturing family, and what it means to be a man in contemporary America.

  • The cover of the book Spy of the First Person

    Spy of the First Person

    Shepard, who died earlier this year, was a prolific and influential playwright, but many people first became aware of him as an actor. With a laconic manner and easy good looks, he fit into a variety of roles in movies and on TV, but his range wasn’t limited to the screen. In addition to his copious output of plays, Shepard also literary fiction. In this, his last work, he tells the story of an unnamed narrator who is being treated for a debilitating illness and recalls his life and adventures in love and travel.

  • The cover of the book When It Happens to You

    When It Happens to You

    For many people, Molly Ringwald will forever be Samantha Baker from the seminal teen film 16 Candles. But Samantha would be in her forties by now, and learned some life lessons along the way. In this collection of short stories, Ringwald writes about older, wiser, often sadder women, characters who have been disappointed in love and must learn to start over.

  • The cover of the book The First Bad Man

    The First Bad Man

    July has won a passionate fanbase for her offbeat, singular films, where she plays wide-eyed, off-kilter characters too innocent for this world. In this novel, she presents another, deeper side of herself in a tale of obsessive love, identity, and motherhood. Cheryl, her narrator, is both similar to the woman July plays onscreen and entirely unique – antisocial, awkward, and shy, yet fiercely determined to make a life for herself and find love at any cost.