Find Out Who (In Theory) is the Riskiest in Filmmaking

February 29, 2012


To find out the degree to which Hollywood’s hottest directors are likely to take risks, we turn to a little biology, and take a taste of astrology, to explore whether height, age, sex and astrological sign could influence the method to their madness.


6’4Clint Eastwood5’7Steven Spielberg
6’2James Cameron5’6Catherine Hardwicke
6’1Quentin Tarantino5’6George Lucas
5’11Tim Burton5’5Peter Jackson
5’11Kathryn Bigelow5’5Sofia Coppola
5’9Ron Howard5’5Woody Allen
5’7J.J. Abrams5’4Martin Scorsese


In a new study in connection with the Institute for the Study of Labor and the University of Bonn, over 20,000 participants were asked to rate their willingness to take risks on a scale from zero (not willing) to 10 (very willing). They were then asked to imagine having won the lottery, and state their highest assessment for potential investment. For every centimeter in height, the amount willing to risk rose by 200 euros.

The front runner in this category (according to the study), Clint Eastwood, has certainly made bold choices throughout his career, but has remained smart about it. Valuing originality and following his instinct, Eastwood took risks when he thought safe to do so.

“None of the pictures I take a risk in cost a lot, so it doesn't take much for them to turn a profit,” said Eastwood. “Most people who'll remember me, if at all, will remember me as an action guy, which is OK. There's nothing wrong with that. But there will be a certain group which will remember me for the other films, the ones where I took a few chances.”

Though the littlest on this list, one can’t rightfully say Scorsese hasn’t taken chances in his career. In fact, Scorsese seems to think the connection between cinema and risk taking quite imperative. Goes to show success is relative, and height is certainly not everything in this business.


40Sofia Coppola57James Cameron
45J.J. Abrams60Kathryn Bigelow
48Quentin Tarantino65Steven Spielberg
50Peter Jackson67George Lucas
53Tim Burton69Martin Scorsese
56Catherine Hardwicke76Woody Allen
57Ron Howard81Clint Eastwood


In 2005, a Temple University psychological study analyzed 306 individuals ranging from adolescence to elder adulthood. Amongst their findings, the scientific team found that risk taking and risky decision making decreased with age - further supporting the idea that adolescents are more inclined toward risky behavior.

It seems that young Sofia Coppola’s work certainly falls in line with this idea of adolescent risk-taking. Her fearless approach towards the culture of Hollywood has definitely sparked conversation and hushed whispers among the more traditional. In the past decades, Coppola has been publicly praised, booed, laughed at, and scorned - behavior that clearly indicates a risk taking directorial diva.

“What the studios want now is "risk-free" films but with any sort of art you have to take risks,” said Francis Ford Coppola. “Not taking risks in art is like not having sex and then expecting there to be children.”

Like father like daughter.


(Easy enough to figure out)

Many studies have noted that young males are more prone than females to take risks in relation to sexual behavior, conflict, stressful situations, and in one degree or another, under life-threatening or dangerous circumstances. But what about the everyday? A 2006 University of California study set out to discover just that.

Regarding basic gender differences, men reported a greater overall likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors. Women judged potential negative consequences as more likely to occur and changed their behavior accordingly.

In this race, however, it’s quite likely these creative women could give their male colleagues a run for their risk taking money. We’ll just call this one a tie.

Astrological Sign

AriesQuentin TarantinoLibraCatherine Hardwicke
TaurusSofia CoppolaScorpioPeter Jackson
TaurusGeorge LucasScorpioMartin Scorsese
GeminiClint EastwoodSagittariusSteven Spielberg
CancerJ.J. AbramsSagittariusKathryn Bigelow
LeoJames CameronSagittariusWoody Allen
VirgoTim BurtonPiscesRon Howard


The three signs of the zodiac most likely to take risks are rambunctious Aries, free-spirited Sagittarius, and vibrant Leo.

Quentin Tarantino

Aries (21 March - 20 April) is represented by the ram, acting in true form through their strong-willed and daring attitude. Aries is also a masculine sign, again mirroring the results we found in the previous segment that men are more daring than women.

Steven Spielberg, Kathryn Bigelow, Woody Allen

Those under Sagittarius (23 November - 22 December) are confident and quick to move from place to place or person to person (just look at Allen’s love life). Always curious to further explore, a Sagittarius will take whatever risks necessary to find what makes them truly happy.

James Cameron

Leo (24 July - 23 August) is ruled by the sign, vibrantly and confidently seeking fierce competition and ample reward. Though perhaps thought of as arrogant, the Leo remains unaware of their outward impressions.

While craving risk on some level is part of being a true filmmaker, it’s still fun to look at some of the factors that might have played a part in their development. Maybe next time you watch a film, you’ll recall that Spielberg is a Sagittarius or Eastwood is 6’4 and think, “Oh, now I understand why they did that.”


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