Angelina JolieCould Angelina Jolie take home a Best Director Oscar next February?

Not only has the sultry siren written and directed her first movie, a Bosnian war drama called 'In the Land of Blood and Honey,' but she's landed a distribution deal that will see it released on Dec. 23, thereby announcing its ambitions as a serious awards-season contender.

You'd think there'd be some difficulty in making the transition from sex symbol in front of the camera to critically acclaimed filmmaker behind the camera. But if that's Jolie's dream, she's in good company, since critics and Academy voters have often been remarkably kind to matinee idols who are just getting their feet wet as directors.

Exhibits A and B are Robert Redford and Kevin Costner. Both movie hunks won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director their first time out of the gate. Redford won for family drama 'Ordinary People' in 1981, Costner for epic western 'Dances With Wolves' in 1991. (In a tidy coincidence, both beat veteran Martin Scorsese, who was a contender with two of his greatest films, 'Raging Bull' in 1981 and 'Goodfellas' in 1991.)

Warren Beatty and Mel Gibson both won best director Oscars for just their second efforts behind the camera, Beatty for 1981's Russian revolution saga 'Reds' and Gibson for his 1995 medieval war drama 'Braveheart,' which also won Best Picture. George Clooney was nominated for his second directing job, 2005's historical drama 'Good Night, and Good Luck,' though he didn't win.

The Academy also likes it when screen hotties create their own opportunities by writing screenplays. Beatty was nominated for his first writing effort, 1975's 'Shampoo,' and again for 'Reds.' Emma Thompson won an Oscar for her first screenplay, 1995's Jane Austen adaptation 'Sense and Sensibility,' in which she also starred. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck won an Academy Award for their first screenplay, 1997's drama 'Good Will Hunting,' which had juicy roles for both of them. Affleck also won critical praise and Oscar talk (though not actual nominations) for his two directing efforts, Boston crime dramas 'Gone Baby Gone' and 'The Town.'

Jolie's film has some traits in common with some of those mentioned above. It sounds epic in scale, centering on a controversial historical event (à la Costner, Beatty, Gibson, and Clooney). It's not a vanity project, since Jolie didn't cast herself in the movie (neither did Redford). And in working with distributor FilmDistrict, she gets the services of veteran indie film marketer Bob Berney, who managed successful awards campaigns for such films as 'Pan's Labyrinth,' 'The Young Victoria,' and 'La Vie en Rose.' (In that respect, she's echoing Damon and Affleck, whose 'Good Will Hunting' had the Oscar marketing savvy of Miramax's Harvey Weinstein behind it.)

It also helps that Jolie already has an Oscar, for her role in 1999's 'Girl, Interrupted,' and that she's made humanitarian disasters of the sort depicted in her film her signature issue as an activist. So she's not likely to be seen as a dilettante who has no business telling this story or even getting behind the camera.

Besides, any excuse to get Jolie on a red carpet seems to make the whole industry happy.


•Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.