Nepotism In The Film Industry

*Originally written in 2019

Nepotism. Once reserved only for Kings and Politicians, it gradually became so ingrained within the movie industry that it’s even less likely that you, glancer, will ever break into the family, should you so desire. Dreams are hard enough to chase without people born with silver spoons in their ass cutting four million places ahead of you in the line. For every kid with stardom in their eyes and a red carpet for a tongue, and for every writer with original ideas flushing from their brain, there’s a Coppola or a Redgrave or some other niece or nephew from one of Hollywood’s dynasties just waiting to stand on your neck and vomit down your gullet. There always seems to be another Fonda, another Willis, another Smith… it’s enough to make you throw it all away and become a murderous incel instead. Except, that would be a dick move, just like the dicks forcing their ofttimes unworthy glitz and glam spawn upon us.

I’m being tongue in cheek of course – many of the kids born into acting or directing or writing families are so surrounded by talent, so involved in the industry that it kind of almost makes sense that a lot of it will rub off on them and that they make the next generation of quality entertainment. On the flip side… these people are growing up with absolutely zero idea of what the real world actually is, and the stories they tell and the characters they play often bear no relation to a real human being. There’s a reason why the best movies and performers and writers and directors often come from the working class or from non-industry backgrounds. I say there is room for both, but more and more often it seems like those small parts, tailor made for a new voice, are being taken away by daddy’s little princess or mummy’s special little guy. With the calls for diversity and equality, rightly sweeping all areas of Entertainment, Sports, Business, and life in general, worrying about something so seemingly trivial as this feels like I’m pouring fuel on an already foul fire and that I should be placing my efforts towards Gender or Race Equality. Once again, I do support those things wholeheartedly, because it is only fair that everyone gets a fair shot regardless of background – and more interesting results always come from diverse opinions – whether we’re talking movies, music, politics, whatever.

I’m not outright calling Film Nepotism as something truly horrific, even if it can be, even as unfair as it is.  Some of the best people had famous industry parents, and many of the best movies would not have happened without Nepotism. I’m not saying the children of actors are going to deliver bad performances or unoriginal material – they might – but I am saying that there are issues that need to be addressed. I am saying the phenomena shows no signs of slowing down – if anything it appears to be getting more prevalent. I’m asking how many other performers out there never had a chance because they lacked the family connection? How many films never got made with a specific vision, or at all, because the person with the vision didn’t have a famous name? I’m saying – you have an audition down to two candidates for a role, and one of them is just some kid with great potential, while the other is the son of an Oscar Winner? 99% of the time, they’re going to go for the connection – keeping the family connections safe and secure, patting each other on the back, leaning on the marketing of such a name, and remaining inside an impervious bubble. Smart business, right? I’m saying, not just Hollywood, lets give someone else a shot. Businesses live and die nowadays based on diversity, and it’s not only skin colour, age, sexuality, and race we should be considering (though those are more important).

You probably know most of the aforementioned Hollywood families, but most people don’t realize just how prevalent this activity actually is. Here are some people who “only” got into the industry because of their famous family. Snowflake alert – I have no doubt that these guys are talented, but lets not pretend you got here on merit alone. Making it in any business is 5% talent, 10% hard work, 50% luck, and 90% who you know. I should know – my Maths teacher told me. This will be the first of several posts on the topic, alerting you to some of the people who may not realise had a leg up from birth.

Note – everything above and below this paragraph. was written in 2019 – 2020. I never bothered posting it because I wanted to expand the list to at least 10 entries. I got bored after the seven below and never came back to the idea. In recent weeks I’ve come to it but with a slightly different idea in mind. In my future posts on this topic, I’m either going to pick one or two of my favourite movies of a particular year and go through the entire cast to see just how many of them had a leg or two up based on their family connections, or I’m going to pick a random movie which has recently been released and do the same. Till then, try to enjoy my original post. Please. Please?

Maggie And Jake Gyllenhaal.

With a family name spreading back to Swedish nobility of the 1600s, their family members have included Ministers Of Justice for Sweden, Barons, Socialites, and various high ranking Army types. Bringing it to the 20th Century, Maggie and Jake’s father Stephen is a TV and Film Director who has worked on Family of Spies, Twin Peaks, Girl Fight, while their mother Naomi is an Oscar nominated Screenwriter for Running On Empty. With that sort of family it would be more surprising if you weren’t a worldwide success.

Julia Roberts/Eric Roberts/Emma Roberts.

Julia, Eric, and Emma are the daughter, son, and granddaughter respectively of Betty Lou Bredemus. While it’s true each of them has exceeded the matriarch in terms of fame, they probably wouldn’t have got far without her backing. She was a stage actress who worked alongside Rance Howard (more on him later) and though she kept out of the limelight, she worked on local TV and created an acting and writing workshop with great success, tutoring the children of Marin Luther King.

Ron Howard/Clint Howard/Bryce Dallas Howard/Paige Howard

If you thought the Howard clan started with Ron, you’d be ron (wrong). Rance Howard began acting in the late 40s but ironically got his major success because he starred alongside his young children Ron and Clint in hits such as Gentle Ben and The Andy Griffith Show in a weird example of… reverse nepotism? Naturally, the Matriarch was an actress too, appearing in many of Ron’s movies. Rance shows up in films such as Cool Hand Luke, Chinatown, many of Ron’s movies, Ron begat Paige and Bryce, and I’m sure they won’t be the last.

Gwyneth Paltrow

With a name like Gwyneth, you just know your parents were famous eccentric types (Apple and Moses, I’m looking at you). Yes, old ‘how the hell did she win an Oscar’ is daughter to Blythe Danner – Emmy and Tony Award winning actress that you may know from those focking Fockers movies or Futureworld or The Prince Of Tides or any number of TV movies. As if that wasn’t enough, her father was director and producer Bruce Paltrow, known for St Elsewhere and The White Shadow. Oh yes, Gwyneth’s brother Jake has directed Boardwalk Empire and NYPD Blue, her uncle Harry is an opera singer and actor from Ally McBeal and The Wedding Planner, her cousin Katherine has appeared in The L Word, Ray Donovan, and other cousin Gabrielle is an Arizona Politician. Some families spread like a disease.

Jennifer Anniston

One of the true 90s Sweethearts, Anniston was a breath of fresh air (hair?) when we first saw her as Rachel in Friends. A new talent, she…. wait a minute, wasn’t she in Leprechaun? And wait, wasn’t she in Mac And Me? Man, I love that movie. Turns out Jennifer’s entry into Hollywood was through an already open door, rather than the slammed and bolted shut way us normies face. While hardly a dynasty like some others already mentioned, and while she was discouraged from a career in Cinema, her mother nevertheless was an actress – Nancy Dow appeared in various movies and TV series in the 1960s, while her Greek immigrant father John Anniston is a popular TV and Soap actor, most famous for over 2500 episodes of Day Of Our Lives. 

Joaquin Phoenix

Note – when I began writing this, I didn’t have any set format in mind. I wrote the first draft a good year before returning to it, and when I did return I decided to take a different approach. So the next names I’m looking at are recent Oscar Winners and Nominees – just to see their family connections (ha! Either that or recent releases or my own personal favourites. Or all three. Or more likely none). Joaquin Phoenix is undoubtedly one of the most revered performers of his generation. It’s a little disingenuous to include him here – his parents were not performers – but it was his mother’s work as a secretary for NBC that ensured a talent scout spotted her children and their potential. While Joaquin and River have had the most success out of the five siblings, it is only sisters Summer and Liberty who have had children of their own. There’s every chance those kids will extend the Phoenix legacy in the future.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Another child actor turned Hollywood Heavyweight, DiCaprio had a minor edge over the competition given that his father was an established writer with many acquaintances in the 70s Underground. While hardly a deal-breaker, his father’s experience in these circles undoubtedly helped Leo become the star he is today.

Let us know in the comments if you have any obvious or minor examples of Hollywood nepotism and your own thoughts on the phenomena!

Tell it like it is!

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