Hollywood’s Nepotism Makes Long Odds Even Longer

Last week I saw Rachel Getting Married, which is a lovely movie full of terrific, naturalistic performances. The script is quite strong, and is written by Jenny Lumet (she needs a Wikipedia article), the daughter of the great director Sidney Lumet.

I was reminded of what I think is an under-recognized phenomenon in Hollywood: many of the most popular actors, directors and other creatives are the offspring of Hollywood personalities. Here are a few examples:

  • Angelina Jolie is the daughter of Jon Voight.
  • George Clooney is the nephew of Rosemary Clooney.
  • Bryce Dallas Howard is the daughter of Ron Howard.

It turns out that Anne Hathaway, the star of Rachel Getting Married, is the daughter of an actress.

I don’t raise this topic because I think it’s unfair. It happens in every industry–a little nepotism is unavoidable. I do think that it makes the American dream of “farm girl just in off the turnip truck becomes a star” all the more unlikely. As it is everywhere, in Hollywood, it’s who you know.


  1. Drew Barrymore, Sean Astin… I mean, who the heck would ever have hired Sean Astin if his mother wasn’t Patty Duke? 🙂

  2. Liza Minelli is the daughter of Judy Garland; Francis and Sofia Coppola, Isabella Rossellini is the daugher of Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini – it seems to be really common. I wonder why – maybe it happens everywhere else and in the movies is the only place that people notice?

  3. Gladwell’s latest tome “Outliers,” obliterates the myth that talent, genius, hard work or balls is the recipe to success. The reality is that your family, birthplace, and birth date play an even more important role. Worth a read.

  4. Agree with Tom on this one.

    Did these actors get special treatment due to their parentage? Undoubtedly. But what of the other advantages bestowed upon these actors by having successful parents in the show business?

    Wouldn’t it seem more reasonable to believe that these parents would be ideally equipped to educate their child on the inner machinations of “the business”? Wouldn’t they know the finer points of managing a career, the secrets to seizing the right roles and opportunities, and guide their offspring on how to avoid the pitfalls?

    We are too eager to believe that these people had their success handed to them. Some amount of this argument is steeped in schadenfreude.

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