Making it in the entertainment industry isn’t easy. Millions dream of becoming world-famous celebrities, making each audition a battle.
Some work years, even decades, before they finally reach the spotlight. They quietly put in years of hard work in bit parts and failed projects until something finally works out.
Others rely on their very, very famous parents to give them a hand at breaking into this incredibly competitive industry.
Believe it or not, but simply sharing a famous family tree does not guarantee Hollywood success. Many celebs with famous family members have chosen to find their own in the film business, while others have been more open to accepting all the help they can get.
Some actors change their last names to prevent immediate association with their infamous family members. Others may retain their surnames but still choose to earn work for themselves. There really is no right or wrong way to make it in this crazy world.
From Liv Tyler’s music video origins to Rashida Jones writing her own roles and Tori Spelling and Sofia Coppola being demonized over their big breaks, here are the 9 Stars Who Are Famous Because Of Their Parents (And 6 Who Made It On Their Own).
Chris Pine has been in many, many high profile Hollywood projects– from the Star Trek franchise to Wonder Woman. Pine has been in all sorts of movies in a wide variety of genres– from the epic science fiction fantasy A Wrinkle In Time to the musical fable Into the Woods to the sarcastic and raunchy humor of Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp.
According to Pine himself, it all happened thanks to a little help from his friends… well, family, but you get the drift.
Pine’s father, Robert Pine, has been in many popular movies and shows over the years, including Jobs, Red Eye, Chips, and The Office.
His mother, Gwynne Gilford, was featured in movies such as Masters of the Universe. Even his grandmother, Anne Gwynne, was a successful actress, appearing in titles like House of Frankenstein, South of Dixie, and The Strange Case of Doctor Rx.
When asked how he was able to procure work as a production assistant for Ryan Murphy’s Popular, Pine was completely honest about his Hollywood roots.
He admitted he got his start due to “regular old nepotism.” He does, however, take his work very seriously and constantly strives to perform at his best, regardless of his origin story.
It’s pretty obvious that Liv Tyler got her start in the acting business thanks to her father, Steven Tyler. Two out of three of her earliest roles were all in her own dad’s music videos.
Tyler was featured in Aerosmith’s “Amazing” video as well as, of course, the infamous “Crazy”. Shortly after, Tyler found a couple breakthrough movie roles in popular cult titles like Empire Records and That Thing You Do.
From there, she went on to star in massive blockbusters, including the sci-fi flick Armageddon and the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s The Incredible Hulk.
For all the success that Tyler has earned thanks to those music video appearances, she wasn’t always proud of her early work.
The actress admitted that, having been in high school when “Crazy” was filmed, she would become embarrassed when the video would come on TV. Tyler revealed that she would wake up to watch music videos before going to school, but would hit the shower when her own video came on, too embarrassed to actually watch it.
Twenty years later, she seems to be at peace with the video that started it all. The actress joked about rebooting the music video with original co-star Alicia Silverstone, complete with their children in tow.
Melancholia, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Kiss, Kiss (Bang, Bang), and Thor– these are types of movies that Stellan Skarsgard is famous for.
His son, Alexander Skarsgard, has an equally impressive résumé, if not more so– with titles like Big Little Lies, True Blood, and, again, Melancholia.
Gustaf Skarsgard, brother to Alexander and son to Stellan, also starred in Vikings. You would suspect that Bill Skarsgard would have some help from his famous brother and father, but according to the actor himself, that is simply not the case.
Bill has seemingly eclipsed his famous family, starring in all sorts of hugely popular franchises from the reboot of Stephen King’s IT to Deadpool 2 and Hulu’s Castle Rock.
However, before all that, he paid his dues in smaller Swedish productions. The actor made it clear that he worked for his own career. He admitted that he had struggled with his identity as a member of a famous family, at first.
He wondered if he really wanted to be an actor for himself or because he was simply following along. The actor does now ask his famous family for advice now that he has established himself.
However, it was important to him to get his footing on his own.
Zoe Perry didn’t exactly plan to use her mother’s Hollywood experience to help land a major TV role, that just kind of… happened.
Perry’s mother is Laurie Metcalf, star of Roseanne, Lady Bird, Scream 2, and Desperate Housewives. She also appeared as Mary Cooper, Sheldon Cooper’s mother, in The Big Bang Theory. That’s where Perry inadvertently got her in.
Chuck Lorre helmed Roseanne and The Big Bang Theory before creating the BBT spin-off, Young Sheldon. Perry, who had previously made a few guest appearances in series like NCIS and Private Practice auditioned for the role of Mary Cooper in the spin-off.
Perry hadn’t really been paying attention to the news surrounding the series until Iain Armitage was actually cast as Sheldon Cooper. At that point, her mother told her she should go in and audition.
While she felt happy and proud to audition, feeling as though she had earned the role, the actress said she would rather have had to audition than simply be offered the role based on her family.
However, she also acknowledged that she had grown up knowing Lorre and that there are similarities between her and her mother, which likely helped aid her in landing the job.
Elle King may have had a little help in her acting career. Many of her early roles were in her father, Rob Scheinder’s, movies. Her very first film appearance was in Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo.
From there, she appeared alongside her father in The Benchwarmers and Wild Cherry. However, she was also only around ten years old at the time of these movies.
What King is most known for is her musical career, for which she has been nominated for three Grammys. This, she worked for all on her own.
King revealed that she chose not to go by her famous father’s last name when attempting to forge a musical career. She wasn’t actually trying to become famous, she really just wanted to be a performer.
However, more than that, she wanted to be her own person. Schneider had actually wanted his daughter to keep his last name, but she ultimately decided not to.
It was actually her stepfather who inspired her to become a musician. King cited him as the inspiration for her musical career, saying that he had supported her efforts and creativity and that he had been the one to introduce her to rock and roll.
Many of Jaden Smith’s early roles were in his dad’s own projects. Will Smith helped his son get cast in everything from music videos to TV shows and feature-length films.
The two were co-stars in the drama The Pursuit of Happyness, the sci-fi movie After Earth, and the television series All Of Us. He also starred in The Karate Kid, which was produced by both his father and Jada Pinkett-Smith. Jaden eventually began to pick up his own projects, such as Netflix’s The Get Down.
Anonymous, inside sources, claimed that Will Smith designed After Earth to put Jaden front and center. The movie was supposedly going to be a franchise, rather than a single, stand-alone movie.
The source claimed that the alleged After Earth trilogy was designed to coincide with the actors’ ages. Will was supposed to be aging out of the role of an action star, while Jaden was supposed to be entering the age during which he would take over the part when the third movie was supposed to be released.
Jaden’s sister, Willow Smith, has had a similar path to success, also being featured in one of Will’s music videos and starring alongside her father in I Am Legend.
Rashida Jones comes from entertainment business royalty. Her mother, Peggy Lipton, starred in all kinds of huge TV shows like Crash, Alias, Mod Squad, and Twin Peaks. Her father, Quincy Jones, was a musician and music producer who worked with the likes of Michael Jackson on iconic albums like Thriller.
Jones herself landed some unforgettable roles, like Karen Filippelli in The Office and Ann Perkins in Parks and Recreation. However, her family really had nothing to do with it.
She didn’t become famous because of her heritage. In fact, Jones thinks her family tree made things a little more difficult starting out.
According to Jones, being of mixed race made it very hard to earn roles in Hollywood. She was often labeled as too exotic or too light. Jones said she believed mixed-race stars in Hollywood were a relatively new thing and credited former President Barack Obama with that shift in tone.
She also revealed her belief that in the future, the majority of people will be mixed-race. However, she didn’t leave her success entirely in the hands of strangers.
She wrote her own scripts at times, ensuring that her characters were presented in the way she wanted them to be.
Abby Elliott and Chris Elliott have shared a few TV credits together. Abby’s first credit was in a TV series alongside her father, Minoriteam.
They both provided voices in King of the Hill. She played a stalkery girlfriend of Ted Moseby’s and he played Lily Aldrin’s father on How I Met Your Mother.
It seems quite obvious that Chris helped his daughter in her acting career, but it turns out, he may have had a little help, as well. There are a lot of clues that point toward the family helping each other through their time in the spotlight.
Bob Elliott, Abby’s grandfather and father of Chris, became famous as a radio performer in the forties. Allegedly, David Letterman and Lorne Michaels were both avid listeners of Bob’s.
Letterman hired Chris in the eighties. Chris had been working as a tour guide when he randomly met Letterman. Chris dropped his father’s name and was hired by Letterman shortly after.
Along with being a fan of Bob, Michaels had also previously worked with him on a TV special early in his career. Michaels also worked with Chris on Saturday Night Live, which Abby became the youngest cast member to have a recurring role in the show.
Katie Cassidy’s father was an enormously popular teen heartthrob. David Cassidy will always be remembered for his music, his TV shows, and his infamous role as Keith Partridge in The Partridge Family.
Despite his popularity and fame in show business, his daughter found her own path to success.
She starred in several popular teen shows like Gossip Girl and 7th Heaven. However, Katie shot to stardom when she took on the role of Laurel Lance and her alter ego, the Black Canary, in The CW’s Arrow. She quickly became a fan favorite in the network’s Arrowverse of DC comic book related TV shows.
Before attempting to step into the world of television, Katie tried her hand at music. She recorded a cover of her father’s teen hit, “I Think I Love You” but her musical career failed to gain any traction.
David did not fully support Katie’s musical career, saying that she had not actually “paid her dues ” in the business. She eventually transitioned into acting, earning her roles without any help.
For many years, the Cassidys were estranged. They came to grow closer as Katie grew older, but their relationship took on more of a friendly tone than a familial one.
Okay, obviously, Taylor Swift is more known for her music than her acting, but she is a fairly prolific actress. She appeared in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Valentine’s Day, The Lorax, New Girl, and The Giver.
That’s quite a wide variety of work, from crime dramas to children’s animated movies. It never would have happened had she not had the massive musical success that she enjoys, and she never would have had that musical success if it weren’t for her father, his job, and his very large bank account.
Swift’s father worked as a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch. She comes from a long line of bank presidents.
When Swift decided that she wanted to break into the music business, her father relocated the family to Nashville, transferring to that Merrill Lynch branch. He then purchased a share of Big Machine records, the label that first signed Swift as a country music performer.
Swift is definitely a hard worker in the music business, as she is constantly writing, recording, and touring. Her father may have helped her to first catch the notice of the public eye, but she is making sure that she stays firmly in the spotlight all on her own.
It seems almost impossible for anyone to eclipse the enduring fame of the Olsen twins. Mary-Kate and Ashley were loved by the entire world when they played the adorable Michelle Tanner in Full House.
Even as reclusive fashion moguls, the twins still captured the attention of the media. Everyone wanted to know what the former child stars were up to.
Yet, their younger sister, Elizabeth Olsen, may have actually achieved a level of fame even higher than that of her sisters. Starring as the Scarlet Witch in The Avengers: Age of Ultron will help with that.
According to Elizabeth, all of her success was gained completely on her own. Elizabeth revealed that she always knew she wanted to be an actor, but she did reconsider the business for a little while.
Watching her sisters get dragged through the media made her feel nervous about the business. She persevered and was determined to do it on her own.
Elizabeth acknowledged the fact that she could have asked her sisters to help her land roles in the industry, but she never felt the need to go that far.
It shows in the very indie start to her career. Elizabeth’s early roles were in small but well-received movies like Martha Marcy May Marlene and Silent House.
Tori Spelling has never denied that her acting start was based on nepotism. Her father, infamous television producer Aaron Spelling, gave her roles in many of his shows, simply because she wanted to be an actress.
Her first appearance was a bit part in Vega$. He produced that series. Matt Houston, Shooting Stars, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat– the list goes on and on.
Tori Spelling’s first eight projects were produced by her own father. She did garner a handful of her own roles, but that didn’t stop her from accepting work from her dad.
Even after finding her own work, Spelling appeared in Melrose Place and, most famously, Beverly Hills 90210.
Spelling is very honest about her career. She admits that she simply wanted to act and sometimes the only way she could get a role was through her father.
Between giving up her dreams or giving up her privacy, she chose the latter, which, unfortunately, led to a lot of backlash from those who felt she didn’t earn her career.
However, she also believes the bad wrap she was given in the media for her family’s nepotism was harsh and unfair. Spelling thinks there are other celebrities with a similar origin story who were given a lot more forgiveness by the public.
Kate Hudson has often been the target of criticism over her Hollywood career. She has been accused of accepting any silly movie that comes her way.
Her breakthrough role in Almost Famous was blamed on another actress dropping out of the movie. Also, of course, many have claimed she only found success because she is the daughter of Goldie Hawn.
While it’s true that Hudson has starred in many light-hearted romantic comedies, it also seems a little unfair for such harsh criticism to come her way based on her resume.
Many well-respected actresses, including Sandra Bullock, Reese Witherspoon, and Jennifer Aniston, went through a romantic comedy phase, and they occasionally return to that well from time to time.
As for Hudson, one of her staunchest supporters came in the form of her Almost Famous director, Cameron Crowe. After launching to stardom in the movie, Hudson admits she was uncomfortable speaking about her family in the media.
Crowe was asked about the casting process for the movie, with insinuations that he may have cast Hudson specifically because of her parentage. The director refused to entertain the idea.
He insisted that that was not at all how the casting process for the movie actually worked.
Yes, Sofia Coppola was cast in The Godfather movies because her father, Francis Ford Coppola, directed them. She doesn’t deny that fact, though it isn’t the entire truth.
Several actresses had already fallen through when Sofia was chosen to fill in. Her father also worked as a producer on The Outsiders and Rumble Fish, which also featured Sofia.
The majority of her movie career has all been separated from her father, but that’s not how things have depicted in the media.
Many have criticized Sofia for getting a little extra help when she first started out. Others have mocked Francis’ decision to cast his daughter in the mobster trilogy, claiming she ruined the entire franchise due to a supposed lack of talent.
Regardless of whatever naysayers may imply, Coppola has proven herself to be a real Hollywood heavyweight.
She may have had some help breaking into the business, but she made sure she stuck around thanks to her own hard work.
Like her father, Sofia transitioned to directing, and it’s there that her talents have really shone. Marie Antoinette and The Virgin Suicides continue to be loved by a very specific, devoted audience. While Lost In Translation is often considered an underrated masterpiece.
Harley Quinn Smith has 14 acting credits to her name. Her father, Kevin Smith, served as director, writer, or producer on at least 11 of those projects.
First standing in as the infant version of her father’s character, Silent Bob, in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Harley has been featured in many of Kevin’s works, including Jersey Girl and Clerks II.
In 2016, Kevin wrote a full-length movie, Yoga Hosers, intended for preteen girls starring Harley and Johnny Depp’s daughter, Lily-Rose Depp. Many had already criticized Kevin for constantly casting his wife, Jennifer Schwalbach, in his movies. However, Harley wouldn’t change her career for anything.
Harley maintains that it is important to her to cultivate her own career, but she also recognizes how special it is to be able to work so closely with her own father.
They both share a passion for moviemaking, an experience Harley describes as “an amazing part” of their lives. Harley says she and her father have created an extra bond on top of their familial relationship, that of actor and director.
According to Harley, while on the set of Supergirl, some of the cast and crew were not aware, that she and the guest director were actually related thanks to their ability to transition from family to working relationships.
Can you think of any other actors who made it on their own? Can you think of any who got an extra push from their family? Sound off in the comments!
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