Hollywood Family Trees
This week Working Title’s teen culture clash movie Wild Child gives UK moviegoers the opportunity to become better acquainted with rising star Emma Roberts, playing the polar opposite of the Beverly Hills High straitlaced square in she was in Nancy Drew. Roberts has her fans, I’m sure, but for the time being she remains more famous as Julia’s niece than for any accomplishments of her own.
That may change. I’m old enough to remember when Julia was the up-and-comer, trading on the success of her big brother Eric in something called Blood Red. Eric’s career faltered as his sister’s bloomed, though you may have seen him recently as Maroni, the Mafioso in a little flick called The Dark Knight.
Wild Child has more familiar names in the cast list, including Daisy Donovan (daughter of the photographer Terence Donovan and Diana Donovan, the Chair of the English National Ballet School), and Juno Temple, whose father is director Julien Temple (The Great Rock n Roll Swindle; Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten).
And playing the head mistress, we find none other than Natasha Richardson, a veteran of films like The Handmaid’s Tale and The Parent Trap, but equally well known as the daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and British director Tony Richardson (she made her debut, uncredited, as a child in his film The Charge Of The Light Brigade). Her sister Joely is also an actress (Nip/Tuck; Drowning by Numbers). So are their uncle and aunts, Corin (The Girl in the Café) and Lynn Redgrave (Gods and Monsters), children of Sir Michael Redgrave (The Dambusters), whose own father Roy was – you might have guessed – an actor, back in the silent era. Needless to say Corin’s daughter Jemma – Roy’s great granddaughter – is continuing the family tradition. You have to wonder about Natasha’s kids too; dad is Liam Neeson.
None of this is surprising. We may pride ourselves on our egalitarian society, but children follow in their parents’ footsteps in all walks of life, less because they inherit the gift than they absorb the skill – and know the right people. In showbiz, more often than not, getting a name is the name of the game, which is why even no-talent siblings like Joey Travolta, Clint Howard and Frank Stallone have enjoyed lengthy, if not terribly illustrious careers.
But famous siblings are ten a-penny, from Shirley Maclaine and Warren Beatty to Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, the Baldwins, the Afflecks and the Penns. If we’re looking at Hollywood family trees, several stand taller than the rest.
Henry Fonda, his children Jane and Peter, and Peter’s daughter Bridget.
The Barrymores: siblings John, Ethel and Lionel were Broadway and Hollywood royalty in the 1930s. Drew is John’s granddaughter.
Then there’s the Coppola clan: Francis (son of musician and composer Carmine), his sister, actress Talia Shire (Rocky); his daughter, actress and director Sofia (Lost In Translation); his nephew, Nic (Cage), who had scruples about trading on the Coppola name but wasn’t about to say no when Uncle Francis cast him in Rumblefish and Peggy Sue Got Married. Not forgetting Talia’s boy, Jason Schwartzman, last seen in The Darjeeling Limited, a film about alienated siblings looking for their mom (Anjelica Huston) that Schwartzman cowrote with Wes Anderson and his cousin, Francis’s son, Roman…
Last word, though, goes to independent film godfather John Cassavetes, who directed his wife Gena Rowlands in half a dozen films (including her Oscar-nominated performances in A Woman Under The Influence and Gloria), often cast both their moms in supporting roles, regularly shot in their own home, and introduced his three kids to moviemaking: Nick, Zoe and Xan have all gone on to direct films in their own right.
"I believe totally in nepotism," Cassavetes declared, proudly. "It impresses the hell out of my family and friends."
"Family" Films: The Collection
The Godfather Part III (1990)
Francis Coppola cast his daughter Sofia as Mary Corleone as a last minute replacement for an exhausted Winona Ryder – a stunt that blew up in his face when her performance was savaged. Carmine Coppola (his dad) did the music; his sister Talia reprised her role as Connie, and if you’re really interested you’ll find another four or five lesser known Coppolas in bit parts.
On Golden Pond (1981)
Jane Fonda packaged this sentimental tearjerker about a cranky old man and his strained relationship with his grown up daughter as a vehicle for her father, Henry. It turned out to be his last role and he finally won the Oscar for it.
The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)
It’s not that unusual for real-life siblings to play siblings on screen, but it’s not often that the theme of brotherly love and sibling rivalry is explored with such depth and emotion. Jeff Bridges and older brother Beau are wonderful to watch together here, in Steve Kloves’s bittersweet drama, and Michelle Pfeiffer is no slouch as the girl in-between.
The Dead (1987)
John Huston cast his dad, Walter, in what turned out to be his best-remembered film, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. He also cast his daughter Anjelica in her first lead role in A Walk with Love and Death (1969), but it was so panned by the critics she gave up acting for years. In 1985 John made it up to her with the plum role of Maerose in Prizzi’s Honor, which transformed her career. She also starred in his last film, The Dead, which he co-directed with his son Tony.
The Long Riders (1980)
This underrated Walter Hill western distils the Jesse James legend to its purest essentials. It also casts David, Keith and Robert Carradine as the Younger brothers (sadly their father John had passed away by then); James and Stacy Keach as Jesse and Frank James; Dennis and Randy Quaid as Ed and Clel Miller; and Christopher and Nicholas Guest as Charlie and Bob Ford.
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