Weekend Roundtable: Second Generation Stars

This weekend, as Clint Eastwood’s son Scott takes us for ‘The Longest Ride’ through some Nicholas Sparks drivel, we felt like musing about other children of celebrities who have attempted to follow their parents’ footsteps into show business, for better or for worse.

Shannon Nutt

Although his father played such legendary characters as Ned Land in ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’, Col. Dax in ‘Paths of Glory’, and of course ‘Spartacus’, Michael Douglas has managed to eclipse his famous father and become one of the most accomplished actors in Hollywood history.

Whether cruising ‘The Streets of San Francisco’ with Karl Malden, ‘Romancing the Stone‘ with Kathleen Turner, having a ‘Fatal Attraction‘ to Glenn Close, or showing us how greed was good down on ‘Wall Street‘, Michael Douglas always brings something fresh and exciting to his performances. I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us when he joins the Marvel Universe in this summer’s ‘Ant-Man’.

Luke Hickman

One extreme case of familial nepotism really needs to come to an end: those friggin’ Coppolas. First off, even when Francis was making movies that actually made their way into theaters, they were exceptionally overrated. Along come his kids Sofia and Roman. Sofia made a few decent movies, but any esteem she had was eroded by the unbearable ‘Somewhere‘. Roman, meanwhile, hasn’t done a single thing yet to show that he might be a worthwhile filmmaker. I absolutely despised his ‘A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III‘. The Coppola children need to stop.

Brian Hoss

I think ‘New Girl’ is one of the few enjoyable current sitcoms, and it seems to be doing well right now. Apparently, Zooey Deschanel was a big force behind the show’s creation as well as its success. She’s the daughter of cinematographer Caleb Deschanel (‘The Right Stuff’) and actress Mary Jo Deschanel (‘Twin Peaks’). I’m not sure if that really mattered, but I suppose it helped.

On the other hand, while I’ve liked some Will Smith movies and am currently enjoying Jada Pinkett Smith play Fish Mooney on ‘Gotham’, I’m not sad that I’ve been able to miss most of their son Jaden’s movies, including the ‘Karate Kid‘ remake and ‘After Earth‘. I did see the uninspired ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still‘ remake, so he can share some of the blame there.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

Bruce Willis and Demi Moore are proof that talent can’t be passed down through the gene pool. Their daughter Rumer isn’t much of an actress, but she’s terrific as a red flag, making sure I know to stay far, far away from anything she touches, including the unwatchable remake-in-name-only of ‘The House on Sorority Row’, retch-inducing sex comedy ‘Wild Cherry‘, and (stretching the term “star” to its breaking point) ‘Dancing with the Stars’.

Mike Attebery

I’d say Michael Douglas has easily surpassed his father at this point. I’ve never been a big fan of Kirk Douglas, but Michael, aside from having a great name, is also much more talented and versatile than his father ever was.

Ever see a show called ‘Thunder in Paradise’ starring Hulk Hogan and a guy who looked a lot like Jack Lemmon? That was actually Lemmon’s son Chris, who may have been a dead ringer for his father, but definitely wasn’t as good an actor.

M. Enois Duarte

It was funny, to me at least, seeing Charlie Sheen starring in ‘Machete Kills‘ under his birth name of Carlos Estevez as if trying to rejuvenate his career by reconnecting to his Latino roots. Along with his brother Emilio Estevez, both sons of the well-respected Martin Sheen, his fame as the child of an actor illustrates the best and worst of second generation stars.

Before the two brothers united forces for ‘Young Guns‘ and ‘Men at Work’, the latter of which I see as the beginning of their slow decline, the siblings enjoyed great success throughout the 1980s with favorite hits such as ‘The Breakfast Club‘, ‘Repo Man‘ and ‘Stakeout’ for Emilio, while Carlos (a.k.a. Charlie) starred in ‘Platoon‘, ‘Wall Street’ and ‘Major League‘. Going into the ’90s, their movies weren’t quite as memorable, and each sibling’s fame slowly faded away. They’re now barely remembered or thought of as a joke.

Josh Zyber

My condolences go out to Juliette Lewis, whose father, prolific character actor Geoffrey Lewis, passed away this week. The elder Lewis was a ubiquitous presence on TV and in Clint Eastwood movies throughout the 1970s and ’80s.

Truth be told, I had mixed feelings about Juliette Lewis for a long time. When I first saw her breakthrough role in Scorsese’s ‘Cape Fear‘, for which she received an Oscar nomination, I found her really annoying – mainly because she reminded me of someone I went to high school with who irritated the hell out of me. Years later, I would better understand that the character is supposed to be an annoying teenage girl, and the actress captured that state just about perfectly. Lewis then segued into doing a White Trash Bimbo thing in movies like ‘Kalifornia‘ and ‘Natural Born Killers‘ that I wasn’t really into at the time, but, again, I’d come to appreciate later. These days, I see her as a welcomely quirky presence in supporting character parts.

Because no one else mentioned them, I’ll also toss out some Honorable Mentions to Drew Barrymore and the Huston siblings, Anjelica and Danny.

What other second-generation stars have made the best (or the worst) forays into show business? Tell us in the Comments.


  1. I want to put a plug in for Emilio Estevez. While that dude’s acting career certainly disappeared, he did a great job with writing and directing ‘The Way,’ in which his father stars. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. It’s always a cheap rental and can be found in nearly every discount Blu-ray bin between the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans.

  2. I thought Jake Busey was making a bit of a name for himself in the mid/late 90s with The Frighteners, Contact and Starship Troopers. He doesn’t seem as nuts as his dad although his character in Contact was close

  3. Chris B

    David Fincher’s frequent collaborator cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth has done some fantastic work. He’s the
    son of the late Jordan Cronenweth who shot Blade Runner, Altered States etc.

  4. Although I haven’t seen a lot of his films, I think Vic Morrow has a very talented daughter by the name of Jennifer Jason Leigh. I know they had an estranged relationship but none of the details. I guess Morrow would be best known for his tragic death on the set of The Twilight Zone film. I’ve always enjoyed Leigh’s work from The Hitcher to Miami Blues, Rush, The Machinist just to name a few.
    As far as actors who aren’t as talented as their parents go, I’d have to go with Asia Argento, daughter of Italian horror legend Dario Argento. Ever since Dario started putting his daughter in starring roles of his movies, they’ve gotten progressively worse, although Trauma is pretty good. I still love love the guy.

  5. No one’s mentioned him yet, but since he was my second choice for this week’s roundtable, I’d like to throw out the name of Colin Hanks, who acquitted himself quite well in FARGO, although he has a long way to go to match his father’s acting chops.

    • photogdave

      He was good in Dexter too.
      Also starred in Orange County, directed by Jake Kasdan, son of Lawrence. Jake has made some good films like Zero Effect and Walk Hard, and has been involved with some quality TV shows.

  6. I’m surprised Brian Hoss didn’t mention Emily ‘Bones’ Deschanel while he was talking about her sister Zooey. Also, even though the roundtable is about children, I think Coppola’s nephew Nicholas Kim Coppola deserves mention as well.

    I also think Sean Astin’s family history is interesting. Actress Patty Duke is his mother, and John Astin’s his stepfather. While he was growing up, he believed his biological father was Desi Arnaz jr (who I remember mostly for Automan), son of Lucille Ball. He was in his twenties when a DNA test revealed Desi jr. wasn’t his father.

  7. It must be so hard and frustrating to be the offspring of someone famous, and then try to walk down the same path. You will forever be known as ‘the son of’ or ‘the daughter of’. I think you can count the opposite examples on one hand. It’s fair to assume that a lot of younger filmgoers will struggle to remember Kirk Douglas, but they’ll know Michael. So Kirk is one of the very, very few who has become a ‘father of’ – even though he’s very alive and kicking, and an all-round awesome dude. Spartacus, no less. Michael said as much when he won an Oscar for ‘Wall Street’ – ‘too bad my father is still around to witness this moment’ (paraphrased). Poor Kirk never won a competitive Academy Award.

    Other than that, you’re just destined to be forever compared to your more famous father/mother. Stella McCartney did the wise thing: become a fashion designer, instead of a musician. Now she’s a respected artist in her own right.

    Local example: Matthias Schoenaerts (‘Bullhead’, ‘The Drop’ etc.) is the son of Julien Schoenaerts. Julien was a very respected stage actor in Belgium, but he never made a worldwide impact (not that he wanted to). His son is currently working with the likes of Alan Rickman, Thomas Vinterberg etc. It’s a rare case of a more famous second generation star.

  8. bobcrumb

    Also worth mentioning is Geraldine Chaplin, who has a worthy career including an Oscar nomination for Doctor Zhivago. She made much of her work in Europe where she married arthouse director Carlos Saura, from Spain, leaving her less known in the states.

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