The idea of Hollywood being one big happy family is about as cheesy as it gets. Yet, like most clichés, there’s a grain of truth lurking in there somewhere. Because the movie business has spawned a number of dynasties that show no signs of fading away.
The roll call of brothers and sisters appearing in front of the camera is a long one. One pair of brothers has films released in UK cinemas this week, which ironically mirror their respective fortunes. Older brother Ben Affleck’s career has been a yo-yo affair, starting with an Oscar for writing Good Will Hunting, hitting the skids in the Bennifer years, returning triumphantly with Argo but now on shakier ground again after his first Batman outing. Live By Night, his gangster thriller, has attracted variable reviews and a large question mark hangs over his much-publicised solo movie as the Caped Crusader.
Casey, on the other hand, is almost universally regarded as a shoo-in for the Best Actor Oscar this year, even though the nominations aren’t announced until the 24th of this month. Manchester By The Sea, also in UK cinemas from this week, has attracted praise for both Kenneth Lonergan’s direction and script, as well as the younger Affleck’s performance, one of restraint, intensity and breath taking transparency.
The Afflecks are just one of many high profile siblings. There’s also the Francos, James and Dave; the Hemsworths, Chris, Liam and Luke; the Gyllenhaals, Maggie and Jake; the Fannings, Dakota and Elle. The list goes on. But, compared to some, they’re newcomers to the party.
Just last month, one of the last stars of Hollywood’s golden age, Kirk Douglas, celebrated his 100th birthday. He was surrounded by family for the landmark occasion, including son Michael, daughter-in-law Catherine Zeta Jones and granddaughter Kelsey, an actor and producer. Douglas’s second and third sons, Joel and Peter, are both producers while his fourth, actor and comedian Eric, died in 2004. The Douglas dynasty looks set to continue, both in front and behind the camera, just like the man himself.
By the time Douglas had made his big screen debut, Henry Fonda was already an established leading man on the screen, with an Oscar nomination under his belt to prove it. His two children carried on the family’s acting tradition. Daughter Jane’s big screen career included two Oscar wins and she has recently ventured into TV alongside Lily Tomlin in Grace And Frankie. During the 60s, she was just as famous for her outspoken political views and acquired the nickname “Hanoi Jane” because of her opposition to the Vietnam War. Her son, Troy Garity, is also in the movie business, but as a producer. Younger brother Peter found fame with Easy Rider and since then has appeared in around 90 films and TV shows. His daughter, Bridget, made her on-screen debut in the same movie, but at the tender age of five. She hasn’t been on screen for some 15 years, retired from acting after her marriage to Danny Elfman.
The Huston name is in its fourth generation, courtesy of actor Jack Huston, but goes all the way back to Walter Houston (1883 – 1950), the highly-respected theatre and film actor best remembered for his award winning role in The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre. The film was directed by his son, John, a legendary actor and director who appeared on screen in Polanski’s Chinatown, and was at the helm for classics including The African Queen and The Misfits. His daughter Anjelica established herself as a powerful on-screen presence, working with her father on Prizzi’s Honor, while her half-brother Danny is a familiar face both on the big and small screen, from the X-Men series to TV movies. Now their nephew Jack is continuing the family tradition in front of the camera, as the roles keep coming after last year’s re-working of Ben-Hur. He’s due on screen later this year in World War II comedy, Their Finest.
The legendary Chaplin name is still with us – starting with Charlie, then Geraldine and more recently Game Of Thrones’ Oona. More recent budding dynasties carry the names of Eastwood (Clint, Alison, Kyle and Scott) and one of the most popular surnames of all, Smith. In this case, Will, Jada and their three children Jaden, Willow and Trey, all of whom are performers.
Hollywood, it seems, just runs in the family.
Manchester By The Sea and Live By Night are both released on Friday, 13 January.