“Parents are the bones on which children cut their teeth.”—Peter Ustinov.
Hollywood people have babies just like everybody else. With hope, the apple doesn’t fall that far from the talent tree. Aren’t we supposed to love Hollywood dynasties? Who doesn’t indulge in celebrity baby pictures, family feuds, and the scandalous tales of spoiled Hollywood spawn gone wrong? Admit it: children of the famous are their own subgenre of mass entertainment.
While it’s enchanting to see those talented genes get passed down to the next generation, no one would say it’s ever easy to raise kids, even on a movie star’s salary. Let’s get the limo ready for these 42 outrageous facts about the children of Hollywood.
1. The Daughter Strikes Back
Debbie Reynolds was Hollywood royalty. So when her daughter Carrie Fisher got a role in Star Wars, she expected her daughter to get star treatment from director George Lucas. Back then, no one predicted A New Hope would be such a blockbuster, so the cast and crew flew coach instead of first class. Reynolds promptly called Lucas and complained on her daughter’s (unasked for) behalf.
Fisher happened to be right next to Lucas during this phone call, heard the conversation, snatched the phone from Lucas’s hands, and told Reynolds, “Mother, I want to fly coach, will you f*** off!?”
2. Sing & Spray
As the daughter of Quincy Jones, actress Rashida Jones grew up at ease among the pop musical elite. She remembers, when she was young, hopping into a car with Michael Jackson, Emmanuel Lewis, and her sister to drive by a movie theater. The party took out their Super Soakers and sprayed those waiting in line who, in Rashida’s words, “had no idea they’d just been super-soaked by the King of Pop.”
3. Musical Royalty
Quincy Jones’s other daughter, Kidada is an actress in her own right. In the 90s, she and the rest of her family were caught up in a strange love/hate relationship with none other than Tupac Shakur. When Shakur called out Quincy Jones for having married a white woman, Kidada’s younger sister Rashida penned him an open letter excoriating him for judging her family.
Kidada took a different route—she began dating Shakur and has claimed that the pair were engaged at the time of the rapper’s death.
4. Anything Less Than Perfection Is Not Worth Affection
As a bulimia survivor, Jane Fonda traces some of her self-image problems back to her demanding father, actor Henry Fonda. She has said, “I was raised in the 50s. I was taught by my father that how I looked was all that mattered, frankly. He was a good man, and I was mad for him, but he sent messages to me that fathers should not send: Unless you look perfect, you’re not going to be loved.” Can I say, ouch?
5. It’s a Big Enough Universe
Mariska Hargitay is the daughter of sex symbol Jayne Mansfield and bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay. While she went into her mother’s trade, Mariska doesn’t like to be compared to Mansfield. Instead, she looks to her father, who won the 1955 Mr. Universe title. At age 18, she said, “My dad was Mr. Universe, so it would be fun for me to be Miss Universe.”
6. Mommy’s Little Life Coach
Liza Minelli said there were “no middles” in being Judy Garland’s daughter. The Broadway legend’s own musical mother struggled with addictions and the household was at the whim of her erratic moods, where highs were high, and the lows were low. For most of Minelli’s childhood, her stepfather Sid was her mom’s primary keeper.
When they divorced, it was up to Minelli and her siblings to keep tabs on their troubled mom.
7. I’m a Survivor
Although she was born to the Barrymore acting dynasty, Drew Barrymore’s childhood was far from royal. When most kids were worried about grammar tests, Barrymore struggled with various addictions. Smoking cigarettes by age 9, hooked on alcohol by age 11, and on cocaine by age 14, it’s an understatement to say she was troubled.
Nevertheless, Barrymore went to rehab and emancipated herself at 15, thereby becoming one of those Hollywood kids who survived.
8. Better Late Than Never
Angelina Jolie made her big-screen debut in Lookin’ to Get Out alongside her father, Academy Award-winning actor Jon Voight. Years later, Jolie was the one “lookin’ to get out.” Voight left the family when she was less than a year old, and they mostly didn’t see each other unless there were cameras. Eventually, she petitioned to legally change her last name to “Jolie” and has said her mother’s career (which she gave up to raise Voigt’s children) was the real craft that she followed, not her father’s more commercial roles.
Nevertheless, Voight and Jolie did reconcile after her mother’s death in 2007.
9. Set for Life
Compared to other Hollywood parent-child acts, Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus have kept it stable. The official story of how Miley joined her dad in show business is almost too sweet to be true. Born “Destiny Hope Cyrus,” her stage name “Miley” is a play on her dad’s pet name for her: “Smiley.”
10. When A Name Is Too Much Information
American director Ron Howard named his children after the places in which they were conceived. His eldest daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard (see: Dallas, Texas) was frank about this overly shared story. That’s why both her twin sisters both have the middle name “Carlyle” (named after The Carlyle Hotel) and her brother is “Reed Cross,” named after the street their old house was on.
Ron didn’t want to name him “back of the Volvo.” More unfortunately, Bryce Dallas discovered this family history as she watched her dad share it on live TV with David Letterman.
11. Where Everybody Knows Your Name and Your Dad
For her first acting job, Spencer Grammer starred in an uncredited appearance as a child on Cheers. Coincidentally, her father’s TV show. That dad was none other than Kelsey Grammer. Spencer is actually only the first of his seven children with four wives.
12. Discretion is the Sickest Trick
Before music and acting, Jaden Smith once preferred the skateboarding scene. As the son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, he definitely liked the anonymity in skating that he couldn’t find anywhere else.
13. The Real PR is the Gift of Motherhood
Willow Smith’s first album was announced for the first time by none other than her mom, Jada Pinkett Smith who was a guest on Lopez Tonight.
14. A Little Help From Dad
Unlike his son Michael, the Hollywood veteran Kirk Douglas pulled himself out of poverty with an acting scholarship. His son Michael has done well for himself, but he’s had much more help. In 1975, Kirk gave his son the movie rights to adapt the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. What is working your way to privilege if not to make things easier on your kids?
15. Not All Footsteps Should Be Follow
The “Jr.” in “Freddie Prinze Jr.” has a tragic backstory. When he was only a year old, his father, actor-comedian Freddie Prinze, took his own life via gunshot at the age of 22.
16. Would a Sheen by Any Other Name Act Just as Good?
The politics of changing your name for Hollywood can be tricky and confusing. Take the Sheen family. The troubled actor known as “Charlie Sheen” was actually born “Carlos Estevez”—Estevez, after all, was the birth last name of his father, West Wing actor Martin Sheen. When he went into acting, Carlos anglicized his first name and took his father’s professional surname, covering all the bases. His brother, Emilio Estevez, did neither.
17. Breaking News, Dad
Before she achieved fame in Get Out and Girls, actress Allison Williams was just a girl who kept getting introduced as “Brian Williams’s daughter.” Being the kid of the NBC new anchor, it was initially hard to escape dad’s shadow—but now, she reports, people are a little more surprised to know she’s his daughter.
18. Game of Thrones
As the only child of Elvis Presley, Lisa Marie Presley made an attractive (but unsteady) the hand in marriage to other Hollywood dynasties. Her marriage to Michael Jackson was short-lived. At first, Presley begged Jackson not to file for divorce. When the singer relented, he turned around just to realize Presley had filed first! She also married into the Coppola-Cage dynasty with her marriage to an Elvis fanboy named Nicolas Cage.
Unfortunately, the marriage only lasted 108 days; arguably, the proceedings took longer than the marriage. Expect no less from the King of Rock’s daughter.
Chuck Norris didn’t meet his eldest daughter Dina until she was 26 years old. She only discovered that Chuck Norris was her dad at the age of 16. Norris had been married to Dianne Holeck since 1958, but he embarked on an affair, from which Dina was born in 1964.
20. My Little Army
Not all facts can contain a Hollywood family history. American comedian Eddie Murphy has nine kids from four different women.
21. Biological 11th Hour
At 50 years old, British actor Hugh Grant was childless and most expected him to stay that way. Then all of a sudden, he welcomed three kids in the span of 15 months. In 2011, his ex-partner Tingland Hong gave birth to his first daughter, Tabitha. She quickly became pregnant again and had their son Felix Chang in 2013. But it turns out, Grant was also secretly expecting another child with another woman, producer Anna Eberstein, born in-between, in 2012. Has a family tree gotten this confusing this fast?
22. No Other Choice
Nicole Richie is simply known as the socialite daughter of singer Lionel Richie, who adopted her when she was a girl. However, few people remember the grim circumstances of that adoption. When Nicole was just 3 years old, her biological parents agreed to let their daughter live with their friends, Richie and his wife—they could no longer afford to take care of her. She was legally adopted into the family at the age of 9.
23. No Very Kung-Fu of You
Jackie Chan is both Hollywood AND Hong Kong royalty, and his son Jaycee is a Mandarin singer and actor on his own terms. However, he’s been on hiatus from the family crafts since getting arrested for drugs. At least he’s been contrite, telling the Chinese people that he had “no reason, no excuse” for his infraction.
24. Small Cage After All
Did know Jason Schwartzman is first cousins with Nicolas Cage and Sofia Coppola? That’s right, he is part of the Coppola family thanks to his actress mother, Talia Shire, sister to Francis Ford Coppola. Shire is best known as Connie Corleone in The Godfather movies and Adrian in the Rocky franchise.
25. None of Your Family Business
Before Star Wars and Ex Machina, Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson was cast alongside his veteran actor dad in the Harry Potter franchise as Bill Weasley—his father Brendan Gleeson played Mad-Eye Moody. He was originally hesitant to take such a big role, especially in a film with his father. In Domhnall’s words, “I’d been very certain about not wanting to do the acting thing because of my father. I thought I’d always have the father-son thing of ‘He got you the role.’”
26. I Yield to No Mom
Vivienne Jolie-Smith continued her mom’s acting legacy when she was just a toddler in Maleficent. She kind of had no choice; all the other baby actors were afraid of Angelina Jolie in her regalia.
27. Art Imitates Life
The kids in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up/This is 40 cinematic universe are played by the director’s real-life daughters via actress Leslie Mann. Mann also stars in both movies as their mom.
28. Redemption Arc
Francis Ford Coppola got a lot of flack for casting his daughter, Sofia, in Godfather Part III. Her performance was universally panned as one of the worst things about the troubled threequel. At least she grew up to be a pretty good director.
29. Playing the Black Sheep
Tom Hanks and his son Colin co-starred in the film The Great Buck Howard. In the movie, Colin Hanks plays a son who drops out of law school to become an L.A. writer, thereby disappointing his dad, Tom Hanks. From fantasy to disappointing Tom Hanks, movies magic makes anything possible.
30. Too Much Exposure
Before she went Fifty Shades of Grey, Dakota Johnson was acquainted to high-pressure expectations from her Hollywood family. Her parents are none other than actress Melanie Griffith and actor Don Johnson. Moreover, she is a maternal-line granddaughter of Hitchcock suspense favorite, Tippi Hendren. The price of this dynasty was steep: in her own words, Dakota grew up being weirded by her parents “having sex with other people” in all those movies.
31. Red Carpets and Blue Blood
When it comes to Hollywood pedigree, few actors were better “bred” than Gwyneth Paltrow. First, she is the daughter of actress Blythe Danner and producer-director Bruce Paltrow, who directed her first acting job in the TV movie High (1989). It also helps your career when your godfather is Steven Spielberg.
32. Surfs Down
You might expect the son of the Brolin acting dynasty (and bully in The Goonies) to have had a more charmed childhood. That’s not the case with Josh Brolin. While his father James was off being an actor, Brolin was mostly raised on the family ranch. Nevertheless, the teen found trouble by joining a surfer group called the “Cito Rats” and also by stealing cars to feed his heroin habit. Brolin saw 19 of his friends die from substance use.
33. Exchanging Desk Lights for Spotlights
Once upon a time, the American actress Jamie Lee Curtis went to college for social work. But the allure of her family’s careers proved too tempting—her mother is Janet Leigh of shower scene from Psycho fame and her father is Tony Curtis of Some Like it Hot fame (also, an alleged ex-lover of Marilyn Monroe). Curtis dropped her studies after one semester to pursue her family calling.
34. Big Bro Steps Up
Jeff Bridges considers his older brother Beau Bridges to be his surrogate father. Their parents, Lloyd and Dorothy Bridges, were also successful actors. This often took them away from the home.
35. Three Strikes
The Huston family is the first in Hollywood history to see three generations of their own win Oscars. First, there was John Huston, a director and screenwriter who was nominated for 15 Academy Awards over his five-decade career and won twice. Next was his own dad, actor Walter Huston, who won for a movie directed by his own son.
Finally, Walter’s daughter Angelica Huston won Best Supporting Actress in 1985 for Prizzi’s Honor. Brother Danny is also an actor. Most families are happy to settle for just one.
36. Worse on Paper
Tatum O’Neal’s father Ryan was not present at the Oscars when his daughter became the youngest Oscar winner in history for 1973’s Paper Moon. He was too busy. Years later, Tatum would allege that she endured years of physical and emotional abuse from him as a result of his drug abuse. Ryan denied his daughter’s allegations in a prepared statement where he said, “It is a sad day when malicious lies are told in order to become a ‘bestseller.’”
37. Dearest and Dreadful
Not every adoption story has a happy ending. Hollywood legend and feud queen Joan Crawford got her daughter, Christina, through a baby broker because the actress has been formally denied a legal adoption by social services. In Christina’s iconic tell-all book Mommie Dearest, she alleges that Joan only adopted Christina and her siblings as a PR student after the media called her “box office poison.”
The book details many forms of abuse enacted by Joan against her kids: starvation, strangulation, and getting punished harshly for daring to use wire hangers in the closet instead of high-quality ones made from crochet.
38. Age Has Nothing on Ego
As detailed in Mommie Dearest, Joan Crawford’s abuse towards her daughter Christina infected the latter’s career. Riddled with jealousy over her young daughter’s success, Joan charged in and stole Christina’s role in the soap opera, The Secret Storm. Mind you, Joan was in her 60s, while Christina’s character was supposed to be 28.
39. Blood Isn’t Everything
In her own words, Kate Hudson’s biological dad “doesn’t know [her] from a hole in the wall.” Hudson is the daughter of Academy Award-winning actress Goldie Hawn and her husband Bill Hudson of the notably less famous Hudson Brothers band. The two divorced when Kate was just 18 months old. After that, Kate and her older brother Oliver was raised by their mother’s longtime boyfriend Kurt Russell, whom they still consider to be their “real” father. Bill Hudson did release his own take on this story in his 2011 memoir, Two Versions: The Other Side of Fame and Family.
40. Tragedy Comes in Threes
Both of Vanessa Redgrave’s daughters went into acting like their mom. Unfortunately, in 2009, her eldest daughter Natasha passed away from injuries related to her skiing accident. This was the first of 14 months of tragedy for Redgrave. The older actress’ brother and sister—also actors—also passed away months after.
41. Who’s Your Daddy?
Liv Tyler thought she was a child of one rock music dynasty, when was really part of another. She spent the first years of her life believing that Todd Rundgren of the band Utopia was her father. But at the age of 8 years old, she met her mom’s ex: Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. This new guy noticed the resemblance between Liv and his own daughter Mia.
The truth came out then, but it did not become public knowledge until Liv changed her last name at the age of 14.
42. The Regretful Protector
Christian Brando was an actor like his legendary father, Marlon Brando. Unfortunately, Christian is more remembered for his murder conviction than his filmography. In 1991, he pled guilty to the manslaughter of his sister’s boyfriend and spent 5 years in prison. His half-sister, Cheyenne, alleged that her boyfriend, Dag Drollet had been abusive.
Christian showed up at his place drunk, just wanting to “scare him” but Drollet ended up getting shot. In the end, Christian had doubts about whether his sister was ever abused and declared, “I feel like a complete chump for believing her.”