A lot of actors in Hollywood are kids of famous parents, some scions we know well, like Zoe Kravitz and Kate Hudson. Others, though, you might be surprised to learn grew up on the inside of show business. Here’s our list of actors you might not realize are the children of stars.
Mariska Hargitay has carved out an amazing career in television as the iconic Olivia Benson in 25 seasons of Law & Order: SVU. That’s over 500 episodes! She is also the daughter of 1950s legend Jayne Mansfield and former Mr. Universe Mickey Hargitay. Tragically, Hargitay barely knew her mother. Mansfield was killed in a car crash when Hargitay was just three years old. Hargitay was in the car too, but survived with only minor physical injuries.
Tom Holland’s fame exploded when he was cast as Spider-Man in the MCU, though he’s been acting since he was a kid. It makes sense he’d find his way into show business, as his father, Dominic Holland, is a comedian and TV and radio star of some renown in the United Kingdom.
Sure, everyone knows that Zoe Kravitz is Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet’s daughter, but did you know Lenny Kravitz is also the child of a star? Lenny’s mother is the legendary Roxie Roker, who played Helen Willis on The Jeffersons.
With the massive amount of talent Benedict Cumberbatch brings to every role he plays, it’s not surprising he comes from a talented family. His father, Timothy Carlton, is a BBC legend, and his mother, Wanda Ventham is also a TV legend in the U.K. (and appeared as Sherlock’s mother on Cumberbatch’s Sherlock).
Tracee Ellis Ross
Black-ish star Tracee Ellis Ross took a slightly longer road to fame that many other scions of stars, but Girlfriends eventually made her one. Her mother is one of the biggest stars in pop music of the 20th century, Motown legend Diana Ross, who also dabbled in acting with roles in The Wiz and Lady Sings the Blues.
Jordana Brewster has built her own name and reputation in Hollywood, mostly through her work in the Fast franchise, but she also comes from a very accomplished family. Her mother, Maria João, is a Brazillian legend, as she was the first Brazillian model to appear on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, in 1978. Brewster’s grandfather, Kingman Brewster, was a giant in academia, serving as the president of Yale University from 1964 until 1977.
Of course, Zooey Deschanel has a famous sister, Emily, and together they have a couple of pretty famous parents. Zooey’s father, Caleb Deschanel is a cinematographer who has been nominated six times for an Oscar, for his work on films like The Right Stuff and The Passion Of The Christ. Zooey and Emily’s mother, Mary Jo, is also an actor, known best for playing Eileen Hayward in the Twin Peaks franchise.
From starring as Princess Margaret in The Crown to playing a baddie in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Vanessa Kirby has shown she can do just about anything on screen. Her father, Dr. Roger Kirby is a renowned doctor in the U.K., so while it might not be a Hollywood connection, Vanessa does come from a very prominent family.
Game of Thrones star Alfie Allen has a pretty famous sister, singer Lily Allen, and a pretty famous father, Keith Allen. Keith is very well known in his native England, but American audiences will recognize him from his roles in Trainspotting, and Kingsman: The Golden Circle, among others. Alfie and Lily’s mother, Alison Owen, is a movie producer as well, including the 2024 Amy Winehouse biopic, Back to Black.
Josh Brolin made his film debut in The Goonies when he was 18, in 1985. After a solid, but far from remarkable, run for the next 20 years, Brolin became a legit superstar in the 2010s, eclipsing the fame of his father, James Brolin, but probably not his stepmother, Barbara Streisand.
If you haven’t watched The Gilded Age, you need to, and when you do, you’ll likely love the performance from Louisa Jacobson. Of course, you wouldn’t expect less from the daughter of one of the greatest actors of all time, Meryl Streep.
Zoey Deutch is known for movies like Everybody Wants Some!! and Something from Tiffany’s, as well as TV shows like The Politician and Ringer. Her mother, Lea Thompson is known for classics like Back To The Future, and Some Kind of Wonderful, where Thompson met Zoey’s father, Howard Deutch, who directed the film.
Lewis Pullman has received widespread acclaim for his performance in Apple TV+’s Lessons in Chemistry. As you may have guessed by his last name, his father is none other than the great Bill Pullman, who, of course, made one of the most inspiring speeches in movie history in Independence Day.
Jamie Lee Curtis
Jamie Lee Curtis is a true legend and she also has two legendary parents, father Tony Curtis and mother Janet Leigh. Jamie Lee is also married to a famous actor, This is Spinal Tap star Christopher Guest. One more fun fact? Jamie Lee carries an English nobility title. The Right Honourable the Lady Haden-Guest, because Christopher’s full title is Christopher Haden-Guest, 5th Baron Haden-Guest.
Marc Platt has been nominated for an Oscar three times as the producer of Best Picture nominees Bridge of Spies, La La Land, and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Surely, he’s most proud of being a father to Pitch Perfect star Ben Platt.
Over five decades now, Laura Dern has crushed on the big and small screen. Her father, Bruce Dern, is in his incredible seventh decade of his career and her mother, Diane Ladd, has been a star for just as long. In fact, Ladd and Laura were both nominated for Oscars for their respective performances together in Rambling Rose, one of Laura Dern’s best performances.
It’s to imagine there was ever a time when George Clooney wasn’t the most famous person in the world, much less his own family, but that was the case once. George’s father, Nick Clooney, was a long-time TV news anchor all over the country, including in LA. He was also a game show host in the mid-’70s. George is also nephew to the iconic Rosemary Clooney, which also made Betty Clooney an aunt to George as well. Rosemary’s son, the late actor Miguel Ferrer, was also more famous than his cousin George in the ’80s, after starring in Robocop and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
Even the great Daniel Day-Lewis comes from a famous family. The legendary actor’s father was Cecil Day-Lewis, who was the one-time poet laureate of the United Kingdom, and his mother, Jill Balcon, was a well-known stage actor in the UK. Daniel Day-Lewis’ maternal grandfather, Michael Balcon, helped launch the British film industry in the 1930s and ’40s, as well. Acting is in his blood, for sure.
There’s no bigger name in Hollywood than Rob Reiner. Whether as an actor, director, writer, or producer, Reiner has made his name across the board. Before all that, his father, Carl Reiner, made his name doing many of the same things. Rob’s mother, Estelle Reiner, is also pretty famous, having delivered the line, “I’ll have what she’s having,” in When Harry Met Sally.
From Girls to The Flight Attendant, Zosia Mamet has shown herself to be quite the ensemble player on screen. Her father, iconic playwright David Mamet, is really more famous for what he’s written for the stage. David has found plenty of success writing for the screen as well, penning movies like Glengarry Glen Ross (based on his play of the same name), The Untouchables, and 2001’s Hannibal.
Billie Lourd got her start working with her mother, Carrie Fisher, in the Star Wars sequels. As Fisher’s daughter, she’s a part of a family of Hollywood royalty, with Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher as her grandparents. It’s an impressive lineage!
Bessie Carter’s star turn as Prudence Featherington in Bridgerton is right on par with not one, but both of her famous parents. Bessie’s father, Jim Carter, is most famous in the U.S. for playing the stern butler, Mr. Carson, on Downton Abbey. Her mother is none other than the great Imelda Staunton, who, among many other things, has starred as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter series and Queen Elizabeth in the final two seasons of The Crown on Netflix. It’s a lot to live up to for Bessie, but she’s showing she’s up to it.
Dune star Timothée Chalamet’s father may not be as famous as some of the parents on this list, but in some circles, he’s very famous. Marc Chalamet is a French reporter who worked for Le Parisien as a correspondent and for the United Nations as an editor for UNICEF. His mother, Nicole, was also in show business for a time, as a dancer on Broadway.
Bridgerton is one of the most popular streaming shows ever and among the excellent cast is Phoebe Dynevor, who plays Daphne Basset. U.S. audiences may not be familiar with her mother, Sally Dynevor, but in the U.K., she’s one of the most famous people on TV, having played the role of Sally on the long-running Coronation Street soap opera. Sally has played the role since 1986! Phoebe’s grandmother, Shirley Dynevor, was also an actress in the United Kingdom.
When you talk about the legendary Hollywood families, you have to mention Melanie Griffith. She is mother to Dakota Johnson, of course, with her ex Don Johnson. Griffith is also the daughter of a famous actress, the great Tippi Hedren, star of The Birds, among many other films.
Friends star Jennifer Aniston comes from famous stock. Her father, John Aniston, played the character Victor Kiriakis on Days of Our Lives for an amazing 37 years, right up until his death in 2022. The Morning Show star’s mother, Nancy Dow, was also an actress, though she never quite had the career of Aniston, but then again, few do.
For over 200 episodes, Jessica Capshaw played Arizona Robbins on Grey’s Anatomy. Before that, she started out in Hollywood working with her stepfather, Steven Spielberg. Her mother, Kate Capshaw, is also an excellent actress, of course. Talent runs in the family, like all the others on this list.
You might think “Margaret Qualley” does not have a last name I recognize. That’s fair; her father, Paul Qualley, was a model for a time, but it’s her mother, Andie McDowell, that lands Margaret on this list. She and her sister, Rainey, weren’t raised in Hollywood, but instead in Asheville, NC. She still found her way into show business after attending NYU and studying ballet in New York.
John David Washington
Denzel Washington’s son, John David Washington, wasn’t going to follow in his famous father’s footsteps, trying his hand at professional football in the St. Louis Rams organization. Luckily for film fans, his football career didn’t take off, but his Hollywood career has. BlacKkKlansman and Tenet definitely got John David out from under his father’s substantial shadow, and that is a really impressive thing to even attempt, much less succeed in doing.
Anyone who is the granddaughter of the King of Rock and Roll deserves to be on this list. That’s right, Riley Keough is Elvis Presley’s granddaughter, and daughter to Lisa Marie. After Lisa Marie died in 2023, Keough also became the sole owner of the legendary Graceland, Elvis’ home, in Memphis. It’s an impressive legacy to uphold, but Keough is clearly up for the challenge.
Hannah Einbinder is one of the brightest up-and-coming comedic stars in Hollywood, starring in Hacks as well as her very funny stand-up act. The apple doesn’t fall from the tree, as her mother is SNL legend Laraine Newman, who was part of the original cast from 1975-1980.
Nico Parker’s star is just starting to rise, having received acclaim for playing Sarah in HBO’s The Last of Us. Her mother is the iconic Thandiwe Newton, so again, the apple doesn’t fall from the tree in this family. Her father, Ol Parker, wrote and directed Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.
As this list shows, it’s not really fair to use the term “nepo baby” all the time, as all of these stars have forged their own path and careers. Sure, it helps to have the connections, and the DNA, of some talented parents, but that’s far from all it takes, as these stars have shown.