Born Into the Business: Stars With Famous Parents
Take our quiz about the acting offspring of showbiz veterans
To me one of the true revelations in the movie “The Help” is Bryce Dallas Howard’s performance as Hilly Holbrook. Hilly is a beautiful, perfectly manicured and coiffed Southern belle who wears the nicest clothes, works tirelessly for several charities, and has a large circle of friends. What else? Oh, she is a virulent racist and the true villain of the piece. One of the subplots of the story is Hilly’s attempt to enact a law in Mississippi that would require white families to build a separate bathroom for their “colored” help. Hilly is horrified at the thought of black people using her toilet (“they have different diseases than us”) and indeed, she fires her long-time maid when she believes that the woman has used the Holbrook’s whites-only commode.
Such a despicable character could easily have descended into a Cruella De Vil-like caricature with a lesser actress. But in my opinion, despite the over-the-top ugliness of Holbrook’s actions throughout the film, Howard manages to bring nuances to the role that, while not excusing her reprehensible behavior, provide a backdrop that speaks to the in-bred racism that was such a part of the Jim Crow South. I’m not saying that I “liked” Hilly Holbrook, but I did love Bryce Dallas Howard’s take on her. I hope people who have seen this film are talking about Hilly—I think her character provides far more opportunities for interesting discussion than if we'd been witnessing the actions of a crazed Ku Klux Klan member.
I was floored, at first, to realize that the actress was the daughter of Ron Howard, the director who, of course, was also the child actor Ronny Howard, star of “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Happy Days” as well as wonderful films such as “The Music Man,” “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father,” and “American Graffiti.” In my head, Ronny Howard is forever young—how could this lovely 30-year-old actress possibly be his child?
I now remember seeing her in small but effective roles in “Spider-Man 3” and “Hereafter.” After “The Help” I would definitely put Bryce Dallas Howard on the short list of the Big Movie Stars of the Future. Next up for Howard is a featured role in the “cancer comedy” called “50/50” opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen.
Thinking about Bryce Dallas Howard, I wondered how much having a parent who had been a famous actor helped set her on the path that led to Hilly Holbrook. Growing up in Connecticut, Howard claims she was purposely sheltered from the showbiz world and wasn’t even aware that her father was a celebrity until she moved to California. “My dad’s more three-dimensional than Opie Taylor or Richie Cunningham,” she said recently in an interview. “He even has a temper! He’s a real person. But some people are disappointed by that.”
I started composing a list of other acting progeny of famous actors and I couldn’t stop myself. My rule was that both child and parent had to be movie actors at some point in their career, not just TV or stage performers, and they had to have had some success in the field. Here’s the list that I came up with:
Ed Begley, Jr.
Jeff & Beau Bridges
David, Keith, & Robert Carradine
Jamie Lee Curtis
Jane & Peter Fonda
Bryce Dallas Howard
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Vanessa & Lynn Redgrave
Natasha & Joely Richardson
Am I missing anyone? And now, for a special Hitlist prize, see if you can answer the following questions about this well-pedigreed group:
1. How many of these actors are the children of not one but two Academy Award winners?
2. How many parent-child pairs have both won Oscars?
3. How many of them appeared in one or more films with their famous parent(s)?
4. Who on this list also has an Oscar-winning stepmom as well as an Oscar-nominated wife?
5. Whose parents met while acting together in a groundbreaking Broadway musical?
6. Who has a younger sibling that may soon need to be added to this list?
7. Who has played a role in a film that their famous parent played years earlier?
8. Which of these actors are estranged from their famous parent?
Winners and prizes to be announced soon!