When you see names like Tarantino, Baldwin, Jackson and Murray, your brain immediately thinks of the famous mega-stars of Hollywood. Yet, sometimes it's best to take a second glance. What you may think is the latest project from your favorite actor or director may just be one from their less-beloved relative.
Here are 15 relatives to the rich and famous who used their surname to cash-in on their kin's success.
Photo: Rachel Worth/WENN.com
Django Unchained writer/director Quentin Tarantino’s childhood has been well documented. His father, Tony Tarantino, walked out on the family when Quentin was just a baby in favor of pursuing a career as an actor and musician. After his son rose to fame with Reservoir Dogs, Tony conveniently re-emerged to piggy-back on his son’s success. In a scum bag move, Tony has used his famous last name to further pursue his own acting career in independent, straight-to-video fare. In a 2010 interview, Quentin said “He's an actor only because he has my last name. But he was never part of my life. I didn't know him. I've never met him."
La Toya Jackson
Photo: Ivan Nikolov/WENN.com
In 1980, just around the time her brother Michael was successfully pursuing his solo career, La Toya Jackson began chasing a musical star of her own. Though she wanted to lose her last name to establish herself on her own talent, pressure from her father made her keep the famous surname. This invited inevitable comparisons to both Michael and Janet as the trio of careers paralleled one another. After mainstream success eluded her, she broke away from her father’s management. From there, she began a career in softcore adult movies that cashed in on the contrast between her formerly squeaky clean namesake and family persona. Following a battle with drug addiction, La Toya has found success with memoirs and reality television.
Photo: Ivan Nikolov/WENN.com
In 1985, John Murray (pictured right) banked on the popularity of Ghostbusters star and brother Bill Murray. This led John to headline in the comedy Moving Violations. The film featured a cast of lesser-known sibling actors, including future Academy Award nominee Jennifer Tilly. Though the film, along with John’s performance, would receive less-than-stellar reviews, Bill helped his younger sibling out by giving him a role in the 1988 comedy Scroodged. In an inspired bit of casting, John played Bill’s less successful younger brother. Following a brief stint acting for television, John has fallen back on a career of writing and producing.
Photo: C. Smith/WENN.com
Stephen Baldwin is the youngest of the Baldwin brothers. Though there are four of them, 30 Rock star Alec Baldwin has always been the leader of the pack. Without Alec's breakout roles in Beetlejuice and She’s Having A Baby, there would be no “Baldwin Brothers” in the film business. Stephen cashed in on Alec’s success in 1989 with a small part in Last Exit To Brooklyn. In 1995, he scored a breakout role in the hit film The Usual Suspects. He soon squandered that goodwill with projects like Bio-Dome and Fled before being cast into the waters of straight-to-video movies. Following a career downturn (thanks in part to drug addiction) he became a born-again Christian and conservative pundit, one who has threatened to run against Alec in a New York City mayoral election. (It was rumored Alec was considering running.)
Photo: Jody Cortes/WENN.com
Second-born Baldwin Brother Daniel debuted in a TV movie in 1988. His namesake subsequently helped score him roles in Born On The Fourth Of July and TV’s Homicide: Life In The Streets. A return to features would be short-lived thanks to Daniel’s battle with coke addiction— a habit that has landed him in and out of jail, rehab clinics, indie films, reality television, and straight-to-video movies ever since.
Photo: Nikki Nelson/WENN.com
William “Billy” Baldwin began his career as a model before being cast alongside Laura Flynn Boyle in 1989's The Preppie Murder. ( This is the same years as Alec’s star making role in Beetlejuice—are we sensing a pattern here?). The part led to string of supporting roles in mainstream films, including Flatliners and Backdraft. When a leading role in Fair Game (opposite Cindy Crawford) failed to establish him as a star, Billy went back to character roles. Though he hasn’t maintained the star power of Alec, the two seem to remain on good terms and even spoofed their relationship on an episode of 30 Rock. Billy's guest appearance had him playing an actor playing Alec’s character on the show.
Photo: Nikki Nelson/WENN.com
Don Swayze cashed-in on his brother Patrick Swayze’s success in the 1980s, garnering a series of bit parts in shows like L.A. Law and Matlock. He parlayed his namesake and striking resemblance to Patrick in straight-to-video schlock like Forced to Kill and Beach Babes From Beyond. After decades of paying his dues in and out of the straight-to-video and TV world, Don made good. In the last decade, the brother Swayze has gotten high-profile roles on series like Carnivale, True Blood and The Young and the Restless.
Frank Sinatra Jr
Being born Frank Sinatra Jr gives an individual instant industry cache. Though Frank Jr. found some mild success as a singer in the 1960s, his efforts have been consistently overshadowed by his parents, Frank and Nancy. Still, in 1968 his talent and namesake helped him garner the position as host to a summer replacement series for the Dean Martin Show and the opportunity to star opposite Sammy Davis Jr. in A Man Called Adam. Frank Jr. would later put his own career on hold to take over as his father’s musical director and conductor. Though his career has been overshadowed, Sinatra Jr. gets a great deal of respect for his musical knowledge and skills and continues to work off-and-on as a singer and television character actor.
Photo: Joseph Marzullo/WENN.com
Ian Lithgow is the son of John Lithgow. As such he has followed in his father’s footsteps to a tee—he graduated from Harvard University and pursued a career in acting. Though his acting work in film has amounted to a handful of indie roles, Ian enjoyed a successful run on 3rd Rock From The Sun as Leon, a hilariously dimwitted community college student. The character regularly shared screentime with John Lithgow, which is unsurprising. Unfortunately, the stint marked Ian’s last mainstream role, though Ian has continued finding success in regional theater-- a medium where his father also cut his teeth.
Photo: Reggie Collier/WENN.com
Emilio Estevez used his given name to start an acting career for himself without relying on father Martin Sheen’s stage name. In a similar fashion, Emilio’s uncle, Joe Estevez, used his nephew’s success to cash-in on some low-budget horror and science fiction films. Though Joe had some mild success on television during the 1970s, parts began to fizzle out by the end of the decade. Following Emilio’s success in The Breakfast Club, Repo Man, and St. Elmo’s Fire, Estevez found his career getting some renewed interest in the dregs of low-budget filmmaking. From Soultaker to The Roller Blade Seven, if it is has the name Joe Estevez on it, you probably will want to pass it up.
Photo: Reggie Collier/WENN.com
Chris Mitchum used his namesake and relation to father Robert Mitchum to win featured parts in a string of westerns in the 1960s. Unfortunately, Chris did not inherit his father’s acting chops. He’s best remembered for a string of wooden performances in big budget John Wayne westerns like Chisum, Rio Lobo, and Big Jake. Like many others on this list, Chris would find great success in the world of low-budget horror films. Though a cameo in Tombstone seemed to recognize his legacy as a western actor, Chris went back to the straight-to-video circuit shortly thereafter. Mitchum has since suggested that working with the notoriously conservative Wayne was a death knell for his career. He may not have been watching his performances in the finished film...
Frank Stallone is the younger brother of Rocky star Sylvester Stallone. After Sly broke out as an Oscar winner in 1978, he brought his brother in to record music for a number of his films (including Rocky, Stayin’ Alive, and Rambo: First Blood Part II). Given his likeness to his brother, Frank piggybacked on the 1980s love affair with the Stallone and became a character actor in films like Barfly and Tombstone. And, of course, he’s garnered a string of leading roles in straight-to-video movies which have continued to this day.
Rumer Willis got an early start working with her mother, Demi Moore )in Now and Then and Striptease) and father, Bruce Willis (in Hostage). Yet without the involvement of her parents, Rumer’s career has dwindled, going from high-profile projects like The House Bunny to slasher remakes like Sorority Row. Despite this, Rumer Willis has stayed in keeping with fellow relatives-to-stars on this list and continues working television guest spots on shows like 90210 and Workaholics.
Charlie O’Connell is the younger brother of Jerry O’Connell. He’s parlayed his brother’s success into work as both an actor and reality television star. Charlie was the center of the television series The Bachelor in 2005. His association with Jerry also earned him small roles in films like The New Guy and Dude, Where’s My Car? Unfortunately, these minor successes did not last. Charlie's career has taken downward turn into Sy-Fy Channel Original Film fodder Kraken and 2-Headed Shark Attack. However, if you think about it, these roles aren't too far from Jerry's own turn in 2010's Piranha 3D. It makes you wonder who is imitating who these days...
Lon Chaney Jr
Back in the 1920s there was no bigger star than Lon Chaney. While most actor parents on this list have encouraged their children to pursue the trade, Lon Chaney forbid the profession from his son, Creighton. After dad’s death in 1930, Creighton changed his last name to “Duke” to distinguish himself from his father. When his career failed to take off, he relented to studio pressure and became Lon Chaney, Jr. Cashing in on his father’s name helped garner him the iconic role of The Wolfman, but the comparison made him develop a crippling depression and subsequent drinking problem. His addiction led him to finish out his career where he started, in low-budget quickies, before dying in 1973.