Nepo babies undeniably have a leg up in Hollywood, whether or not they acknowledge it — and this is never more obvious than when they literally get their start in their parents’ projects.
Even if it’s just a small role, appearing in a high profile project is something many actors never even get close to — most people can’t even get in the audition room for these projects unless they have a great agent and a lot of credits (and don’t even get me started on if they belong to the SAG-AFTRA union or not).
Here are 15 Nepo babies that literally got their start from their parents…basically making them the ultimate Nepo babies.
Her next role was in Other People: she was recommended for the role by casting director Allison Jones. Jones had previously done the casting for Judd Apatow’s Freaks and Geeks, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Talladega Nights, Knocked Up, Superbad, Funny People, and This is 40…and thus had known the Apatows since Maude was two.
This all led to a role in a film by Sam Levinson, himself a nepo baby (more on that later). He then cast her in Euphoria, largely considered her breakout role.
Speaking of Sam Levinson…his father is Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson. His father cast him in his 1992 film Toys (starring Robin Williams) when Levinson was a kid, then later facilitated his breaking in as a writer, asking him to co-write the 2017 drama Wizard of Lies starring Robert De Niro. The elder Levinson told Collider, “I discussed it (the project) with my son, Sam, and he put together 20 pages. I sent that over to Bob and Jane Rosenthal, and we had the meeting and they thought it looked good, so I told them that my son wrote it. Bob has known Sam since he was 10 years old, and he said, ‘All right, good.’ That’s how we proceeded.”
Levinson — who had only a single writer/director credit from an indie film before his father asked him to work on The Wizard of Lies — springboarded off the film to the 2018 dark satire Assassination Nation. Euphoria quickly followed.
Gwyneth Paltrow was born to an actor mom and a director/producer dad…and her godfather is literally Steven Speilberg. Her first role was in a TV pilot (with Zach Braff, btw) called High written and directed by her father. She then made her professional stage debut in 1990 at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts, where her mother had starred in several productions.
After a small role in the John Travolta film Shout, she was cast in her godfather’s film Hook. She then did some smaller projects before having a larger role in Flesh and Bone, and, more memorably, Se7en — her career largely took off after that.
Sofia Coppola, daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, began her career as an actor, appearing in her father’s films The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, The Cotton Club, Peggy Sue Got Married and The Godfather Part III (a performance that was critically panned). Coppola later said it was never her dream to be an actor and that she was just helping her father out.
She would go on to become a writer/director, and got a leg up here too from her father, who asked her to co-write his segment of the anthology film New York Stories — the other segments were directed by Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen. After directing a short film and a few music videos, Sofia read The Virgin Suicides and decided she had to adapt and direct a film version. The film was critically acclaimed and her career took off.
Bryce Dallas Howard is a nepo baby to the extreme — her mother is a writer, and her father is director Ron Howard. She is the granddaughter of actors, her godfather is Henry Winkler. Her first roles were as extras in her dad’s films, including the Academy Award-winning Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind, plus the box office smash How The Grinch Stole Christmas.
Blake Lively’s father is actor Ernie Lively, and her first role was in a film he directed called Sandman. Her mother is a talent manager. Her brother was also an actor, and got his agent* to send Blake on a “couple” auditions one summer — which is when she booked The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (in which her father also appeared in). Of course, her career skyrocketed from there.
Jessica Capshaw — best known now for starring as Arizona in Grey’s Anatomy — is the daughter of actor/producer Kate Capshaw and the stepdaughter of Steven Spielberg.
Her first role was in a film her mother was starring in, The Locusts. She had a couple other small roles before she was cast in her stepfather’s film Minority Report, which was a hit.
Will Smith’s son Jaden Smith got his start starring alongside his father in The Pursuit of Happyness. After landing a role in the panned The Day the Earth Stood Still, he was cast in The Karate Kid, which his parents produced, and starred again alongside his father in After Earth.
Cooper Hoffman, the son of Philip Seymour Hoffman, had grown up making small films with his father’s collaborator and friend Paul Thomas Anderson and his son. Hoffman wasn’t even interested in acting until Anderson told him about Licorice Pizza and asked him to read the script. Once Hoffman told Anderson he wanted the role, Hoffman went through a number of camera tests with the Haim sisters (which he said he would consider auditions “to see if I could actually do it.”) He was only 17, with no prior acting experience.
Scott Eastwood may have tried to avoid profiting off his surname by initially using his mother’s last name, but I’m not sure he fooled anybody (in fact, one director noted he looked exactly like “his dad 25 years ago”). His first-ever film or TV role was in his father Clint’s film Flags of Our Fathers. He later appeared in his father’s Gran Torino and Invictus, and has had a long, consistent career since then.
Anjelica Huston — daughter of director John Huston and granddaughter of actor Walter Huston — didn’t even want to act, saying she was given roles in her father’s films “without really [her] consent.” Her first substantial role was in her father’s film A Walk with Love and Death, and her performance was not well regarded…but she did continue to have a long career in Hollywood, and she worked with her father again on The Dead.
John David Washington, whose father is Denzel Washington, appeared in two small roles in his father’s projects (including Malcolm X), then co-produced one of his father’s films before beginning to make it on his own.
John David’s breakout role was starring in BlacKkKlansman, a Spike Lee film — Lee was a frequent collaborator with Denzel, and had already directed John David in Malcolm X.
In another example, Ang Lee’s son Mason Lee is set to make his major debut (after a number of small roles, including as a baby in one of his father’s films) in an upcoming Bruce Lee biopic to be directed by his father.
And finally, the three members of Please Don’t Destroy (Ben Marshall, John Higgins, and Martin Herlihy) were most famous for their comedy TikToks before joining SNL. It seemed like a Cinderella story for them — until it came out that two of them had fathers who were longtime writers and producers on SNL.
To bring this post full circle, after their work on SNL, the trio is working on a film with Judd Apatow. They will write and star in the film, as well as executive produce it.
What do you think — do these nepo babies deserve the starts they got? Let us know in the comments!