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Damon Wayans, a member of the famed Wayan’s acting clan, once said “This town was built on nepotism.” From the Baldwins to the Barrymores, it’s all about who you know, or rather, who your family is. But while some celebs may use their family connections to get ahead, some stars avoid it at all costs - so much so that you probably didn’t even know that they were related to someone famous to begin with.
One is an Oscar nominated, fair-haired beauty queen; the other, a dark and brooding action star. It sometimes seems like the only thing that actors Virginia and Michael Madsen have in common is their parents. The brother and sister duo have both made solid careers for themselves in wildly divergent niche markets. While Virginia is best known for ingénue roles, such as her Academy Award nominated turn in wino-dramedy Sideaways, Michael is more known for tough guy roles in films like Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill and Donnie Brasco. In 2007, after 25 years in the business, the pair finally joined forces onscreen in the little-seen mockumentary Being Michael Madsen playing the roles of, you guessed it, Michael and Virginia Madsen.
Jason Patric made a name for himself in ensemble films such as The Lost Boys, Sleepers and Narc. Although, to most, he will forever be known as the guy who ran off with Julia Roberts on the day she was set to marry his best friend, Keifer Sutherland. While you may have been aware of some of his personal affairs, one thing you may not know about Patric is that he is the son of Academy Award nominated actor and Pulitzer Prize winning writer Jason Miller, better known as Father Damien Karras in The Exorcist. Or that he is the grandson of famed actor/comedian Jackie Gleason of The Honeymooners. Seeing as he had not yet been born when the show went off the air, Jason wasn’t able to appear on his grandfather’s classic hit but he did get the opportunity to star in a Broadway revival of his father’s Tony Award winning play That Championship Season in early 2011.
When it comes to over-the-top, male-driven comedy two names come to mind – the 1998 Farrelly Brothers’ comedy masterpiece, There’s Something About Mary, and the hit, Emmy Award winning HBO series, Entourage. But did you know that these bro-comedies star a couple of real life bros? Matt and Kevin Dillon grew up in a small town in New York before making their way to Hollywood. While Matt found success as teen idol early on in films like The Outsiders, Rumble Fish and The Flamingo Kid, younger brother Kevin struggled in his early years before ultimately finding success – and three Emmy nominations – with his role as Johnny “Drama” Chase on Entourage. The character was known for being the less successful of two actor brothers who ultimately finds success on TV; talk about life imitating art.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo may have made actress Rooney Mara a household name but she isn’t the only famous member of her household. Her older sister Kate is also an actress, best known for her portrayal of Hayden McClaine, the obsessed mistress turned vengeful ghost on the critically acclaimed FX hit American Horror Story. While each of the Mara sisters comes with an impressive IMDB page, it is the girls’ NFL connection that is particularly remarkable. Their father is Chris Mara, current Vice President of Player Evaluation for the New York Giants. Their grandfather was Wellington Mara, former owner of the New York Giants, considered by many to be one of the most prolific figures in professional sports. And finally, their great-grandfather, you guessed it, worked for the New York Giants. Well, not so much worked for as founded them and led the team to eight division titles. With a lineage like that the girls certainly have their work cut out for them but with Rooney’s recent Oscar nod they are well on their way to a Hollywood touchdown.
Like Rooney, Jesse Eisenberg is best known for his performance in David Fincher’s The Social Network but did you know his kid sister, Hallie Eisenberg, is known for a major role of her own? Perhaps her name doesn’t sound familiar; well, that’s because she was more commonly referred to as “The Pepsi Girl.” That’s right; the Facebook dude is the brother of the Pepsi Girl. After appearing in a series of ads for the popular soft-drink in the late 90s and early 00s, the then-six year old won over audiences with her wide-eyed, dimpled grin and sassy attitude. Now 19, the former child star splits her time between college and acting gigs.
While it’s easy to think these stars only got their foot in the door because of their famous lineage, history shows that a famous name certainly doesn’t guarantee success. For instance, remember Berry Gordy’s other son Rockwell? Yeah, didn’t think so.
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