Celebrities– they’re just like us! They have parents! More often than not, however, celebrities are born from two “civilian” parents who haven’t achieved any kind of fame and just so happen to have brought a future superstar into the world. So, in that sense, they really are like most of us.
That said, there are times when celebrity parents pass along their talent– or at least, their ability to be famous– to their offspring and keep the family tradition of fame alive. From multi-generational Hollywood clans like the Barrymores and the Coppolas to actors like Rumer Willis, Charlie Sheen, and Jayden Smith whose talented parents are common knowledge, the majority of celebrity parent/child connections don’t take a deep dive to discover.
We’ve seen many of them grow up next to their famous parents, going from the cute little tykes accompanying mom and/or dad to red carpets to later having their parents be their guests at the now-grown child’s own movie opening. But there are a lot of current and long-time actors, directors, and musicians who you might be surprised to learn are second-generation celebrities– and even more surprised when you learn who their parents are.
Here are 20 Celebrities You Didn’t Realize Have Famous Parents.
20. Margarget Qualley– Daughter of Andie MacDowell
The still-budding career of Margaret Qualley was given a major boost when she became a main cast member on the HBO series The Leftovers and was the female lead in Netflix’s live-action film version of anime series Death Note. Her first top-billed role will be in the upcoming film Strange But True, leading an impressive cast that includes Brian Cox, Blythe Danner, Amy Ryan, and Greg Kinnear. At only 23, Margaret has the potential for a long, fruitful career ahead of her as both an actress and a model.
Apparently, having a career that combines acting and modeling work is a family tradition for Margaret– she is the daughter of longtime actress and beauty model Andie MacDowell, best-known for her breakthrough role in Sex, Lies, and Videotape and the female lead in Four Weddings and a Funeral, Groundhog Day, and Multiplicity as well as spending over 30 years being a model and spokesperson for L’Oréal.
19. Jennifer Aniston– Daughter of John Aniston
It’s hard to believe, but Jennifer Aniston’s post-Friends career has now lasted longer than her time playing Rachel Green on the iconic sitcom. Since then, Aniston has managed to transition into being a respected movie actress despite the baggage of being so closely associated with Rachel, appearing in a remarkable 18 films since Friends went off the ai.
While Jennifer’s mother, Nancy Dow, had a brief acting career that consisted of just two TV shows and two films, it was dad John Aniston that not only gifted Jennifer her famous last name but her star potential. John has been playing the character of Victor Kiriakis on soap opera Days of Our Lives for going on 33 years now, one of the longest runs of anyone playing a single character in television history. His impressive resume also contains roles in over 30 TV series across his six-decade career, including Mission: Impossible, Star Trek: Voyager, Gilmore Girls, The West Wing, and Mad Men.
18. Lily Collins– Daughter of Phil Collins
Though her first acting gig was technically an appearance on a BBC series as a two-year-old, Lilly Collins’ acting career proper didn’t kick off until she was 20. In the meantime, the overachiever wrote not only for Teen Vogue but also Cosmopolitan and The Los Angeles Times when she was still a teenager. Her first big role as an actor was playing Snow White in 2012’s Mirror Mirror, and a few years later, she headlined the fantasy/action film The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. She then added small-screen work to her repertoire with acclaimed Netflix original movie Okja and as a main cast member on Amazon’s The Last Tycoon.
As Lily continues to nurture her growing career, she has a famous cheerleader rooting her on– her father, legendary recording artist Phil Collins of both the band Genesis and of a remarkable solo career. At 150 million records sold worldwide, it’s not likely that Lily will ever quite match the success of her dad, but she certainly has plenty of time to try.
17. Katie Cassidy– Daughter of David Cassidy
In 2006, a then-20-year-old actress named Katie Cassidy came out swinging with four movies, including her first starring role in the horror film Black Christmas. Katie then spent the next handful of years steadily working in movies but not quite breaking through in a major way, until, like so many young actors, she realized that television work is nothing to be ashamed of. Katie’s career finally began to pick up some serious traction via her stint on Supernatural and her regular role on the CW’s Arrow.
Ironically, she found her groove in the same place that her famous father did. David Cassidy shot to fame as a 1970s teen idol when he joined the cast of The Partridge Family. Her recently-departed may have left his daughter’s life too soon, but he at least survived long enough to see Katie become the household name that she deserves to be.
16. Katherine Waterston– Daughter of Sam Waterston
While Alien: Covenant may have under-performed in U.S. theaters, it was a box office success globally and a great potential star vehicle for actress Katherine Waterston. Along with her major role in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Katherine has had a strong couple of years. Things seem to be going nowhere but up for the versatile star.
Although modern audiences only associate her father Sam with his 15 years playing Jack McCoy on Law & Order, digging farther back into his career proves that he had plenty of range to pass along to his daughter. In addition to being an accomplished, award-winning live theatre actor who has appeared in Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing, Sam has also had a vibrant film career that dates back to the 1960s and includes an Oscar nomination for The Killing Fields.
15. Mariska Hargitay– Daughter of Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay
There’s no point in beating around the bush– actress Mariska Hargitay is primarily known for playing detective Olivia Benson for over 400 episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. To be associated with playing a lead character in one of the most popular and longest-running TV shows in history is certainly turn your nose up at. Mariska also seems content being primarily a TV star, not appearing in a movie in any capacity other than a cameo or voiceover since 2001’s Perfume.
Her famous mother, Jayne Mansfield, was at the forefront of Hollywood’s obsession with blonde bombshells in the 1950s and became the first mainstream American actress to appear nude in a Hollywood film. As for that interesting last name, Mariska’s father is actor and Mr. Universe winner Mickey Hargitay, who made four films with his wife during their marriage.
14. Rashida Jones– Daughter of Quincy Jones and Peggy Lipton
Since entering the public consciousness through her roles on The Office and Parks and Recreation, Rashida Jones has spread her talent far beyond acting. In addition to many more acclaimed acting roles on TV and in movies, Jones has also expanded her portfolio to include producing, directing, and writing. In fact, Jones even scored the coveted gig to co-write Toy Story 4.
Jones likely got the acting bug from her mother, Peggy Lipton, who rose to fame as one of the leads on the TV series The Mod Squad and later appeared on Twin Peaks, Alias, and most recently, in the film A Dog’s Purpose. Jones dabbled in singing before becoming a famous actress, performing on Maroon 5’s debut album among other projects, and her musicianship probably came from her dad– legendary composer and producer Quincy Jones.
13. Elle King– Daughter of Rob Schneider
If you turned on the radio for more than an hour in 2015, you more than likely heard the pop rock hit “Ex’s & Oh’s” which was almost impossible to ignore on its rise to #1 Billboard Rock Song and two eventual Grammy nominations. The raspy, sassy voice behind the song was Elle King– or, as she’s known off-stage, Tanner Elle Schneider.
While Elle’s stage name is a call-out to her semi-famous mother, former model London King, it’s her real name that gives away her celebrity father– actor and comedian Rob Schneider of Saturday Night Live and Adam Sandler movie fame. And Elle was born in 1989, which means that Rob was pulling models well before his was rich and famous, a fact which is perhaps even more surprising than finding out Rob and Elle are father and daughter.
12. Dakota Johnson– Daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith
Despite a small role in the 1999 Melaine Griffith movie Crazy in Alabama at age 10, Dakota Johnson decided to wait until she finished high school to properly launch her acting career. And once she started, she started strong, nabbing a role in The Social Network and, a couple of years later, appearing in the hit comedy 21 Jump Street. But there’s no question what launched her into the upper stratosphere of stardom, and that was when she landed the coveted role of Anastasia Steele in the film adaptations of the Fifty Shades of Grey book series.
So what was the deal with that quick pit stop into child acting before Dakota went back to being a full-time student? Well, it was a chance to be in a movie with her mother, Melanie Griffith (and one that was also directed by stepdad Antonio Banderas).
But Dakota had more than one absurdly charming, absurdly attractive, absurdly famous biological parent with which to inherit her beauty and talent– her dad is none other than 80s icon and Miami Vice megastar Don Johnson.
11. Domhnall Gleeson– Son of Brendan Gleeson
Domhnall Gleeson has done more in his still-young career than many actors manage over the course of decades. The Irish actor has already worked with the Coen Brothers, Alejandro Iñárritu, and Darren Aronofsky; has portrayed famous figures like A. A. Milne, Thomas Burberry, and Bob Geldof; and has appeared in two multi-billion-dollar franchises (Harry Potter and Star Wars).
What’s even more surprising than Domhnall having a famous dad and people not realizing it is that millions of moviegoers have watched a movie that the father/son duo appear in together– Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows — Part 1, where Domhnall plays Bill Weasley and his pops plays Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody. Veteran actor Brendan Gleeson has also starred in such blockbuster movies as Braveheart, Gangs of New York, Mission: Impossible 2, and 28 Days Later.
10. Tracee Ellis Ross– Daughter of Diana Ross
While the physical resemblance is uncanny between Black-ish actress Tracee Ellis Ross and her mother, music icon Diana Ross, many people still don’t immediately make the familial connection between these two talented women.
Part of the reason for the disconnect might be in the very different career paths that the two Ross women took, with Diana being known as a singer of serious, soulful ballads and Tracee largely being a comedic presence during her many years on television and in movies (her breakthrough role was on the acclaimed sitcom Girlfriends). Or it could just be that people aren’t used to connecting children to the last names of their mothers– Tracee was born Tracee Joy Silberstein but later retooled her professional name to include her father’s middle name (Ellis) and mother’s famous last name.
9. Jessica Capshaw– Daughter of Kate Capshaw, Step-Daughter of Steven Spielberg
Dr. Arizona Robbins, who was only intended to appear in three episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, has now been a series regular for nine seasons and counting thanks in large part to the talent and charm of actress Jessica Capshaw. Though Grey’s is when mainstream audiences first became aware of Jessica, she’d been acting since her film debut in 1997’s The Locusts, where she starred alongside Paul Rudd, Vince Vaughn, Ashley Judd, and Kate Capshaw — her mother.
Despite a fairly steady stream of roles throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Kate will always be best-known for her role as Willie Scott in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the film where she met future husband Steven Spielberg. While Jessica wouldn’t become Steven Spielberg’s step-daughter until the pair married in 1991 when Jessica was 15, she and Steven nonetheless developed a close bond which continues to this day.
8. Abby Elliot– Daughter of Chris Elliot
During her four-season stint on Saturday Night Live, Abby Elliot quickly made a name for herself with her spot-on impressions of celebrities like Drew Barrymore, Zooey Deschanel, Anna Faris, and Joan Cusack. Abby has dabbled in movies, appearing in No Strings Attached, Sex Ed, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but she has largely focused on television. In addition to being a recurring voice on the animated series Star vs. the Forces of Evil, she was a main cast member for all three seasons of the Bravo series Odd Mom Out.
In regards to her SNL career, Abby is actually a third-generation SNL performer. Her grandfather, comedian Bob Elliot, appeared during the show’s fourth-season Christmas special, and dad Chris Elliot spent a year as a main cast member between 1994 and 1995. Of course, Chris is much more well-known for other things, from roles in hit movies like Groundhog Day and There’s Something About Mary to cult hits Cabin Boy and the TV series Get a Life.
7. Grace Gummer– Daughter of Meryl Streep
Along with her sister Mamie, who is best-known for her five seasons on the CBS series The Good Wife, Grace is making Gummer a name that is synonymous with quality acting and a compelling on-screen presence. Grace first garnered attention via her recurring roles on The Newsroom and American Horror Story: Freak Show, and later became a main cast member of the sci-fi series Extant. Her current gig is a regular role on the acclaimed series Mr. Robot, and she already has two movies in the can to be released next year.
So who was it that unleashed the Gummer girls– which also includes model sister Louisa– onto the world? Surely it was someone pretty special, someone who has been one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed actors for decades. And that someone is none other than the incomparable Meryl Streep.
6. Amanda Plummer– Daughter of Christopher Plummer
Though she’s never quite been a household name, Amanda Plummer has been one of Hollywood’s busiest and most consistently reliable actors throughout her nearly-40-year career. Following acclaimed roles in The World According to Garp, The Fisher King, and Needful Things, Amanda’s first taste of mainstream recognition came when she played “Honey Bunny” in Pulp Fiction. After a couple more decades of quality work, Amanda was cast in the biggest movie of her career when she appeared in 2013’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
To say that Amanda had some pretty big shoes to fill would be an understatement. It’s not easy following a parent who was Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, after all. Christopher Plummer has maintained an active career alongside his actress daughter, appearing in over 100 films including his Academy Award-winning performance in the 2011 drama Beginners and voicing antagonist Charles F. Muntz in Pixar’s Up.
5. Duncan Jones– Son of David Bowie
Not many directors hit a home run their first time at bat, but Duncan Jones did just that with his directorial debut. Duncan’s first movie, the sci-fi mind-bender Moon, racked up multiple awards for the young director and quickly established him as a talent to watch. While his 2016 film adaptation of the video game Warcraft didn’t maintain that critical success, it grossed nearly a half a billion dollars worldwide, proving that he could be both a critical darling and helm CGI-heavy fantasy epics.
Duncan’s father is a man named David Robert Jones, a guy who dabbled a bit in music and acting. Maybe you’d know him better by his stage name: David Bowie. Despite Bowie’s passing in 2016, he was at least around long enough to see Duncan achieve massive critical and commercial success. The duo also had an appreciation for video games in common, as Bowie acted in and wrote music for a gamed called Omikron: The Nomad Soul in 1999.
4. Eve Hewson– Daughter of Bono
Young Irish actress Eve Hewson might not have garnered much commercial success yet during her short career, but she’s earned plenty of critical acclaim– primarily from her role as nurse Lucy Elkins on Steven Soderbergh’s period medical series The Knick. 2018 is looking to be a strong year for Eve, as she will portray Maid Marian in the Leonardo DiCaprio-produced Robin Hood film and co-star with John Turturro and Chloë Sevigny in The True Adventures of Wolfboy.
In another case of not knowing who her famous parent is because of stage name confusion, dad Paul David Hewson is known to those of us who weren’t raised by him as Bono, frontman of iconic rock group U2. Bono only has one acting credit to his name where he doesn’t play himself, and that’s the role of Doctor Robert in the Beatles-based movie musical Across the Universe.
3. Gwyneth Paltrow– Daughter of Blythe Danner
These days, Gwyneth Paltrow is more widely known as a lifestyle philanthropist and beauty brand spokesperson than she is as an actress. But in the ’90s and early 2000s, she was one of Hollywood’s leading ladies, starring in movies in just about every genre and earning both commercial success and an Academy Award. After a brief hiatus, she made a triumphant mini-comeback when she played Pepper Pots in Iron Man and won an Primetime Emmy Award for a guest appearance on Glee.
While there has always been a sense that Gwyneth was part of a famous lineage, not everyone realizes what that lineage consists of. Her father was late director and producer Bruce Paltrow, but her more prominent parent is actress Blythe Danner, who is best known to younger audiences for Meet the Parents and Will & Grace, but has had an illustrious career that spans five decades.
2. Natasha Richardson– Daughter of Vanessa Redgrave
Unfortunately, the name Natasha Richardson will always be most closely associated with her tragic death following a skiing accident, but prior to that, she was a respected actress who played some beloved roles. Her most famous mainstream film is probably the 1998 The Parent Trap remake with a young Lindsay Lohan. Natasha has also appeared in popular movies like Nell, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Maid in Manhattan as well as playing divisive real-life figure Patty Hearst in a 1988 biopic.
While father Tony Richardson was a once-noteworthy actor in his own right who even won an Oscar in 1964, it’s Natasha’s mom who most people will more readily recognize: celebrated actress Vanessa Redgrave. Vanessa is often considered one of the best actresses in history, and she can count among her list of accolades an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Tony, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, a SAG award, a Cannes award, and a Laurence Olivier Award.
1. Riley Keough– Daughter of Lisa Marie Presley, Former Step-daughter of Michael Jackson and Nicolas Cage
It’s always helpful to get in good with a respected writer/director early in your career who will add you to their list of go-tos and help ensure a stream of quality roles. Actress Riley Keough was able to become an muse for Steven Soderbergh, the result of which has been roles in Magic Mike, Logan Lucky, and the television version of The Girlfriend Experience – which earned her a Golden Globe nomination. Riley also played the role of Capable in the mega-hit– and Oscar-nominated– Mad Max: Fury Road.
To say that Riley comes from a line of celebrity royalty would be an understatement. For starters, her grandfather is none other than “The King” himself, Elvis Presley. Her mother is Elvis’ only child, singer-songwriter Lisa Marie Presley. And while her biological father isn’t anyone famous, she’s had some pretty famous stepdads. When Riley was five, another musical king– Michael Jackson– became her stepfather for two years. Later, at age 13, Elvis superfan and fellow celebrity descendant Nicolas Cage took over step-dad duties until she was 15.
What other celebs were you surprised to learn have famous parents? Share in the comments!
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