Growing up alongside siblings is tough enough for almost anyone, but have you ever contemplated what it would be like to forever exist in the shadow of a far more famous brother or sister?
For some in Hollywood, that’s a daily occurrence. You can enjoy a modest career, full of fine turns in many a memorable film, but if you happen to share the same surname or DNA as a notable Hollywood A-lister, the chances are someone, somewhere is going to bring it up.
There are those who have broken the mold of course. Casey Affleck spent close to a decade living in the shadow of big brother Ben, but has since emerged as an Oscar winner and star in his own right. Joaquin Phoenix was similarly overshadowed by his late brother River, until a series of star turns put him on the map and silenced any doubters.
The actors and actresses that feature on this list are no less talented than their more famous or successful siblings – they simply haven’t had that same rub of the green or breakout role required to truly make it in Hollywood.
Right here and now though, they are finally hogging the limelight – here are 20 Less Successful Siblings Of Super-Famous Actors.
20 Andrew Wilson
Living in the shadow of one super-famous sibling is tough enough, but two? That’s the predicament Andrew Wilson, the lesser known brother of Owen and Luke Wilson, has faced all his adult life. An actor and director, Andrew has featured in several of his two brothers’ most notable films, including Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, Zoolander, The Royal Tenenbaums, and... er... Hall Pass.
Unfortunately, his roles have rarely been of the scene-stealing variety, with Andrew largely avoiding the limelight, save for one instance in 2005 when he directed the Luke Wilson-starrer The Wendell Baker Story. Written by Luke, with Andrew behind the camera, the film made less than $200,000 at the box office off a budget of $8 million. It remains his only major credit as a director, while his last acting role came way back in 2014.
19 Daniel Baldwin
Alec Baldwin’s status as an A-list star is indisputable. William Baldwin had that early film success and continues to get by on those boyish good looks. Stephen Baldwin, meanwhile, will always have The Usual Suspects. That just leaves poor old Daniel Baldwin.
Undoubtedly the lesser known of the four Baldwin boys, Daniel’s first big break came when he was cast as Beau Felton in David Simon's precursor to The Wire, Homicide: Life On The Streets in 1993. But after just three seasons, Baldwin made the fateful decision to leave the show, and his character was killed off.
A largely forgettable film career followed, save for a prominent role in John Carpenter’s Vampires alongside James Woods. Ultimately, Baldwin’s personal issues have proven more memorable in the years since, with the actor embarking on a second career of sorts as a reality TV star.
18 Frank Stallone
Sylvester Stallone’s younger brother Frank (pictured holding court over the fire) is more of a singer than an actor, known for crooning in the grand old tradition of Frank Sinatra.
He’s still got 72 acting credits to his name though, including appearances in all of the first three Rocky films, playing the demanding role of “singer” in each. There have been more notable roles, of course - Frank Stallone appeared in Miami Vice and had meaty enough roles in Hudson Hawk and Tombstone.
Frank has got one thing on Sylvester, too: Staying Alive, the sequel to Saturday Night Fever written by Sylvester Stallone, was famously a critical and commercial bomb, but “Far From Over”, the soundtrack song written by Frank, was a Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 hit and was nominated for a Golden Globe and a Grammy. Frank continues to act too – he lent his voice to a recent animated Transformers series – and, of course, he still sings.
17 Michael Buscemi
Steve Buscemi boasts a filmography few in Hollywood can match, so his brother Michael would be forgiven for feeling a tad inferior – most actors are in this instance.
A chip off the old block in the looks department, Michael is arguably the more photogenic of the two Buscemi brothers, but seriously lags behind his sibling in terms of major success. A jobbing actor with 50 credits to his name, arguably Michael’s most memorable role to date came on the hit series Nurse Jackie, where he played the part of a recurring street dweller who believes he is God.
A bit-part player in the Steve Buscemi movies Trees Lounge and I Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, as well as the series The Sopranos, Michael Buscemi has enjoyed more success on the small screen of late, appearing in Mr Robot, Orange Is The New Black, and the HBO miniseries The Night Of.
16 Sophie Thompson
Emma Thompson is a national treasure and among Britain’s most accomplished actresses. She’s been in countless Shakespeare adaptations and more Harry Potter movies than you can wave a wand at. Thompson also won the sympathy of scorned women the world over for her memorable turn as the late Alan Rickman’s discarded wife in Love Actually.
Her sister Sophie Thompson is better known as Stella Crawford, the crazed lover of Phil Mitchell on the hit BBC soap Eastenders a few years back. Her character was one of the most reviled in the history of the show, and helped Thompson land the “Best Bitch” award at the Inside Soap award. An Olivier Award winning stage actress with countless impressive film credits on her CV, it’s this year-long stint on the soap that remains her most notable credit to date - other than winning Celebrity Masterchef one year.
15 Luke Hemsworth
It’s not that Luke Hemsworth has had a particularly unimpressive career to date – his role as Ashley Stubbs on the hit HBO series Westworld could be the making of him yet. It’s more that his brothers have just been that much more phenomenally successful.
Chris Hemsworth is Thor himself, while Liam Hemsworth has the Hunger Games movies and an Independence Day sequel to his name. Luke doesn’t have either of those things. Like Liam and Chris, he started out on an Aussie soap, Neighbors, before embarking on a steady career working in Australian TV and film. But he remained there a little longer than his brothers, and despite being the oldest of the three, is only now making the move to the US of A. It’s going to take a lot for him to outdo his younger siblings at this point, but, at the very least, a steady TV acting career beckons.
14 Brett Harrelson
Woody Harrelson’s unique family life is already well-documented – his father, Charles Voyde Harrelson, was a contract killer who eventually died behind bars serving out a life sentence.
What’s not so well documented, however, is the rather unique path to semi-stardom taken by his lesser known brother, Brett. One of three Harrelson boys in the family, Brett actually spent two years in the army and even worked as a legal clerk before heading to Hollywood.
Eager to follow in the footsteps of his brother, Brett’s initial attempts at making it as an actor went largely fruitless, so he decided to embark on another career – as a motorcycle racer.
At one point ranked no. 8 in the pro national rankings, Harrelson quit the sport after seeing several of his fellow riders get killed, and has since served as Woody’s assistant as well as an actor in his own right, with credits including From Dusk till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money and a role in The People vs Larry Flynt (above).
13 Joey Travolta
The six Travolta kids were always encouraged to immerse themselves in the arts – their mother Helen Cecilia was an actress and singer in her own right, after all. Joey was the eldest Travolta boy, but has pretty much always existed in the shadow of his younger sibling, despite releasing his own eponymous album and featuring as a guest star on the hit series Simon & Simon.
Perhaps Joey Travolta’s choice of film projects was where he fell short compared to his brother. While John was busy making some of the most iconic movies of the 1990s, Joey was appearing in films like the Sylvester Stallone comedy flop Oscar and Beverly Hills Cop III – and those are just the memorable ones.
Joey recently returned to our screens for the first time in 13 years with a small role on the Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington series Decker, alongside Joe Estevez and several other lesser known siblings, so at least he can laugh at his "predicament."
12 John Murray
The Murrays are an unusually large and unusually talented family. Bill Murray, the undisputed pick of the bunch, has seven similarly talented siblings, including three brothers that have all gone into film in one form or another.
Brian Doyle-Murray is a successful actor and writer in his own right – he’s probably best known for playing Noah Vanderhoff in Wayne’s World, but he also co-wrote Caddyshack and has popped up in countless movies, TV shows, and animated series - he's instantly recognizable.
Joel Murray, to his credit, has blossomed late in his career, with major roles in TV shows like Mad Men and Shameless, as well as starring in the biting but violent satire God Bless America.
That just leaves John Murray, a part-time actor at best who is perhaps best known for playing Bill’s brother in the Christmas favorite Scrooged. That was back in 1988 though – he’s appeared in just four films and TV shows since then. Evidently, a career away from film beckoned.
11 Don Swayze
Don Swayze may not be the household name his late, great brother Patrick was, but he’s worked steadily throughout his career and has a filmography that would sure be the envy of most jobbing actors out there.
An accomplished film and TV star, Don has also worked steadily in the theater. A TV actor first and foremost, his previous credits include CSI and My Name Is Earl, though perhaps his biggest roles to date have come as Shaw Roberts on thr US soap The Young and the Restless and as the werewolf Gus on the hit HBO series True Blood.
More recently, he’s appeared on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Sons of Anarchy, where his striking, if slightly menacing, good looks have come in quite handy. Away from acting, he also happens to be an avid sky diver and cyclist. His brother must have been very proud.
10 Lisa Roberts Gillan
Eric Roberts is a very lucky man. Were it not for the existence of his lesser known sister, Lisa, then his rather forgettable career as an actor may have come into more focus compared to than of his other sibling, Julia Roberts.
As it is, he’s head and shoulders above Lisa, who has made a career out of appearing in some of her sister’s worst movies. She was "Elaine" in Runaway Bride, "Miss Albini" in Mona Lisa Smile and "Young Nurse" in Valentine’s Day.
She also featured as “Woman in Play” in Eat Pray Love and “Assistant Betty” in Mother’s day. In addition to those memorable roles, Lisa also featured in the Friends episode “The One After The Superbowl, Part 2” alongside, yep you guessed it, her sister. She has earned some guest spots off her own back, though, appearing in Law & Order, Law & Order SVU, and Sex In The City. Didn't see Julia pop up in any of those!
9 Jonathan Firth
The younger brother of British film heartthrob and all-round gentleman Colin Firth, Jonathan Firth has carved out a career as a go-to actor for pretty much any and all small screen adaptations of English literary classics through the years and will be a semi-familiar face to anyone that regularly tunes in to the BBC.
The other Firth is also known for his work as a narrator on several audio books. While he's made something of a habit of playing either men of the cloth or English country gents in much of his work to date, Firth’s most intriguing credit came on a 1996 episode of the horror anthology series Tales From The Crypt, in which a man developed a way to read the memories of the dead and decides to test it out on a serial killer. Once a guest star on the hit series Ghost Whisperer, Jonathan continues to work in the theater as well as on TV and radio, and evidently has a thing for all things spiritual.
He may not quite measure up to Colin, but he's certainly racked up a successful career for himself.
8 Tom Franco
Born to successful Silicon Valley businessman father and an actor/director mother, the Francos always had the foundations to explore a career in the arts at their leisure, and both James and Dave have done exactly that with some considerable success in recent years.
But before either one found their feet on shows like Freaks and Geeks and Scrubs, their older brother Tom was busy making a name for himself in a slightly different way.
Having graduated from the California College of the Arts in Oakland, Tom Franco landed his first film role as the tastefully named Frog Boy in the hit horror sequel Basket Case 2 in 1990. It would be 21 long years before he made an appearance in another major movie, playing a police officer in his brother James’ movie, Rise of The Planet of the Apes.
Tom has been busy away from acting, though – he’s the founder and co-director of Berkeley’s Firehouse Art Collective, and is also set to cameo alongside James and Dave in The Disaster Artist – the film based on the tell-all book that chronicles the making of The Room.
7 Joe Estevez
Martin Sheen’s own offspring may forever be living in their father’s considerable shadow, despite the best efforts of Emilio Estevez and, of course, Charlie Sheen, but they should spare a thought for their uncle.
One of ten children in the Estevez family, Joe made the mistake of following his older brother Martin into acting after a career in the Navy. Initially eager to earn roles on his own, Joe auditioned under his mother’s surname, Phelan, before reverting back to Estevez.
Unfortunately, it’s not done him a whole lot of good. Known for playing primarily villains and secondary characters, arguably Joe’s biggest role came as a stand-in for Martin Sheen on Apocalypse Now while his brother was recovering from a heart attack.
A voiceover artist, he also courted controversy for fronting a pro-gunmaker commercial in 2000, where he adopted a vocal style similar to that of his sibling in an entirely deliberate move. Martin must have been pissed.
6 Dedee Pfeiffer
Michelle Pfeiffer’s lesser known sister may not be a household name, but chances are that you've definitely seen her somewhere before – especially if you happened to be a fan of sitcoms in the mid-to-late '90s.
She played Cybill Shepherd’s on-screen daughter in the series Cybill for two years and the hit show For Your Love, which ran for four seasons on The WB Network. Dedee even made an appearance on Friends, in the episode “The One With The Pediatrician” as the woman Phoebe sets Joey up on a blind date with. Michelle's little sis even guest starred on Seinfeld.
There’s a chance you may have seen her somewhere else too – Dedee Pfeiffer famously posed for Playboy in the magazine’s February 2002 edition. In 2011, however, Dedee turned her back on acting to pursue a new career – in forensic psychology. And that doesn’t mean a role on CSI, either.
5 Neil Connery
Most people would hate having James Bond as their brother, but Neil Connery pretty much forged his entire acting career off the back of it.
In 1967, he starred in O.K. Connery, a Bond rip-off of sorts that featured several actors from the original franchise in roles that were noticeably similar to the ones they played in the 007 franchise. Not done riding on the coattails of his brother’s Bond fame, Neil then went one step further in 1984 when he appeared as "Mr Bond" in the Hong Kong action comedy sequel Aces Go Places 3, where he played another 007 stand-in of sorts.
Other screen credits include the Invasion of the Body Snatchers variant The Body Stealers, with Connery later steering clear of acting for the most part, and instead focusing on a career as a plasterer in his home city of Glasgow until his retirement.
4 Monica Cruz
The middle child in the Cruz family, while older sister Penelope has enjoyed notable success as an actress, and younger brother Eduardo performs as a singer, poor Monica’s movie work to date has been limited at best.
Originally a dancer before pursuing a career as an actress, Monica Cruz’s biggest role came on the Spanish show Un Paso Adelante, which translates as "One Step Forward" and was effectively the country’s answer to Fame.
Appearing in almost all of the show’s six seasons, Cruz was the show’s main star during its 80 episode run, and has also appeared in some lesser known films, including a big screen adaptation of the popular European comic strip Asterix. Alas, arguably her most notable role came as Penelope’s double on Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – she filled in while her sister was pregnant - though she is a well known figure in her homeland of Spain.
3 Justine Bateman
Arguably the more famous of the two Bateman siblings during their formative years in the 1980s, Justine made her name as Mallory Keaton on Family Ties, remaining on the show throughout its seven-year run. But while Jason Bateman’s star has ascended in recent times, Justine has preferred to take more of a backseat, appearing in several television movies and guest starring on shows like Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Rugrats, Desperate Housewives and Modern Family over the years.
Evidently keen to pursue opportunities away from acting, Justine has launched a digital production company and a clothing design firm. while her brother has gone from strength to strength on the big and small screen. Her distance from the industry seems more self-imposed than most, though.
2 Robert Wahlberg
The Wahlbergs can do pretty much anything. Mark Wahlberg moved quickly from model to rapper, and has since proven himself a more than capable Hollywood leading man. Donnie Wahlberg was part of the biggest boyband of his era, New Kids On The Block, and is a capable performer in his own right, with credits like Blue Bloods, Band of Brothers, and Saw II to his name. Paul Wahlberg, meanwhile, has proven himself a capable chef on the hit reality series Wahlbergers.
Then there's Robert Wahlberg, far and away the least famous member of the family. A jobbing actor, Paul has made a habit of popping up in crime dramas, with his credits including Mystic River, The Departed, Gone Baby Gone, Contraband, and The Equalizer. His roles vary between that of street-wise cop and street-wise criminal, and that doesn’t look like changing any time soon.
1 Christopher Coppola
The Coppolas are a large, mostly talented, family for actors and filmmakers that include everyone from Nicolas Cage to Jason Schwartzman and, of course, both Francis Ford and his daughter Sofia Coppola.
One Coppola that rarely gets a mention, however, is Christoper. The brother of Nicolas Cage, Christopher was also the man behind the camera when Cage delivered arguably his worst or, at the very least, most ridiculous performance, in 1993’s Deadfall. Coppola’s 1993 effort, which also stars Michael Biehn, forms the basis for much of what made up the classic YouTube viral hit "Nicolas Cage Loses His Sh*t".
It remains perhaps his most notable work to date, with Coppola’s CV littered with overlooked horror efforts and stints directing TV shows. He’ll always have Deadfall, though.
What other famous actors have lesser known siblings running around Hollywood? Let us know in the comments.
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