Sometimes, being tall runs in a family -- or being left-handed, or being especially good at math. You could say Hollywood runs in the family, too. That's definitely the case for many of the film and television industry's most prominent figures. From the Baldwins to the Barrymores, the Fondas to the Sheens, Los Angeles is full of families that produce numerous famous performers.
It's usually pretty obvious -- the resemblance is strong, their mannerisms are similar, and it's pretty easy to pick out which actors are related. Sometimes, though, it's a little trickier; in fact, it's a bit shocking when you realize that there's a connection there at all. From in-laws to less-publicized parental ties, we can't really claim that these actors and actresses got ahead due to nepotism, since we had no idea they had famous family members in the first place.
Here are 15 Pairs of Actors You Didn't Know Were Related.
They were childhood chums and became Hollywood elite standing side-by-side thanks to their Oscar-winning collaboration on Good Will Hunting. Despite deep ties, though, Batman v Superman's Ben Affleck and Jason Bourne's Matt Damon spent most of their lives thinking that friendship and creativity were all they had in common. It turns out that isn't the case-- because they share a common ancestor. According to the New England Genealogy Society, Affleck and Damon both descended from a 17th century bricklayer-- and if you trace their lineages back, that makes them, more or less, 10th cousins.
No, that's probably not a close enough connection for even a super extended family gathering. Given their built-in bro-ship, though, that probably hasn't stopped them from celebrating their familial history-- after all, it is a pretty cool bit of trivia. What's more, Damon and Affleck have a pretty solid family trees all the way down the line; Damon is related to 11 former presidents, and Affleck's lineage connects to Princess Diana's family and 16 United States Presidents, including our current (for the moment) POTUS Barack Obama. Maybe a big family reunion isn't such a bad idea after all.
Melanie Griffith has spent over four decades in Hollywood, turning in unforgettable performances in films like Body Double, Working Girl, and The Bonfire of the Vanities. The daughter of The Birds star Tippi Hedren, she's blended humor, high drama, and an innate sensuality into dozens of roles over the year. She's also done her part to continue her family's acting legacy, by imbuing her own daughter, Dakota Johnson, with the acting bug.
Dakota Johnson was born to Griffith and her first husband, Don Johnson, in 1989. She largely stayed out of the Hollywood scene until she earned a bit role in 2010's The Social Network. Then she became a worldwide celebrity almost overnight when she was cast as Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey. Johnson isn't immediately recognizable as Griffith's daughter-- most would say she looks more like her father. The two women do share an on-screen fearlessness, though; and a quirky sensibility that has made them both memorable Hollywood actresses in their own right.
Nicolas Cage and Jason Schwartzman have both made careers off of playing eccentric characters on screen. While Cage has become the stuff of internet legend for his over-the-top performances in films like The Wicker Man and Vampire's Kiss, Schwartzman has straddled the line between being an indie darling and a bonafide star thanks to his frequently collaborations with Wes Anderson. The two actors share something in common besides a career choice, too -- they're both a part of the same family. Cage and Schwartzman are cousins, and both can call legendary The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola their uncle.
In addition to these cinema-friendly family ties, they're also related to Lost in Translation director Sofia Coppola (their cousin), Rocky actress Talia Shire (Schwartzman's mom), and Moonrise Kingdom screenwriter Roman Coppola (yet another cousin). At this point, it's pretty clear that Hollywood runs in this family's bloodlines. The only question that remains is why they haven't put together a massive collaboration yet.
Once upon a time in the mid-1990s, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were the coolest non-threatening teen celebrity twins imaginable. Between their stints on Full House and So Little Time and their burgeoning fashion dynasty, they seemed virtually unstoppable. These days, they've retired from acting and keep a far lower profile -- but their family name is still alive and well in Hollywood. That's because their younger sister, Elizabeth, has emerged as one of the most promising young actresses of her generation.
Elizabeth earned serious indie cred after appearing in Martha Marcy May Marlene, though most moviegoers know her from bigger-budget fare like Godzilla. She's easily most recognizable as the Scarlet Witch, of course, and we most recently saw her on screen in this year's Captain America: Civil War. She's been pretty damn spectacular in everything we've seen from her so far, which more than makes up for her big sisters' absence in the entertainment industry.
Most movie fans-- at least those who would be reading this article-- know him as Men in Black's Zed or DodgeBall's Patches O'Hoolihan. She will forever be remembered as the (original) telekinetic prom queen Carrie. Though they may not be household names, Rip Torn and Sissy Spacek have both spent decades working in Hollywood, working across genres and quietly amassing a pair of impressive filmographies. They're also cousins.
Torn, who is almost two decades older than Spacek, began acting in the 1950s. In the 1970s, he helped Spacek get her own acting career up and running when he suggested that she enroll in Lee Strasburg's famed Actor's Studio. In a way, it's ironic, then, that Spacek has in many ways surpassed her cousin in terms of prestige. Though Torn has earned critical acclaim for many of his projects, including The Larry Sanders Show, he's also made headlines and lost out on crucial roles due to some bad behavior. Spacek, on the other hand, has worked steadily since she was a teen. She won an Oscar for her performance in Coal Miner's Daughter, and is currently starring in Netflix's acclaimed series, Bloodline.
Peter Sarsgaard and Jake Gyllenhaal have quite a bit in common. They both started out in independent films and worked their way up slowly to bigger name recognition over the years. They're the type of actors who seem equally comfortable playing heroic figures, men with questionable morals, and all-out villains. They even appeared together in Sam Mendes' 2005 Gulf War drama, Jarhead. Each is better known for the work they've done on their own, though -- Sarsgaard as a character actor in indie hits like Garden State, Shattered Glass and Black Mass; Gyllenhaal for his myriad high-profile roles in films like Brokeback Mountain, Nightcrawler, and this fall's Nocturnal Animals.
Though they're not related by blood, Sarsgaard and Gyllenhaal do share a very substantial familial connection-- they're brothers-in-law. Sarsgaard married Gyllenhaal's older sister, Oscar-nominee Maggie, in 2009, and they've since had two children together-- which means Jake gets to play uncle just as often as he gets to play incredibly intense boxers, or detectives, or whatever he comes up with next.
Sometimes, when you find out that celebrities are related, it's kind-of a head-scratche -- because they look absolutely nothing alike. That's definitely not the case with Andie MacDowell and Margaret Qualley. The veteran actress and her child with former husband Paul Qualley bear a pretty unmistakable resemblance. Obviously they share a flair for the dramatic as well.
MacDowell got her start as an actress and model in the 1980s, and has appeared in dozens of films, including classics like Sex, Lies and Videotape, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Groundhog's Day. Her daughter, though not as well known, is both an actress and a dancer. She has a habit of appearing in projects that end up being criminally underrated-- that includes The Nice Guys and HBO's The Leftovers. Qualley also turned heads when she danced her brains out in Spike Jonze's off-the-wall commercial for KENZO World. Plus, if they ever need anyone to play a younger version of her mother in a film, it'll be a pretty short casting call.
Okay, yes, they have the same last name and this one should be obvious. Having said that, Hollywood's PR machine hasn't done the world's best job of connecting the dots between Stellan Skarsgård and his son, Alexander, so if you missed out on the tie between them, we can't blame you. The elder actor, a native of Sweden, has really made his mark on 20th and 21st century cinema, despite the fact that he's largely stuck to supporting roles. He was fantastic in Breaking the Waves and Good Will Hunting. He's done turns in two of the most successful modern film franchises; Pirates of the Caribbean and The Avengers.
Stellan has also offered us the gift that keeps on giving through his talented and not-all-that-terrible-to-look-at offspring. He has eight (!) children, the most famous of which is, obviously, Alexander. He stole scenes in True Blood and successfully carried his first big-budget film with this year's Tarzan. Other Skarsgårds who caught the acting bug include Gustaf, who appeared in Vikings and Bill, who will terrorize a new generation of children in next year's IT.
They're both burgeoning modern-day scream queens and uber-talented women who've made their mark on both in film and on TV. They haven't made a big deal about the fact that they're siblings, so it may still come as a surprise. Vera Farmiga is 21 years older than her sister, Taissa, and actually came to the horror genre a few years after her. She held her own in The Departed's veteran ensemble and earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in Up in the Air, but she first came to worldwide prominence thanks to her spectacular turn as Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring franchise. These days, she's upping the ante on creepiness as Norman's mother, Norma on Bates Motel.
Taissa, too, has some impressive credits to add to the Farmiga family name; she appeared in the critically-acclaimed films The Bling Ring and In the Valley of Violence, as well as the indie horror gem The Final Girls. She's really made a name for herself, though, by dabbling in TV horror like her sister. Since 2010, she's appeared, off and on, in American Horror Story. Is it too much to hope that the Farmiga women will join forces on screen one day and really scare the crap out of us?
This one requires a little bit of scanning on the family tree, but the connection is most certainly there. Before he appeared in Grey's Anatomy, True Blood, and Scandal, Scott Foley endeared himself to (or annoyed, but he was pretty endearing, come on) a generation of WB fans as Noel Crane on Felicity. All told, he's appeared in almost three dozen films and TV shows, though he's never quite broken through to a widespread, mainstream level of fame.
Patrick Wilson has had a similarly prolific, though slightly more high-profile career. He's appeared in the critically acclaimed TV adaptation of Fargo, 2009's divisive Watchmen adaptation, and both the Insidious and Conjuring franchises (does that make him a Scream King?). In 2014, Foley directed and co-starred with Wilson in a movie that few people saw, Let's Kill Ward's Wife, and it turns out that their wives are actually what tie them together. Scott Foley is married to actress and author Marika Domińczyk; her sister, Dagmara, is married to Patrick Wilson. So, by law, that makes them brothers-in-law, even if that connection isn't immediately obvious.
It's no secret that Kate Hudson has some pretty famous parents. In both appearance and spirit, she is in many ways the spitting image of her mother, Goldie Hawn. Few could argue that she's gotten where she is in her career just because of her lineage, though. Since her Oscar-nominated turn as Penny Lane in Almost Famous, Hudson has proven herself as a true triple threat; a charming actress in movies like Bride Wars, and a singer and dancer in Glee.
In Hollywood, her familial ties run deeper than just her mother, though-- even if the other connections aren't quite as obvious. Actor and former minor league hockey player Wyatt Russell is her half-brother through her mother. Russell's father is Kurt Russell, Kate's stepfather. He's definitely not the type of actor that everyone will recognize, but he's shown up in some pretty awesome films and TV shows over the years; most notably Arrested Development, 22 Jump Street, Everybody Wants Some!!, and "Playtest," the horrific video-gamed theme episode from Black Mirror's recently-released third season. Though most people wouldn't immediately assume Hudson and Russell are in any way related, they do both have a pretty groovy vibe about them.
You wouldn't be alone in questioning how Stanley Tucci, an American, and Emily Blunt, a Brit, could be in any way related. That's because, like many other pairs on this list, they are connected not by blood, but by another marriage. The way it all went down also sounds kind of like the plot of a meet-cute movie that either of these actors could conceivably star in.
Tucci and Blunt met and became friends on the set of the 2006 smash hit The Devil Wears Prada. They became so chummy, in fact, that the Sicario and The Girl on the Train star invited the Spotlight and The Hunger Games star to her 2010 wedding. There, he met her older sister, literary agent Felicity. Sparks flew, and two years later it was their turn to walk down the aisle. Whether Emily Blunt was trying to play matchmaker or it was just a lucky twist of fate, we'll probably never know. Either way, it makes for a heck of a Hollywood story.
These days, Ron Howard is more famous for his work behind the camera than he is as an actor. In an earlier life, though, he was an actor -- and a good one at that. He was Opie in the classic TV series The Andy Griffith Show, and palled around with the Fonz on Happy Days. Arrested Development fans might recognize the Inferno director's voice, since he serves as the irreverent series' narrator. Given his deep ties in Hollywood, it shouldn't come as a surprise that his children might want to follow in his famous footsteps.
One daughter, in particular, has made quite a go of it herself, becoming an incredibly accomplished in her own right. Bryce Dallas Howard got her start as an actress in her father's film Parenthood. Since then, she's appeared in a slew of movies, most notably The Village, Spider-Man 3 and Jurassic World. It's to her credit that she's built up her impressive resume without much help from her dad, because, come on, if your dad was an A-list director, wouldn't you ask him for a job? Given the range of characters she's played -- from a villainous Southern belle in The Help to an unhinged social media addict in Black Mirror -- it's safe to say she didn't really need his help.
When you think of iconic horror movie actresses, Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis have to come to mind. With their career-making performances in Psycho and Halloween, respectively, they both represent the very best that a scary movie performance can offer. These iconic actresses aren't just awesome screamers, though-- they're mother and daughter.
Jamie Lee was born to Leigh and actor Tony Curtis two years before her mother's unforgettable turn in Alfred Hitchcock's classic. That film ended up playing a pretty big role in both their lives, as it was a major influence on John Carpenter as he was writing Halloween. In fact, he admitted that he was more inclined to cast Curtis after he learned who her mother was. The mother-daughter pair teamed up twice on screen before Janet Leigh passed away in 2004; first in Carpenter's 1980 film The Fog, and again in the Halloween franchise reboot, H20. Apparently the family that screams together stays together.
Jayne Mansfield's status as a Hollywood sex symbol is so renowned, it's easy to forget that she was an actress, too. Between 1955 and 1968, she appeared in more than two dozen films, including Promises, Promises and Kiss Them For Me. Mansfield struggled to find her identity on screen beyond just being a bombshell, and became known primarily for her penchant for publicity stunts and risque photo shoots. Then, she died tragically in 1968 following a car accident. Among those in the vehicle with her when she died was her three-year-old daughter, Mariska.
Mariska was raised by her father, actor and bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay, and grew up to take on her own career as an actress. Since 1999, she's played Olivia Benson, the bright, tough, and empathetic detective at the heart of NBC's Law & Order: SVU. Though Hargitay never got to know her mother, she does share her likeness, as well as her passion for entertaining.
What's your favorite Hollywood familial connection? Let us know in the comments!