Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Kindred on the silver screen: 29 big-screen family reunions

Illustration for article titled Kindred on the silver screen: 29 big-screen family reunions

1. Henry Fonda with Jane Fonda, On Golden Pond (1981)
Though father-son acting pairs seem to be the most prevalent version of real-life relatives appearing in films together, there are plenty of other familial connections to be found onscreen. Generally speaking, the last 10 years or so of Henry Fonda’s career were not his most distinguished; he also suffered from public speculation that the political activism of his daughter Jane had strained the relationship. Toward the end of his life, when the elder Fonda was in his 70s and in poor health, Jane bought the rights to the play On Golden Pond—which features a father-daughter reconciliation after a long period of mutual resentment—with the hope that it would give the two of them a chance to work together and provide her father with a high-profile, Oscar-bait role. Many people were moved by the results, and Fonda did indeed win the Academy Award for Best Actor for what turned out to be his last big-screen performance. He died eight months after the movie was released.


2. Laura Dern and Diane Ladd, Wild At Heart (1990)
In interviews tied to the release of Wild At Heart, Laura Dern mentions how wonderful it was to work with her mother, Diane Ladd. But it’s hard to tell from watching the film. Dern stars as Lula Pace Fortune, while Ladd co-stars as Marietta Fortune, a mother hell-bent on keeping her daughter and Sailor Ripley (Nicolas Cage) apart. Similar to his work with Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet, director David Lynch asks the two women to do some pretty horrific things: Ladd makes a drunken pass at Cage in a Cape Fear bathroom, smears her entire face with red lipstick, and serves as the film’s figurative (and in one scene, literal) Wicked Witch Of The West. Dern gets off a little easier, though there’s still the matter of her character having been raped by Uncle Pooch when she was 13 and a subsequent abortion. (In a moment that didn’t make the final cut, Ladd offers Dern a lollipop during the procedure.) Happily, Dern eventually vanquishes Ladd by splashing her picture with water, Wizard Of Oz-style. If only all family therapy were that easy.

3. Angelina Jolie and Jon Voight, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
When Angelina Jolie became a superstar, she brought her emotional baggage with her. Even people unaware of her father’s identity were aware of her history of emotional entanglements and her publicly acknowledged troubled teen years: Jon Voight was an absent father, and Jolie, his lonely, self-destructive daughter. They had no personal relationship. In 2001, though, Jolie and Voight publicly reconciled by making Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, playing the daughter and father Croft, British archaeologists who have to save the world from destruction. It’s an enormously silly movie, and neither Voight nor Jolie are particularly good in it. But where real life doesn’t offer much evidence of a true father-daughter bond, Tomb Raider (kind of) does.


4. David, Keith, and Robert Carradine; James and Stacy Keach; Dennis and Randy Quaid; and Christopher and Nicholas Guest in The Long Riders (1980)
Walter Hill’s The Long Riders takes all-in-the-family stunt casting as far as Hollywood ever has. The film is about the outlaw clans who roamed the Midwest in the years after the Civil War and were literally bands of brothers. Looking to simplify things, Hill decided that the characters would be more believable as kinfolk if he cast actual brothers: the Carradines as the Youngers; the Keaches as Jesse and Frank James; and the Quaids as Ed and Clell Miller. As the cherry on top, he hired Christopher Guest, not yet a director, and his brother Nicholas to play the no-good Ford brothers, Charley and Robert. (All three Carradines had previously appeared in You & Me, a 1975 obscurity that David directed. David and Robert also shared scenes in Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets as well as Paul Bartel’s Cannonball.)

5. Sarah and Emma Bolger, In America (2002)
In America is by far Jim Sheridan’s most personal film, based on his family’s experiences moving from Ireland to New York, and he uses the film to express his grief following the death of his brother. He co-wrote the film with his daughters, and the characters Christy and Ariel are based on them. Rather than attempt to train two young actors to simulate a sibling rapport, Sheridan cast two real-life siblings, Sarah and Emma Bolger. Sarah had done a little TV, but the movie is Emma’s first screen credit. Their inexperience doesn’t show, and the girls are the heart and soul of the film as they try to remain upbeat through their parents’ rocky marriage marred by poverty and grief. Late in the film, Sarah quietly says, “I’ve been holding this family together ever since Frankie died.” At first it seems silly, but Sheridan hangs on the line long enough for the viewer to realize: To her, that’s true. Then he lets it soak in even longer until it becomes clear that it’s true to everyone else. Sarah, who narrates the film, is also its emotional center, as she quietly minds her sister, mourns her brother, and waits patiently for her parents to get it together. Both sisters went on to act in other things, but they were at their best bringing their sisterly dynamic to the screen.


6. Beau and Jeff Bridges, The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)
Both Beau and Jeff Bridges acted with their father, Lloyd, but never quite so appropriately as in the one film they starred in together, The Fabulous Baker Boys. By the time they were cast in Steve Kloves’ romantic drama about a pair of brothers who work together as lounge pianists, it was clear that Jeff was the movie star, and Beau the character actor who was becoming a master at playing schlubs. The movie puts those images to work for them by casting Beau as the balding, worrywart family man who is driven crazy by his sexier, more magnetic brother’s laid-back moodiness, with the director trusting that the unbreakable bond between them will just naturally make itself felt.

7. Bill Murray and Brian Doyle-Murray in Caddyshack (1980), The Razor’s Edge (1984), Scrooged (1988), Ghostbusters II (1989), Groundhog Day (1993)
A somewhat reluctant movie star but a committed mensch, Bill Murray has thrown his half-brother (and fellow SNL alumnus) Brian Doyle-Murray fairly meaty supporting roles in several of his movies. For the holiday comedy Scrooged, Murray cast Doyle-Murray as his father, and also bestowed small parts on his less well-known brothers John and Joel—a major feat of seasonal generosity, since it involved forgiving John for the misguided Bill Murray impression he did in the lead role of the 1985 comedy Moving Violations.


8. Vanessa Redgrave and Michael Redgrave, Oh! What A Lovely War (1969) 
9. Vanessa Redgrave and Nathasha Richardson, Evening (2007)
10. Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson, Wetherby (1985)
In addition to being one of greatest actresses of her generation, Vanessa Redgrave is the center of a full-blown acting dynasty: the daughter of Sir Michael Redgrave, the sister of Lynn and Corin Redgrave, mother of Joely and Natasha Richardson, and aunt of Corin’s daughter, Jemma Redgrave. All things considered, it may be surprising that members of the Redgrave family haven’t acted together more often. As it is, Vanessa and her father were both among the guest stars in Richard Attenborough’s antiwar musical, Oh! What A Lovely War; Joely Richardson made her movie debut playing the younger version of her mother’s character in David Hare’s Wetherby; and Vanessa and Natasha Richardson played mother and daughter in Evening (2007), an adaptation of a Susan Minot novel that was one of the last films Richardson made before her death in 2009. Evening also features both Meryl Streep and, in one of her first performances, Streep’s daughter, Mamie Gummer.

11. Chiara Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve, My Favorite Season (1993), Time Regained (1999), A Christmas Tale (2008), Beloved (2001)
12. Chiara Mastroianni and Marcello Mastroianni, Pret-A-Porter (1994), Three Lives And Only One Death (1996) 
Recognized as one of the most beautiful actresses alive—even in France, where they really pay attention to these things—Chiara Mastroianni is living proof of the genetic advantages of being the daughter of a couple of movie stars. Considering her busy international career, it’s striking how many of her greatest successes she’s had appearing with her mother, Catherine Deneuve. Their most recent collaborations include Arnaud Desplechin’s A Christmas Tale and Christophe Honore’s Beloved, both of which portray them as mother and daughter. Chiara also appeared with her father, Marcello Mastroianni, in two of the more offbeat projects he worked on late in his career, Robert Altman’s Pret-A-Porter and Three Lives And Only One Death from the Chilean Surrealist director Raul Ruiz.


13. Clint and Alison Eastwood, Tightrope (1984), Absolute Power (1997)
Clint Eastwood is famous for his frugal, no-nonsense approach to filmmaking, so it’s not surprising that, when he decided to play a police detective with a daughter in Tightrope—where he also served as co-producer and took over uncredited directorial duties from Richard Tuggle—he simply pressed his own 12-year-old daughter Alison into service. Alison, who had previously made a brief appearance in her father’s 1980 film Bronco Billy, also had a small role in the 1997 Absolute Power, which her father directed and starred in, and a larger role in Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil, which he directed but didn’t appear in.


14. “Nell Potts” (Elinor Newman) and Joanne Woodward, Rachel, Rachel (1968); The Effects Of Gamma Rays On Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds (1972)
Paul Newman directed half a dozen movies, and he apparently saw them as a chance to do something with the family. The first two, Rachel, Rachel and an adaptation of the Paul Zindel play The Effect Of Gamma Rays On Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds, both co-starred his wife, Joanne Woodward, and their daughter, Elinor. In the first film, she played Woodward as a child; four years later, in Marigolds, she played the intelligent, sensitive daughter who has to get out from under her mother’s thumb. After that, Newman considered co-starring with Elinor in Paper Moon, but after that didn’t work out, she never appeared onscreen again.

15. Campbell Scott and Colleen Dewhurst, Dying Young (1991)
Sometimes, the apple falls farther from the tree than one might have thought possible. As an actor, Campbell Scott has always had a quiet, thoughtful, sensitive presence that almost seems to belie his lineage as the son of two of the fieriest presences in American acting, George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst. He and his father never appeared together, but he has a sweet moment or two with his mother in the 1991 love story Dying Young, in which he plays a rich leukemia patient. The chance to see them melding their styles together makes for the high point of a movie thrown together so that a post-Pretty Woman Julia Roberts could demonstrate her range by showing a handsome millionaire that she loves him by tending to him before he keels over instead of having sex with him for money.


16. Maureen O’Sullivan and Mia Farrow, Hannah And Her Sisters (1986)
Hannah And Her Sisters was made deep in the period when Woody Allen wasn’t making movies so much as putting his then-partner, Mia Farrow, on one cinematic pedestal after another. One way he found to sweeten the pot this time was to write a plum role for Farrow’s mother, Maureen O’Sullivan, in what was only her second feature role following 15-year break from acting. She plays the abrasive, hard-drinking actress mother of Farrow’s character, and it’s one of her most memorable performances—more memorable, in fact, than most of the roles that Allen wrote for Farrow. Still, that didn’t stop O’Sullivan—following the implosion of Farrow and Allen’s relationship in a scandal six years later—from practically calling for people to do the right thing and kill the son of a bitch if they saw him on the street.

17. Martin and Juliet Landau, Ed Wood (1994)
Juliet Landau is the daughter of Martin Landau and his Mission: Impossible/Space: 1999 co-star, Barbara Bain. For Juliet, being cast in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood meant getting to witness, first-hand, the performance that won her father the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He plays Bela Lugosi; she plays the talentless female lead of Bride Of The Monster, one of the low-budget oddities that Lugosi made with Wood after his drug addiction had made him persona non grata at even the smaller studios. No doubt the experience of re-creating scenes from that film helped her prepare for her best-known role: Drusilla on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, whose mind, like an Ed Wood screenplay, is not entirely of this world.


18. Tommy and Rae Dawn Chong, Far Out Man (1990), The Corsican Brothers (1984)
In the early 1980s, right when her own career was taking off (Quest For Fire, Beat Street, Choose Me), Rae Dawn Chong made a brief appearance in the sixth Cheech & Chong movie, The Corsican Brothers, directed by and starring her father. (An attempted change of pace with a spoofy period setting and no dope humor, it was the movie that led to the team breaking up.) Six years later, when they both had more time on their hands, she played herself in her father’s Far Out Man, a vanity project he wrote, directed, and starred in, along with Rae Dawn’s husband C. Thomas Howell, Tommy’s wife Shelby, and his son Paris.

19. Barbra Streisand and Jason Gould, The Prince Of Tides (1991)
The 1991 film The Prince Of Tides, which Barbra Streisand produced and starred in, was also the first movie she had directed in eight years. As if to underline her deep emotional investment in the material, Streisand cast Jason Gould, her son from her marriage to Elliott Gould, in the important role of the troubled son of her character. Gould, who had appeared in just a few films prior to this one (including Say Anything and Christopher Guest’s The Big Picture), mostly turned away from film acting after The Prince Of Tides, but in 1997, he wrote and directed a short film, Inside Out, in which he acted with his father and his brother, Sam Gould. (It was included as part of the gay-themed compilation feature Boys Life 3.)


20. John and Lionel Barrymore, Arsene Lupin (1931), Grand Hotel (1932), Night Flight (1933), Dinner At Eight (1933)
21. John, Lionel, and Ethel Barrymore, Rasputin And The Empress (1932)
John and Lionel Barrymore, the brothers who made up two-thirds of what came to be known as “the royal family of Broadway,” made a number of movies together, the most notable probably being Grand Hotel. John plays the dissolute Baron who has pissed away his fortune but still has it going on enough to intrigue Greta Garbo. At the other end of the scale, Lionel plays an accountant who’s gotten bad news from the doc; he vacuums up his savings account and checks into the title locale so he can spend his last days getting a taste of the good life and cleaning out the mini-bar. Ethel, who didn’t get serious about the movies until the mid-’40s, only appeared onscreen with her brothers once, when she and Lionel divided up the title roles in Rasputin And The Empress. Unfortunately, as Pauline Kael wrote, Lionel’s Rasputin was “so unhypnotic that Ethel, as the Empress, appears less mesmerized than bored stiff.” (Another film said to include all three Barrymores, the 1917 silent National Red Cross Pageant, is thought to be lost.)

22. Sean and Chris Penn, At Close Range (1986)
Sean and Chris Penn had both had a few big roles under their belts when they appeared together in James Foley’s white-trash true-crime story At Close Range. They play half-brothers who make the mistake of reconnecting with their father—Christopher Walken, wearing a perm he got from the Supercuts Of Evil. This early in their careers, it already seemed like a no-brainer to cast Sean as the more salvageable brother who turns on Dad, and Chris as the denser number with a target on his back. The Penns never acted together again, although Chris did have a few things to say about ex-sister-in-law Madonna in the opening scene of Reservoir Dogs.


24. Gerard and Julie Depardieu, Colonel Chabert (1994), La Machine (1994)
25. Julie and Guillaume Depardieu, Zaide, Un Petit Air De Vengeance (1999)
Julie Depardieu made her movie debut in 1994 with small roles in two films starring her father, Gerard Depardieu: Colonel Chabert and the sci-fi thriller La Machine. In 2001, she appeared with her brother Guillaume in Zaide, Un Petit Air De Vengeance. But, except for a 1999 TV miniseries version of The Count Of Monte Cristo, she hasn’t worked with her father since. That’s pretty amazing in the sense that it’s always amazing when someone manages to work in the French film industry for 18 years without crossing paths with Gerard Depardieu.

26. Joan and John Cusack, Class (1983); Sixteen Candles (1984); Grandview U.S.A. (1984); Broadcast News (1987); Say Anything (1989); Grosse Pointe Blank (1997); Cradle Will Rock (1999); High Fidelity (2000); Martian Child (2007); War, Inc. (2008)
Joan and John Cusack followed in the footsteps of their father Dick, who took the occasional acting role (including one with John in Eight Men Out) between writing and directing gigs. The siblings’ career trajectory has also evolved in parallel. Both played students in the sex farce Class, geeks in the teen-movie classic Sixteen Candles, and had small roles as a brother-sister pair in the demolition-derby drama Grandview U.S.A. John had a brief cameo in Broadcast News, which was Joan’s first big role, and she returned the favor with an uncredited turn as the sister of sensitive alt-boy Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything. While the Cusacks play off each other well in High Fidelity, each indulged a more evil side in Grosse Pointe Blank (he as an assassin, she as his assistant), and played fictionalized versions of real-life characters in the period drama Cradle Will Rock. The pair portrayed siblings once again in the slightly supernatural family drama Martian Child and rounded out their dueling résumés playing assassin-assistant again in the satirical War, Inc.


27. Ryan and Tatum O’Neal, Paper Moon (1973)
Would bittersweet black-and-white period dramedy Paper Moon be as bittersweet if the protagonists hadn’t turned out the way they did? In Peter Bogdanovich’s Depression-era film, Ryan O’Neal’s Moses Pray and his maybe-daughter Addie (played by Tatum) road trip the Midwest, conning widows and stealing from bootleggers. All the while, 9-year-old Tatum yearns for the attention and affection of her father, who’d rather eyeball money and/or Madeline Kahn. The younger O’Neal won an Oscar for her portrayal, but both father and daughter became estranged from each other (eventually reconciling via a TV show) and embroiled in drug-related crimes, making the high jinks in Paper Moon seem quaint and sweet in comparison.

28. Maude and Iris Apatow, Knocked Up (2007), Funny People (2009), This Is 40 (2012)
Director Judd Apatow has not only given wife Leslie Mann some of her biggest roles, but beginning with his second film, Knocked Up, he started working his daughters, Maude and Iris. The two, then just 8 and 4 respectively, appeared in a couple of short scenes as the children of Mann and Paul Rudd, but had much bigger roles in the film’s quasi-sequel, This Is 40, as the children caught in the crossfire of their parents’ midlife crises. In between, they also appeared as Mann’s children in Funny People, caught once again in another interpersonal crisis involving their parents. Apatow has said he likes the real baggage Maude and Iris bring to their performances, and he likes working with them so much he may make a This Is 40 sequel just about the girls.


29. Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen, Wisdom (1986), Young Guns (1988), Men At Work (1990), Rated X (2000), Two And A Half Men (2008)
Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen have a long history of appearing in film and TV together, stretching all the way back to Terrence Malick’s 1973 film Badlands—starring their father, Martin Sheen—when they had uncredited roles as kids hanging out under a lamp post. Another 15 years would pass before they properly starred in a film together, Young Guns—though Sheen had a cameo in the 1986 Estevez vehicle Wisdom—where Sheen played the leader of the Regulators and Estevez played Billy the Kid. The brothers shared top billing in the dreadful 1990 action-comedy Men At Work, playing surfing garbage men/best friends who stumble upon a murder. After that, another decade passed before they starred in a movie together (though Sheen had a cameo in Estevez’s 1993 spoof film, Loaded Weapon 1), the Showtime biopic Rated X. Their final joint credit: a 2008 episode of Two And A Half Men called, ugh, “The Devil’s Lube.”

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