Ben Stiller Got Into A Debate About Nepotism On Twitter

July 30, 2021 / Posted by:

Tori Spelling. Scott Eastwood. Chet Hanks. Luminaries all, to name but a few. And for every Viola Davis or Sir Anthony Hopkins, there’s an equally gifted entertainer who had to work just a little bit harder to overcome the stigma of nepotism. Or so says Julia Roberts’ Niece (I presume). Film critic Franklin Leonard got the conversation about nepotism in Hollywood popping on Twitter this week when he posted and commented on a press release for a new short film directed by Steven Spielberg’s daughter Destry Spielberg, written by Stephen King’s son Owen King and starring the jewel in the crown of the Robin Wright/Sean Penn Family Players Hopper Penn. Franklin responded to the press release with, “Hollywood’s a meritocracy, right?” And Ben Stiller didn’t think that was very cool.

Here’s Franklin’s tweet along with Ben thinking that Franklin pointing out the obvious was “too easy.” Which, coincidentally, could also describe the difficulty of starting a career in comedy when your parents are late comedy legends, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara.

Yes, poor Hopper Penn has certainly faced challenges. In fact, he just got back from Cannes to promote his dad Sean Penn’s movie Flag Day in which he and his sister Dylan Penn co-star alongside Josh Brolin. Imagine getting off a jet to find yourself implicated in a conversation about nepotism when he should be concentrating on more important things like his next feature film Aramingo Avenue in which he shares top billing with Rosanna Arquette and his sister Dylan. Let the boy rest! He looks really tired.

Of course, the question of nepotism is more complex than just getting one’s foot in the door, and Ben and Franklin hit on some important points as they continued the conversation. According to People:

The debate with Leonard continued as he responded with, “I don’t for a second doubt that they’ve all faced challenges. They’re human. I simply reject the claim that the industry is – in the short term or long term – a meritocracy.”

“If it were, how do you explain the utter lack of diversity behind the camera? Lack of merit?” Leonard added.

Stiller tweeted, “100 percent agree. Diversity is much bigger issue. No question. And I see your point, access is access. So yes. I’m saying that untalented people don’t really last if they get a break because of who they are or know or are related to.”

*Stares in Kate Hudson* Franklin added:

Ben eventually conceded that Franklin had a point.

I mean, there are plenty of creatives with famous and/or powerful industry connections that we absolutely adore! Many of them are even extremely talented and/or attractive.

And many people who have benefited from nepotism are quick to acknowledge their privilege, like Elizabeth Olsen recently did. And some just don’t give a shit what we think, like Gwyneth Paltrow. Destry Spielberg, the aforementioned director of the short film that started this discussion, was quick to acknowledge her advantages.

Destry’s smart too, because if this whole movie thing doesn’t work out, she still has a career as an “equestrian to fall back on as indicated in her Twitter bio.


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