While nepotism is alive and well in the acting trade, your dad’s coattails won’t give you much of a free ride in the cutthroat world of directing. Case in point: There are lots of famous actors who have passed their occupational torch to their equally famous offspring (Blythe Danner to Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Voight to Angelina Jolie, the Fonda clan), but few big-name directors have given rise to big-name directors.
These second-generation directors tend to have two things in common: They bear the distinguished surnames of some of the most influential American directors of our time, but their behind-the-camera careers are dotted with obscure pictures that fail to leave an imprint.
Sofia Coppola — famous for being Francis Ford Coppola‘s daughter and infamous for her awful acting in “The Godfather, Part III” — tries to defy the odds. “The Virgin Suicides,” her first feature film, is an adaptation of the 1991 Jeffrey Eugenides novel about the real-life, self-inflicted deaths of five suburban sisters in the 1970s.
And get this: young Sofia might be just the person to finally achieve the yet unachievable. Already, “Suicides” has received good reviews (the Los Angeles Times marveled at the director’s “impressive maturity” and “assured skill” and called it a “highly affecting film”) and great advance buzz for the film (except for a tepid reception at the Sundance Film Festival). Not only that, but cast member James Woods unequivocally called Sofia Coppola one of the best five directors he’s worked with.
But, like we said, having an iconic director for a father doesn’t make you an iconic director yourself. Just take a look at the scorecards of some other aspiring filmmakers who have followed in daddy’s footsteps.
Who: Nick Cassavetes Famous lineage: Son of emotionally high-pitched auteur John Cassavetes and diva actress Gena Rowlands. Directorial offerings : 1996’s “Unhook the Stars” and 1997’s “She’s So Lovely.” Neither his mother’s performance in the former nor his father’s screenplay in the latter film solidified Cassavetes junior’s directorial career. However, he continues unabated as a successful character actor in films such as “Face/Off” and “The Astronaut’s Wife.”
Who: Jennifer Chambers Lynch Famous lineage: Daughter of cult weirdo David Lynch. Directorial offerings: 1993’s “Boxing Helena” — a surreal, freakish little film known more for its surrounding controversies (Kim Basinger backs out and gets sued by movie studio, Sherilyn Fenn replaces Basinger, film goes nowhere) than the product itself.
Who: Anjelica Huston Famous lineage: Spawn of legendary actor-director John Huston. Directorial offerings: A Showtime movie called “Bastard Out of Carolina” in 1996 and 1999’s “Agnes Browne,” which disappeared from the radar before you could say, “huh?”