Culture

‘Nepo baby’ fall preview: new films and TV from children of famous parents

Like many things that aren’t new in any way but find a fresh lease on life when TikTokers put their own spin on them (sea shanties, body dysmorphia, Kate Bush), entertainment-industry nepotism has found its way back into the spotlight.

Once Gen Z discovered that controversial Euphoria showrunner Sam Levinson was the son of Rain Man director Barry Levinson, the platform has been awash with videos of people discovering that their favorite celebrities are the children of other celebrities. They’ve been dubbed “nepo babies” – expressed less as an insult and more as a devastatingly precise way of describing the in-crowd.

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As Alex Abad-Santos writes in Vox, the term is so linguistically satisfying because it “functions as a tool, a simple way for our brains to deconstruct the bigger idea of upward mobility in inequality. Every human is someone’s child, but not everyone’s parents are a blue link on Wikipedia.”

The film industry was, of course, built on nepotism pretty much from the start, with such dynasties as the Barrymores, Fondas, Coppolas, Curtises and Richardson-Redgraves ruling the roost to nobody’s particular chagrin. But with greater public awareness of inequality, representation and privilege in the film industry, it’s more common for nepo babies to be challenged about their connections. The babies themselves are expected to acknowledge their good fortune in a self-aware way that makes up for inequality on an industrial scale.

With Euphoria on hiatus, it’s time to find out what the other nepo babies du jour are up to. With this in mind, here is a nepo babies special autumn guide to the upcoming films and TV shows of 2022-23 that feature some of your favorite sons and daughters.

Film

After Every Happy

Hero Fiennes-Tiffin poses at a movie premiere in Spain.
Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, nephew of Ralph Fiennes, attends the After Ever Happy premiere at Kinépolis Madrid in Spain. Photograph: Juan Naharro Giménez/Getty Images

One of the runaway success stories of the lockdown era, the After film series tells the will-they/will-they love story between wallflower Tessa and hunky Hardin, played by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin. The actor got his big break playing a young Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series – a character played as an adult by his uncle, Ralph Fiennes. Interestingly, the word “nepotism” derives from the Italian for “nephew”, which makes Fiennes-Tiffin’s career an adorably literal example of the practice. Lovely.

Amsterdam

Christian Bale, Margot Robbie and John David Washington (son of Denzel) in Amsterdam.
Christian Bale, Margot Robbie and John David Washington (son of Denzel) in Amsterdam. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy

A new film by David O Russell is often big news in Hollywood, since the eight Academy Award nominations received by Silver Linings Playbook 10 years ago. The director has been away for a while – his last movie was 2015’s Joy – but with Amsterdam sees him return with a typically starry cast for an epic crime romp. The film’s lead trio is made up of Christian Bale, Margot Robbie and John David Washington, whose father just so happens to be double Oscar winner Denzel Washington. There’s talent in those genes!

Funny Pages

Released by the cult distributors A24 (Moonlight, Uncut Gems, insert your favorite non-Marvel film here), and having premiered to great acclaim at the Cannes film festival, Funny Pages marks the directorial debut of Owen Kline (The Squid and the Whale), whose parents are 80s megastars Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda) and Phoebe Cates (Fast Times at Ridgemont High). This enormously funny, astute and assured film slyly acknowledges this in its depiction of a young comic book artist seeking to distance himself from his middle-class parents, as he takes on a small-time job and moves in to a hovel with a pair of sweaty misfits straight out of the world of Robert Crumb. If you have to benefit from insane privilege, this seems a sweet way to handle it.

Asteroid City

Maya Hawke and Jimmy Fallon on the set of The Tonight Show.
Maya Hawke, daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke, on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Photograph: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Wes Anderson’s latest project after The French Dispatch is touted as “a poetic meditation on the meaning of life”. The film will tell the story of a junior stargazer convention in a fictional American desert town in the 1950s, and it is likely to include the bells and whistles familiar to admirers and detractors of the director’s work. Anderson conceived the film with his frequent writing partner, Roman Coppola, a scion of the Coppola dynasty, and it will feature Jason Schwartzman (also a Coppola through his mother, the actor Talia Shire) and Maya Hawke, daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke, whose heyday was the 90s, so they probably don’t really have any connections any more.

The Stars at Noon

Joe Alwyn and Margaret Qualley at the 75th annual Cannes film festival.
Joe Alwyn and Margaret Qualley at the 75th annual Cannes film festival. Photograph: Stéphane Cardinale/Corbis/Getty Images

Andie MacDowell’s daughter, Margaret Qualley, appears in another success story from Cannes, the most recent offering from legendary French director Claire Denis, which won the grand jury prize this year. It’s Denis’s second English-language film, about two lovers in war-torn Nicaragua who are stranded and trying to make their way to the border. Qualley plays a young American journalist who’s in way too deep, opposite Joe Alwyn’s mysterious British mercenary. A first opportunity for art-house mainstay Denis to work with a nepo baby, The Stars at Noon brilliantly pulls off the feat of never bringing to mind Groundhog Day.

TV

The Idol

The Idol brings together Abel Tesfaye, AKA the Weeknd, and Euphoria creator Sam Levinson, son of Barry Levinson (Diner, Rain Man). Idol co-creator Tesfaye will star in the show, which tells the story of a guru and cult leader who enters into a fractious relationship with a rising pop star. Among the show’s eye-catching cast, the pop idol Troye Sivan will appear in a sizable role alongside Lily-Rose Depp, the daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, whose first two roles in cinema were alongside her father in the Kevin Smith films Tusk and Yoga Hosers. It’s heartwarming to see that cancellation, unlike acting talent, hasn’t been passed from father to daughter.

Alphonse

Charlotte Gainsbourg attends Pari fashion week.
Charlotte Gainsbourg attends Paris fashion week. Photograph: Stéphane Cardinale/Corbis/Getty Images

Admirers of nepo babies may be gladdened to hear that the phenomenon isn’t the sole preserve of the English-speaking film world. As ever in cinema, France paved the way here, with actors Vincent Cassel, Eva Green, Louis Garrel, Chiara Mastroianni and many more being born to famous thespians. Charlotte Gainsbourg, the patron saint of French nepotism via her father, Serge, and her mother, Jane Birkin, is lined up to appear in Alphonse, a new series for Amazon, co-starring Jean Dujardin. After the surprise successes of Call My Agent and Lupin on Netflix, and the acclaim showered on such recent French shows as The Bureau on Amazon Prime, many eyes are now turning to French television to find a new popular success, and this romance may well do the job.

Pantheon

AMC’s first-ever animated TV show is based on a series of short stories by Ken Liu and focuses on Maddie (Katie Chang), a young woman who begins receiving messages from someone who claims to be her deceased father. Among the star-studded cast, Maddie’s best friend will be voiced by Euphoria’s Maude Apatow (a familiar face to some viewers from appearances in her father’s films Knocked Up, Funny People and This Is 40, as well as in three episodes of Lena Dunham’s TV show Girls, which Apatow père produced and co-wrote). Fun fact: fresh off the success of Maude, Judd Apatow has now launched another of his children, Iris, in his 2022 comedy The Bubble. We wish her well.

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