?It’s no secret that growing up as the child of a beloved celebrity can be rough; sure, there are the trust funds, trips around the world, and the occasional hooker hanging around the house while your dad makes waffles. But there’s also the shadow that’s virtually impossible to escape from under, not to mention an entire world waiting for you to make a fool of yourself if you attempt to follow Mom or Dad into the entertainment.
Sometimes a rare individual can become an even bigger celebrity than those who brought them into the world (witness Jeff Bridges, whose stardom eventually eclipsed that of his father, Lloyd), but about those kids who grew up with a father who was a beloved icon among the geeks of the world? It’s not exactly like we’re a non-judgmental group, so here we celebrate 10 creative celebs who have not only done right by us, but by their paterfamilias, to boot.
NOTE: Any and all children of Beatles were intentionally left off this list, even though it would likely lead to an explosion of opinions in the comments section. People definitely geek out over the Beatles, but they’re not necessarily “nerd idols,” and yes, we can all agree that’s a cop-out. But for that it’s worth, Dhani Harrison and Zak Starkey rule, Julian Lennon and Sean Lennon drool.
10) Duncan Jones
?As a tyke in the early ’70s, Duncan Zowie Jones was referred to as “Zowie Bowie” by his dad, David Bowie. And while his father went on to appear in classics such as The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Hunger and Labyrinth (not to mention a scene-stealing role in John Landis’ practically forgotten Into the Night), Jones has stayed behind the camera, directing the inventive sci-fi thriller Moon in 2009 and Source Code, opening today. Let’s be honest: the Source Code trailer looks kind of shitty (we’re talking “on par with another Timecop direct-to-DVD sequel” shitty.) But if Jones can make a low-budget space flick with little more than Sam Rockwell puking up blood and losing teeth for an hour and a half incredibly captivating, we have faith he can make something special when handed Jake Gyllenhaal and a huge budget (something that the guys who made Prince of Persia could NOT do.) Better yet, Jones has stated that he planned Moon as a trilogy, and also wants to make a Blade Runner-inspired flick. Hear that, Bowie? Now take him out for ice cream.
9) Joe Hill
?Another famous son to ditch a famous last name, Joe Hill should first and foremost be recognized for his ability to grow a pretty righteous beard. But the eldest son of Stephen King, who hid his identity for years until someone must have finally said, “Dude, you look EXACTLY like Stephen King,” has also carved out a bloody corner of his own in the horror fiction world, with two acclaimed novels (the multi-award winning Heart-Shaped Box and Horns), a short-story collection (20th Century Ghosts) and a sell-out comic book series (Locke & Key) to his credit (he should watch his back, though; little brother Owen King released an acclaimed short-story collection of his own in 2005). And hey, while dear ol’ dad has written a Batman tale, Hill wrote a story for Spider-Man Unlimited (Vol. 3) #8, illustrated by the late Seth Fisher. Check it.
8) Brandon Lee
?A double-whammy of a tragedy, as both father and son left this world far too soon. But we can imagine Bruce Lee would have heartily approved of his son Brandon following in his footsteps by 1) continuing his extensive martial arts training, and 2) making a name for himself in dumb but highly watchable action movies (hey, not all of Bruce’s flicks were undisputed classics, either; one man’s The Big Boss is another man’s Showdown in Little Tokyo). Of course, Brandon took his film career a step further by headlining The Crow, where he wasn’t just a guy who kicked people, instead showing an impressive pathos. And it was a far, FAR more admirable posthumous effort than his dad’s ill-fated Game of Death.
7) Jason Reitman
?The second, but certainly not last, director on our list has an impressive rep in Hollywood, but he still needs to do a liiiiiiittle bit more than give Ellen Page a hamburger phone to earn our undying affection. But casting Michael Cera in Juno definitely helped Cera earn the Scott Pilgrim gig (which we are eternally grateful to Reitman for), and Reitman’s found roles for eternal badass Sam Elliott in two of his three films, so he’s on the right track. And he’s already earned four Academy Award nominations, compared to his dad Ivan’s zero. But we all know Stripes and Ghostbusters were robbed of Oscar nods, don’t we? (The less said about Evolution and My Super Ex-Girlfriend, the better. Seriously, how do you make a movie involving David Duchovny and aliens that no wants to see?)
6) The Kubert Bros.
?How to handle being the sons of a legendary Silver Age artist who’s still very much active in his ninth (yes, ninth) decade as a pro? Well, it helps to graduate from the art school he established. It also helps not to ape your dad’s style… or each other’s. That’s been the key to success for both Adam and Andy Kubert. Adam’s long been associated with the X-Men in various forms, and for being one of the first mainstream comic artists to adopt the pencils-to-colors approach (which sadly hasn’t fixed his many lateness issues, especially on that 2006-2008 Superman arc.) Little bro Andy’s been all over the Marvel map (working on everything from Ghost Rider to Ka-Zar to 1602), but plans to stick around DC a bit longer than his brother to work on a Batman project. Whatever their futures hold, we’re certain their dad won’t let them turn into complete layabouts. Maybe that’s why he keeps making them work with him. It’s called discipline, boys!
5) Abby Elliott
?Let’s address the sexy elephant in the room: Yes, Abby Elliott is hot. Like, way hotter than the daughter of Chris Elliott, a guy who has made a career out of pointing out his unattractiveness should be. But she’s one of the few bright spots on SNL, a consistently hilarious performer who put in her time with the Groundlings and the Upright Citizens Brigade troupes, and whose impersonations (Angelina Jolie, Anna Faris, Klhoe “The Ugly One” Kardashian) always kill. Her father, an SNL veteran for one horrendous season, still basks in geek worship thanks to Get a Life, Cabin Boy and the Adult Swim series Eagle Heart, the best Walker: Texas Ranger spoof that isn’t Walker itself. Father and daughter even collaborated on a comedy pilot that never saw the light of day, a reality show riff titled You’ve Reached the Elliotts. Nice of the old man to give her a job… and help introduce her to all of us.
4) Brian Henson
?If your name is Brian, your late father is a legend among nerds, and you’ve chosen to continue his legacy directly, things can go one of two ways: One, you end up like Brian Herbert, who shepherded the Dune-iverse after the death of his father Frank with a series of yawn-inducing novels. Or two, you go the route of Brian Henson, who after Jim Henson’s passing directed one very solid Muppets flick (1992’s Muppet Christmas Carol)…and one ill-conceived misstep (1996’s Muppet Treasure Island). But one thing Henson knew well enough to leave alone was Kermit the Frog, allowing the more-than-capable Steve Whitmire to take over that role from his father (Brian’s still helped out with Scooter and Janice on occasion, though). He’s kept the Muppets in the public eye while taking risks (that paid off) on projects like FarScape, and is currently letting Jason Segel run wild (but reverently so) with the forthcoming The Muppets, although credit must also go to his sister and Jim Henson Company CEO Jane Henson, of course.
3) Max Brooks
?Call it “Anti-Dracula: Dead and Loving It Syndrome.” Best known for penning two acclaimed books that actually featured “fresh” takes on the undead (The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z), the son of Mel Brooks is something of a renaissance man, with geek credentials ranging from writing for SNL from 2001 to 2003, voice acting on Batman Beyond and Justice League, and penning IDW’s G.I. Joe: Hearts & Minds mini-series last year. And while we’re pretty sure Mel B. doesn’t get all this zombie stuff, it’s obvious dragging his kid to all of those Young Frankenstein screenings counted for something. A World War Z flick has been in the works for years, but Max, perhaps in deference to his father, won’t be involved. We certainly hope he changes his mind, as J. Michael Straczynski’s name has been attached to the screenplay. GET IN THERE, KID.
2) John Romita Jr.
?Over 40 years ago, John Romita Sr. took over the art duties on Amazing Spider-Man from the high-tailing Steve Ditko, toning down the surrealist aspects and drawing some of the hottest women to ever appear on a comics page (he introduced us to Mary Jane Watson, after all. Jackpot!). His kid JR Jr. worked on Spidey for a little while, too… and Wolverine. All of the X-Men, in fact. The Hulk. The Avengers. Daredevil. Thor. The Punisher. Hell, he even got his start with a few now-classic Iron Man stories. In other words, he’s put his definitive stamp on all of Marvel’s heavy hitters, and has spent decades refining a style that now exudes raw power. He’s even seen his visuals come to life on the big screen thanks to the well-received film version of Kick-Ass, and while he still can’t draw a sexy lady to save his life, he’s done okay for himself.
1) Sean Astin
?Many of you may consider this a surprising choice for the top spot. Is pop John Astin really a geek idol? For those of you who say “Since when?” or worse yet, “Who?!”, we ask that you consider the following: Aside from his best-known role as Gomez Addams on the original Addams Family sitcom, Astin enjoyed a brief, mustachioed stint as the Riddler on the ’60s Batman series, starred in the cult-classic/batshit-insane western Evil Roy Slade (seriously, check it out on DVD) and at least three Killer Tomatoes flicks, appeared on Brisco County Jr. and in Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners, and lent his voice to animated series like Taz-Mania and Duckman. To put it more succinctly, the guy fucking rules. Likewise, his son Sean is all over the geek map, and we love him for it. His screen credits include The Goonies to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, for Christ’s sake! He even wrote a book about his Rings experience! A fanboy at heart, at one point he expressed serious interest in directing a Fantastic Four movie before Peyton Reed got the job and pissed cosmic rays all over the franchise. And from what we’ve heard, you’re unlikely to find a more cordial, welcoming convention guest than Sean Astin.
For the record, Sean Astin is actually John’s adopted son; apparently, when John Astin and Patty Duke met, she was already knocked up. But Astin did the right thing after they were married and legally adopted Sean, and to this day Sean says he considers the elder Astin his “real” father. Pretty touching stuff! To close out with a cool “keeping it in the family” tidbit (aside from the Peter Jackson connection), both Astins have each been nominated for Oscars for short films they directed (John in 1968, Sean in 1994). Take a bow, gents.