You probably won't be too shocked to learn that nepotism exists in Hollywood: If Nicolas Cage hadn't gotten some of his earliest roles from his uncle Francis Ford Coppola, the world would be a sadder, less crazy place. But some blood connections between celebrities aren't so easy to spot, since they exist between people you'd probably never imagine being in the same room together, let alone getting drunk and having an argument on Thanksgiving. For instance ...
It would be unfair to reduce Ewan McGregor's career to the fact that he was cast as a young Obi-Wan in the Star Wars prequels: The man has demonstrated his versatility by playing everything from a junkie (Trainspotting), to a U.S. Army Ranger (Black Hawk Down), to Jim Carrey's boyfriend (I Love You Phillip Morris).
However, it turns out that McGregor's involvement in the Star Wars saga isn't a fluke in his career, but part of a family tradition: His uncle is Irish actor Denis Lawson, who played Luke Skywalker's BFF Wedge Antilles in all three movies of the original trilogy. According to Wikipedia, Wedge has the distinction of being "the only Rebel pilot to have survived both attack runs at the Death Stars." Now we know why -- he was Obi-Wan's freaking uncle and had the Force on his side all along.
"New plan: You guys wait here -- I got this."
McGregor says that his uncle was a huge influence on him, saying that "If he hadn't been an actor, I'm sure I wouldn't have thought to be one." Think about that. One of the best known actors in the world finds his inspiration in a guy who didn't even get an action figure in the original Star Wars toy series (and freakin' everyone did).
And because we believe in equal opportunity, here's one that will make Star Trek fans' heads explode, too.
Malcolm McDowell is best known for playing lovable sociopath Alex in A Clockwork Orange before getting all wrinkly and finding his niche as "generic sci-fi villain" in places like Tank Girl, the show Heroes, and Star Trek: Generations (1994). That last movie made him infamous among Trekkies as the man who killed Captain Kirk.
The bridge that fell on him had nothing to do with it.
But while McDowell was busy murdering Kirk, his nephew Alexander Siddig was keeping the USS Enterprise's legacy alive as Dr. Bashir, one of the main characters in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (which ran from 1993 to 1999, meaning that Siddig's involvement in the franchise actually predates his uncle's by a year).
Alexander Siddig was born Siddig El Tahir El Fadil El Siddig Abderrahman Mohammed Ahmed Abdel Karim El Mahdi in 1965 to a Sudanese father and a British mother, who happens to be Malcolm McDowell's sister. The young man shortened his name to "Alexander" after going into show business, perhaps inspired by his uncle's most famous role, or more likely just worried that his IMDb page would look ridiculous.
It's interesting to note that, while McDowell started out in respectable films and eventually ended up doing genre parts to pay the bills, Siddig has taken the opposite course: He started in a Star Trek spinoff and went on to act in films like Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven, the critically acclaimed Syriana, and the award-wining Cairo Time. Meanwhile, his uncle recently appeared in this:
Suddenly we're not so worried about Siddig's IMDb page looking sillier.
Lenny Kravitz, besides achieving the impossible when he managed to become an international sex symbol despite having the name of a Jewish accountant, has a pretty well-connected family: His mother was an actress, his father was an NBC producer, he was married to actress Lisa Bonet from The Cosby Show and A Different World (thus making him Cliff Huxtable's son-in-law), and he and Bonet spawned Zoe Kravitz, of X-Men: First Class and Californication fame.
What you might not know is that Kravitz is also a second cousin to Today weatherman Al Roker, of all people. Incidentally, in 2009, Roker interviewed the entire cast of The Cosby Show ... except Lisa Bonet. We're guessing she was too distraught by how much Roker looks like her ex-husband to do the interview.
We're pretty sure you could sculpt another Lenny Kravitz with all the weight Roker recently lost.
Speaking of sitcoms, Kravitz's mother was Roxie Roker, best known for her role as George and Weezie's neighbor on The Jeffersons, where she shocked '70s audiences by being married to a white guy. And, of course, she was also Al Roker's first cousin. Are we being cynical if our conclusion here is that Hollywood doesn't allow black people in unless they have a relative there who can vouch for them?
Rapper Snow, Canada's polite response to Vanilla Ice, became famous in the '90s thanks to his instantly regrettable hit "Informer." The rapid-fire nonsense lyrics made it a novelty hit, and if you were alive back then, chances are you still catch yourself humming it every once in a while and wishing you could purge it from your brain. You might also remember the music video, which can be pinpointed squarely to 1992 due to its overuse of out-of-context jiggling butts.
In the same decade, Canadian rock band Barenaked Ladies jumped to fame with their single "One Week," also a novelty hit due to its rapid-fire nonsense lyrics. It included lines like "Chickity China the Chinese chicken / You have a drumstick and your brain stops tickin'," which makes Leonard Cohen cry every time the song is played, wherever he is. The Barenaked Ladies also like to cover Snow's "Informer" in their shows, but we wonder why they bother, since the two songs sound pretty much the same.
This, however, isn't plagiarism; it's simple genetics. Snow is the second cousin of Barenaked Ladies co-founder Steven Page.
The implications are vast and fascinating. Both musical acts rose to prominence just as white culture was coming to terms with their ability to enjoy hip-hop, and they are the only white Canadian musicians who had a major role in that movement. This means that "obnoxiously infectious nonsense rap that drives white people crazy in the '90s" is a family business in Canada.
It's so hard not to hear the Beastie Boys screaming "KICK IT" when we see this picture.
Another trait the two cousins have in common is their love for felonies. Snow served a year in prison for assault right before "Informer" made him a big star. Speaking of snow, Page prefers the kind that you snort: He was arrested in 2008 for possession of cocaine and marijuana. Say what you will about white Canadian rappers, at least they're devoted to the thug life.