8 Celebrities With Unexpected Famous Relatives
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 ...
Ewan McGregor Is the Nephew of Wedge from Star Wars
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).
Malcolm McDowell Is the Uncle of Dr. Bashir from Star Trek
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 and Al Roker Are Cousins
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?
Snow and the Barenaked Ladies Guy Are Cousins
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.
Armie Hammer (The Social Network) Is Related to One of the Owners of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
You might recognize Armie Hammer from The Social Network and the trailers for the upcoming The Lone Ranger film. If you're wondering what kind of name "Armie" is for a guy, it's actually short for "Armand" -- and if you're wondering why he doesn't just go by Armand Hammer, just think about it: He sounds like a mascot for Arm & Hammer household products. As it turns out, this isn't exactly a coincidence.
Armie's great-grandfather was a famous industrialist also named Armand Hammer, who didn't found the Arm & Hammer brand, but was a major stockholder in the company. Confusingly, the brand was not named after him and he wasn't named after the brand -- it's either a bizarre coincidence or Hammer picked his investments by whichever ones sounded the most like his name. Either way, by the time Armie was born, his family was associated with Arm & Hammer, and they had to know that his name would sound like a jokey reference to it.
"I'm just glad they didn't invest in butt wipes."
That, or they wanted Armie to be a communist like his great-great-grandfather Julius Hammer. Julius founded the Communist Party USA and first came up with the name "Armand Hammer" for his son in 1898, inspired by the Socialist Labor Party's logo:
Because Hammerand Sickle sounded silly.
Great-Grandpa Armand himself kept ties to the Soviet Union throughout his life, which caused him to be dubbed a dirty commie pinko by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1919. In fact, FBI head J. Edgar Hoover kept a file on Hammer and saw him as kind of a nemesis -- so we think it's just a tiny bit ironic that when Clint Eastwood shot J. Edgar, a movie about Hoover's life, he happened to give the role of the FBI leader's right hand man (and purported lover) to none other than Armie Hammer, the great-grandson and namesake of the man the real Hoover hated so much.
Jason Sudeikis Is the Nephew of Norm from Cheers
George Wendt is best known as Norm from the classic sitcom Cheers, but he's also made several guest appearances on Saturday Night Live as one of the Chicago Bears-obsessed "Superfans" -- apparently, SNL writers weren't willing to wait until Wendt hosted the show again before they could write another Superfans sketch, so they just kept bringing him back for episodes other people were hosting.
He's the heavyset guy with the mustache and sunglasses.
But that isn't Wendt's only connection to the long-running show: He's also the uncle of current cast member Jason Sudeikis, famous for playing one of the Two A-Holes (with Kristen Wiig) and for his impersonations of VP Joe Biden and Mitt Romney.
Both Wendt and Sudeikis grew up in the Midwest, so it's not like they're Hollywood royalty or anything -- they both got to where they are the hard way. Wendt started out at the Second City improv theater ... sweeping floors. Years later, his nephew got his start at Second City Las Vegas.
"Oh, no, we don't make new guys sweep anymore. How are you at giving hand jobs?"
Sudeikis got the job on SNL thanks to his uncle, but only indirectly: Wendt saw him performing at an improv and suggested he try out for the show. He was initially hired as a writer in 2003, occasionally playing characters like "audience member" or "person in background." He was finally upgraded to full cast member in 2006, and from there went on to appear in 30 Rock and star in films like Horrible Bosses with Kevin Spacey and Hall Pass with Owen Wilson.
Today, Sudeikis is dating Tron Legacy actress Olivia Wilde, who claims they "have sex like Kenyan marathon runners." We're guessing that's a good thing.
Jenny McCarthy and Melissa McCarthy Are Cousins
This one was staring us in the face all along, and yet we never saw it coming.
Jenny McCarthy is classified on Wikipedia as a comedian, and if there's one phrase on the entire website in sore need of a "" by its side, that's gotta be it. Her entire style of "comedy" consists of being hot while sticking her tongue out, because it's hard to remember what's funny and what isn't when you have a boner.
In the '90s, Jenny rocketed to fame with her six Playboy cover spreads, which led to her getting her own MTV show, Singled Out, and numerous other television and film roles. But at the same time, while Jenny was getting attention for picking her nose in a bikini and marrying Jim Carrey, she had a far more talented cousin called Melissa who was toiling away in obscurity because she doesn't have the kind of body Hugh Hefner will pay to see naked.
Little by little, however, Melissa managed to build her career, first through small TV roles in her cousin's shows and Gilmore Girls, then in her own sitcom, and finally co-starring in one of the most acclaimed comedies of 2011. You may remember her from the Oscars or the Emmys -- we're talking about Melissa McCarthy, 2012 Academy Award nominee for her role in Bridesmaids.
She didn't win, but they gave her Rob Lowe as a consolation prize.
Yep, Melissa's father and Jenny's father are brothers, though honestly we wouldn't be surprised if at least one of the people involved in that equation was adopted. These days, Melissa has an Emmy to her name and dozens of nominations, while her hotter cousin is now better known for her well-publicized war against vaccines and her breakup with Carrey, rather than her actual work. Hey, maybe Jim will go for the talented McCarthy this time.
Jamie Lee Curtis Is Janet Leigh's Daughter
You know Janet Leigh pretty well, even if you think you don't: She's the one who gets shower-knifed to violin music in the classic scene from Psycho. Despite not appearing in a whole lot of horror movies (and barely appearing in Psycho itself), that 45-second shower scene established Leigh as one of Hollywood's greatest "scream queens." But not the greatest one: That would be her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis.
You see, for a while Leigh was married to actor Tony Curtis (Some Like It Hot), and they had two daughters, Kelly and Jamie Lee. Both followed their parents into show business, and Jamie Lee's first big break as Laurie Strode in John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) not only kick-started her career, but also inaugurated the whole "empowered woman in terror" genre (Alien came out a year later). As Laurie, Jamie Lee didn't scream for a man to save her -- she actually fought back.
If she'd been in the shower, Norman Bates would have ended up a eunuch.
After starring in a bunch more slasher flicks in the '80s, Jamie Lee showed that she also had a knack for comedy with movies like A Fish Called Wanda and Eddie Murphy's Trading Places, where she also showed her gazongas. In the '90s, she kicked ass beside Arnold Schwarzenegger in True Lies and returned to horror in Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later, which features a cameo by her mom and references to Psycho.
For example, that's the same car where Hitchcock rubbed one out, probably.
Despite carrying Tony Curtis' name, Jamie Lee has pointed out several times that she hardly knew the guy and was a lot more influenced by her mother, which might explain why she insists on being credited with her middle name -- "Lee" sounds like "Leigh," after all.
For more details about celebrities we found in their trash cans, check out 5 Celebrity Careers Launched by Ethnic Makeovers and 7 Celebrities Who Had Badass Careers You Didn't Know About.
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