Directors who cast their own kids in their movies

There's no business like show business — and show business is very often a family business. Watching the credits of our favorite movies can occasionally feel like skimming a family tree at the beginning of a historical novel with tons of powerful dynasties and relationships connected in some byzantine way. It isn't some sort of conspiracy, though: Plenty of powerful people in any industry try to help their children get their feet wet in the family trade, and if your mother or father happens to be a high-powered director, then the chances of getting a head start in Hollywood are a lot better. 

These directors all understood the advantages of having some homebrewed momentum on your side in the acting business — and to prove it, they all cast their own children in their movies.

Christopher Nolan

Whether you're watching Christian Bale growl out a threat in his Dark Knight trilogy or watching Michael Caine weep in…well, almost all of his movies, director Christopher Nolan has demonstrated a proven knack for casting the perfect actor. Nolan also has a gift for making films about the struggle of father figures to balance their pursuit of art versus their loyalty to their children, and he's brought those two skills together by casting his own children as children in his movies. 

Nolan's son Magnus appears in Inception as Dominick Cobb's young son, while another of his sons, Oliver, appears in The Prestige as the infant child of Alfred Borden. His daughter Flora and another son, Rory, have both worked in bystander roles; Flora as a girl on a truck in Interstellar, and Rory in in The Dark Knight Rises as one of the schoolchildren on the bus during the climactic bridge sequence.

Touchingly, Nolan also uses his children's names as the working titles of his movies to stave off film pirates: The Dark Knight Rises was called Magnus Rex, Interstellar was Flora's Letter, and so on. Although we imagine that Rory might not appreciate the working title of The Dark Knight when he grows up — that movie was referred to as Rory's First Kiss.

Clint Eastwood

An undeniable benefit of being a world-renowned actor and director is that you tend to have a lot of clout when it comes to casting decisions, and Clint Eastwood has taken advantage by creating a dynasty. Daughter Kimber Lynn Eastwood appeared in Absolute Power as a tour guide before focusing more on working as a makeup artist. Morgan Eastwood has quick cameos in Changeling and Million Dollar Baby. Kathryn Eastwood appears in Jersey Boys alongside half-sister Francesca Eastwood. Alison Eastwood has been in quite a few of her father's films, like Bronco Billy, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and Absolute Power.

Unlike his siblings, Kyle Eastwood chose music over acting, but that didn't stop him from appearing in a bunch of Eastwood senior's movies, including The Outlaw Josey Wales, Honkytonk Man, The Bridges of Madison County, and J. Edgar. Finally, Scott Eastwood seems to have gotten the best deal of the Eastwood children, appearing in Gran Torino, Flags of our Fathers, and Invictus as well as going on to nab roles in Clint-free blockbusters like The Fate of the Furious and Suicide Squad.

Ron Howard

You might know Ron Howard as the award-winning director of acclaimed hits like A Beautiful MindApollo 13, Cocoon, and Splash, but he's also the father of Bryce Dallas Howard — an accomplished actress in her own right. She got her start working for her father, appearing in bit parts in Parenthood, Apollo 13, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and A Beautiful Mind. While she would go on to plenty of projects that were not directed by her father, her filmography definitely got a starting boost from her dad's directing. Interestingly, she does not appear as Howard's daughter in Arrested Development — in the Emmy-winning comedy, which the elder Howard produces in addition to appearing in as himself, his in-universe daughter is played by a different red-headed star, Isla Fisher.

Judd Apatow

It can be fun to bring your family to your work, but no one's ever done that quite like Judd Apatow did it while filming This Is 40. The film follows a well-meaning guy confronting middle-age with a patient wife and their two wild children — who were played by Apatow's real-life wife, Leslie Mann, and their real-life daughters, Maude Apatow and Iris Apatow. Interestingly, the part that mirrored Judd Apatow's role in the relationship was played by Paul Rudd, which seems a little like wish fulfillment. The movie is technically a pseudo-spinoff/sequel to Knocked Up, so Rudd and Mann's roles were a reprise of the ones they played in the earlier film. The Apatow girls also appeared in Funny People as (you guessed it) two precocious young sisters.

Richard Linklater

Boyhood is one of the most technically ambitious movies ever made. Filmed over more than a decade, the film follows the story of young Mason (Ellar Coltrane), a boy growing up with divorced parents as he matures and changes. The fact that the project required actors to commit literal years of their life likely helps explain why director Richard Linklater cast his daughter Lorelei Linklater as Mason's older sister Samantha. Like the rest of the cast, she's deceptively natural in the role, and her performance made it clear she had talent — something backed up by the string of roles she's landed since. Still, it must have made it slightly easier for Linklater to know that he could depend on his daughter's continued dedication during the protracted making of what amounted to a very long family project.

Adam McKay

Sometimes being a director dad means you don't spend as much time with your family as you'd like. Other times, it means you get to hand a script of foul-mouthed expletives to your toddler daughter to scream at Will Ferrell in a viral video. Such is the life of director Adam McKay, whose daughter Pearl you might remember from the hit Funny or Die clip "The Landlord." Pearl has also appeared in some of her dad's full-length features, like Anchorman 2: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, although she'll always probably be best remembered for her wildly profane debut.

Kevin Smith

Plenty of parents look to their favorite characters for inspiration when naming their children, but few are as blatant about it as Kevin Smith, who named his daughter Harley Quinn after his favorite Batman villain. Still, nomenclature aside, the elder Smith has found a muse in his offspring, casting her in a multitude of projects from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Jersey Girl to later works like Tusk and Yoga Hosers. She even appeared in a Supergirl episode directed by her dad, leading us to believe that someone neglected to tell Smith that "Take Your Daughter to Work Day" is a specific day rather than a lifestyle.

Alfred Hitchcock

While we've largely talked about modern directors, the practice of casting your child in your movie got started well before the late 20th century: The master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock, cast his daughter in a series of his most famous films. Patricia Hitchcock appeared in Psycho, Strangers on a Train, and Stage Fright. Her roles were largely small, but as Constantin Stanislavski once remarked, "There are no small parts, only small actors" — and the younger Hitchcock compiled a pretty busy résumé for herself outside her dad's classic oeuvre too.

Francis Ford Coppola

Although we like to think of Francis Ford Coppola as "The Godfather" of The Godfather movies, he's also a devoted father. His daughter Sofia Coppola has gone on to great success as a director herself — but first, her father cast her in some of his most beloved movies, giving her small roles in The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, and both The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II. She also appeared in The Godfather Part III, replacing Winona Ryder to play Mary Corleone in a recasting decision that unfortunately made her the target of accusations of nepotism and undeserved success. The younger Coppola seems to have weathered it just fine, however.

John Huston

The noir genre as we know it would be entirely different were it not for the existence of John Huston. He directed and co-wrote The Maltese Falcon, which has served as the urtext of detective cinema for decades. Without Huston, there'd be no The Long Goodbye, no Chinatown (which he also starred in), and no Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Most actors would kill to work with the famed director, but his own daughter, Anjelica Huston, was so embarrassed by the script for A Walk with Love and Death that she hated her starring role. "I wasn't crazy about the part. I was a big snob at the time," she later admitted. "I felt that the script was a bit saccharine."

The pair must have made up somehow, as John later directed Anjelica to an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her work in Prizzi's Honor.

Ernie Lively

Generally, directors cast their own children because they have an established reputation in Hollywood and don't have to worry as much about what people will think. As a result, it's relatively rare for a child actor to completely outshine their director parent in terms of success — but that's exactly what happened when Ernie Lively cast his daughter Blake in a small role in his 1998 feature film Sandman. Unfortunately for the elder Lively, the movie — which remains the only one he's released — is largely forgotten today. Fortunately for the Lively lineage, Blake Lively has found plenty of success acting in movies not directed by her father.

Ivan Reitman

Whether or not you recognize his name, you almost certainly recognize Ivan Reitman's filmography, which includes a list of '80s and '90s comedy classics and blockbuster hits that runs from Ghostbusters and Kindergarten Cop to Twins and Ghostbusters II. After his incredible run, Reitman accrued plenty of clout — and he used some of it to get his son Jason some bit roles in his most famous movies. In fact, all of Jason Reitman's feature film appearances came in his father's movies, including Ghostbusters II, Dave, and Fathers' Day

That was just the beginning for the younger Reitman, however. He's since stepped out of his father's shadow by building an acclaimed career as a director in his own right, helming films like Juno and Up in the Air; he's also a busy producer with a list of credits that includes the Oscar-winning Whiplash.