Ben Stiller gets into awkward debate about nepotism in Hollywood

‘Unbelievable hypocrite’: Ben Stiller, son of comedy legends Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, is ripped apart online for weighing into debate on nepotism in Hollywood and saying ‘ultimately it’s a meritocracy’

  • Ben Stiller hit back at claims of nepotism in Hollywood after casting news was announced about Steven Spielberg’s daughter Destry Spielberg’s new movie
  • Sean Penn and Robin Wright’s son Hopper Penn stars in the short film, which has been written by Stephen King’s son Owen King 
  • News of the movie prompted Vanity Fair contributing editor Franklin Leonard to tweet: ‘Hollywood’s a meritocracy, right?’ 
  • Stiller, 55, is the son of legendary comedians Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, prompting an outcry of hypocrisy on Twitter 
  • Spielberg’s daughter Destry responded to the tweet herself, writing: ‘I am just a young aspiring female filmmaker who admires the art of cinema’ 

Thoughts: Ben Stiller, 55, gets into an awkward Twitter debate about nepotism

Ben Stiller weighed into an awkward debate about nepotism in Hollywood on social media on Thursday. 

The 55-year-old star responded to criticism about Steven Spielberg’s daughter Destry Spielberg’s new movie The Rightway, as the cast includes children of famous actors including Sean Penn and Robin Wright’s son Hopper Penn.

The short film is also written by Stephen King’s son Owen King, and news of the movie prompted Vanity Fair contributing editor Franklin Leonard to tweet: ‘Hollywood’s a meritocracy, right?’  

Stiller called the criticism ‘too easy’ offering: ‘People, working, creating. Everyone has their path. Wish them all the best.’

He added: ‘Just speaking from experience, and I don’t know any of them, I would bet they all have faced challenges. Different than those with no access to the industry. Showbiz as we all know is pretty rough, and ultimately is a meritocracy.’ 

However, many Twitter users labelled the Along Came Polly star as a ‘hypocrite’, as he is the son of legendary comedians Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, prompting a flood of hilarious reactions.  

The tweet start started it all: Vanity Fair contributing editor Franklin Leonard responded to this casting news, saying ‘Hollywood’s a meritocracy, right?’

Argument: Ben Stiller was responding to an original thread by The Black List founder Franklin Leonard, who started a debate about nepotism in Hollywood 

Starting something: Leonard hit back at Stiller as the pair went back and fourth on Thursday 

Passionate: Stiller  – who is the son of legendary comedians Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara – had a lot to say on the subject 

Leonard hit back: ‘I don’t for a second doubt that they’ve all faced challenges. They’re human. I simply reject the claim that the industry is – in the short term or long term – a meritocracy. If it were, how do you explain the utter lack of diversity behind the camera? Lack of merit?’ 

Stiller then replied: ‘100 percent agree. Diversity is much bigger issue. No question. And I see your point, access is access. So yes. I’m saying that untalented people don’t really last if they get a break because of who they are or know or are related to.’ 

However, Leonard said he ‘fundamentally’ disagreed with Stiller here, writing: ‘Numbers don’t lie. Based only on the exclusion of other folks, statistically speaking, roughly 1/3 of the industry has their job not because of merit, but because of other factors (who they know, colonial legacy, sexism, whatever).’

Lineage: Stiller is the son of the late legendary comedians Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara (pictured together in 1998) 

Continuing: ‘And we both know plenty of unqualified people who manage to stay employed for reasons other than their talent, though both of us have enough decorum not to name names.’

‘It’s not just access. It’s undervaluation. It’s active discrimination. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Hollywood film C-suite is the least diverse sector in American business. Less diverse than Trump’s cabinet,’ Leonard added. 

Appearing to get upset, Stiller then said: ‘I totally owe a huge debt to my folks and in no way have said I didn’t. Why make broad generalizations? You argument about diversity is very sound and I agreed with it.’ 

Ending in memes: Stiller seemingly stopped the debate with a meme of Michael Scott from The Office saying ‘I am dead inside’ 

The debate then resulted in users flooding the thread with memes, with Stiller himself ultimately posting one of The Office’s Michael Scott saying ‘I am dead inside.’ 

Twitter user Ann Molloy tweeted: ‘He has conveniently forgotten about his own famous parents, which obviously helped him have a career. Unbelievable Hypocrite.’ 

Meanwhile, Spielberg’s daughter Destry responded to the tweet herself, writing: ‘I am just a young aspiring female filmmaker who admires the art of cinema.’

Celeb spawn: Ben Stiller with his parents Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara on Jimmy Fallon in 2010

Adding: ‘People can argue nepotism, But I know deep down that i worked hard to get where i am and it wasn’t easy. Beyond proud of this film and proud of the team it took to make it.’ 

Ben’s father Jerry Stiller – who died last May aged 92 – was a celebrated actor, comedian, and author, known in his later years for playing George Costanza’s father Frank on the sitcom Seinfeld. 

Meanwhile his mother Anne Meara – who died aged 85 in 2015 – was a Tony and Emmy nominated star who starred as Mary Brady on Sex and the City. 

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