If Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that celebrity siblings are coattail-riding hacks who, much like your couch-surfing stoner friend, will never go away. But, sometimes, out of the ashes of a laughable child star or dense pretty boy’s career rises a sibling with far more promise and/or talent.
In honor of Olsen-twin sister Elizabeth Olsen’s starring role in the critically acclaimed Martha Marcy May Marlene, here are five actors’ siblings we secretly like better.
For a while, being the younger sister of the Olsen twins was kind of like being the fifth Beatle: everyone was intrigued by the concept, but few actually acknowledged your existence. No one paid any mind to Elizabeth Olsen when she popped up in a few of her mogul sisters’ shorts, like Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley: The Case of the U.S. Space Camp Mission. Unsatisfied with space-camp life, Elizabeth opted to go the non-traditional route and actually study acting before making any movies herself.
Degrees in hand, she acted in three movies set for 2011 release: Silent House,Peace, Love and Understanding,and Martha Marcy May Marlene, which has already nabbed a Sundance award.
If that weren’t a strong enough debut, her projects slated for 2012 boast costars like Dustin Hoffman, Peter Sarsgaard, and Allison Janney, all of whom provide a tad bit more prestige than Dave Coulier. Also working in her favor? No Wal-Mart clothing line.
The late ‘90s and early ‘00s were all about Ben Affleck. He vividly brought Michael Bay’s explosion porn films to life in blockbusters like Armageddon and Pearl Harbor. But, by the time Gigli came out, the world was getting pretty tired of his ubiquity, his acting style, and the infuriating portmanteau he shared with Jennifer Lopez.
It was around this time that people started noticing Casey Affleck, then in the middle of the Ocean’s Eleven franchise. The younger Affleck went on to upstage Brad Pitt in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and helped launch Ben’s directing career by anchoring Gone Baby Gone. Oh, and his own directorial debut? The much-buzzed-aboutI’m Still Here
In her child-star days, Dakota Fanning seemed hell-bent on grabbing universal adoration, or at the very least an Oscar, for her cloying, look-how-damn-precocious-I-am roles in everything from The Cat in the Hat to Uptown Girls. Then Dakota went from child star to teen star and decided Twilight was her best career move.
Luckily, her little sister Elle came along and showed the world that one Fanning was capable of varied, interesting, and non-hammy acting, even in her preteen days. As of this year, Elle has already worked with David Fincher, Sofia Coppola, and Cameron Crowe. She even has a freaking Vivaldi biopic in the works. So, Papa and Mama Fanning, please stop making this girl tell reporters Dakota is her favorite actress. She’s earned her keep.
Considering that image of Macaulay Culkin doing his best Edvard Munch was the unofficial Culkin family crest for a solid decade, it’s a wonder his younger brother Kieran ever made a single movie. But after toiling in random bit roles for the better part of the ‘90s, he achieved some serious indie cred through the back-to-back successes of The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys and Igby Goes Down.
Then he pretty much stole Scott Pilgrim vs. the World from Michael Cera and co. with his hilarious playboy roommate role. We should’ve known this guy was the best Culkin from his very first sip of Pepsi in Home Alone.
Jesse Eisenberg is the only actor on this list who’s achieved the stunning feat of besting a younger, cuter sibling. Long before Jesse was tossing out Aaron Sorkin’s bon mots, his little sister Hallie Kate was dominating small screens everywhere as that adorable, dimpled Pepsi girl.
But, as much as we might have enjoyed her Godfather impression or that wholly unnecessaryMiracle Worker remake, Jesse’s roles in The Squid and the Whale and The Social Network are a little more nuanced. Plus, despite his seemingly uptight persona, he still manages to make the occasional zombie comedy or hilarious Conan cameo.
Danielle Herman is a strategist for SimplePayday and a consultant for The Gap Partnership. Originally from New York, Danielle now splits her time between London and New York. Writing and film have always been a passion, so combining them means she smiles on a daily basis.