List: Films with parents acting alongside their real-life kids

Real-life father and son Jaden and Will Smith play movie father and son in "After Earth" Credit: Columbia Pictures
Real-life father and son Will and Jaden Smith play movie father and son in “After Earth.”
Credit: Columbia Pictures

As in real life, Will and Jaden Smith are father and son in “After Earth,” the new film by M. Night Shyamalan. Real-life parents and kids acting together in movies is a tradition nearly as old as the medium itself. Below we look at other such on-screen unions, some of which didn’t work out as swimmingly as in actual life.

Joe and Buster Keaton
Film: ”Sherlock, Jr.” (1924)
Ages: 58 and 29
Roles: Buster is a lowly movie projectionist who one day wills himself into the detective film he’s screening. Joe plays the father of “The Girl.”
Result: Joe and his wife Myra were vaudeville legends who started using Buster in their act when he was only a few years old. Buster’s shtick involved being thrown about the stage. Buster later repaid the favor by giving his father, by then an alkie, bit parts in his masterpieces.

Ozzie, Harriet, David and Ricky Nelson
Film: ”Here Come the Nelsons” (1952)
Ages: 46, 43, 16 and 12
Roles: They played “themselves” in a movie that doubled as the pilot for the long-running family sitcom “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” which had already existed as a radio show.
Result: The Nelsons epitomized the conservative nuclear family up until the 1960s, when times changed, man. Ricky became a breakout teen idol, and even wasn’t terrible in the second greatest Western ever, “Rio Bravo.” Ozzie and Harriet’s legacy lived on in the early ‘90s pop-rock hair-outfit Nelson.

John and Patrick Wayne
Film: ”The Searchers” (1956)
Ages: 49 and 17
Roles: John plays Ethan Edwards, an obsessive racist who spends years tracking down his niece (Natalie Wood) who’s been taken by injuns. Patrick has a small role as a nervous Yankee soldier who finally tells them where she is.
Result: The Duke’s second son, Patrick acted in nine of his father’s movies, first as a kid in bit parts, then in larger roles, including being fifth-billed in “The Alamo.” He never quite came into his own, but he did star in the Ray Harryhausen classic “Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger,” which may have been why he was screentested for Superman.

John and Hayley Mills
Film: ”Tiger Bay” (1959)
Ages: 51 and 13
Roles: John is a superintendent trying to solve a young woman’s murder. Hayley plays a 12-year-old tomboy who witnessed the crime yet is trying to keep the suspect from being got.
Result: John was a popular actor — best known today for either “Ryan’s Daughter” or “The Swiss Family Robinson” — who thought his young daughter, Hayley, might have a knack for the screen. He was right, and she terrorized Disney films for years. They acted again a few more times, including in the teen sailing adventure “The Truth About Spring.” John also acted a few times with his other actress daughter, Juliet, who won an Emmy for “QB VII” and had sex with Jack Lemmon in “Avanti!”

Bette Davis and Barbara Merrill
Film: ”Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962)
Ages: 54 and 15
Roles: Davis is a former vaudeville child star and failed movie star bitter of her sister’s (Joan Crawford)’s former success. Merrill plays the daughter of the next door neighbors.
Result: Merrill did not get along with her mother, and put her anecdotes — or her version of them — into two separate tell-all books, just as happened with Crawford and her adopted daughter Christina. Unlike Christina, Merrill wrote them when Davis was still alive, allowing her the chance to refute her trashy accusations.

Melvin and Mario Van Peebles
Film: ”Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” (1971)
Ages: 39 and 14
Roles: Melvin plays an entertainer at a brothel falsely accused by The Man. Mario plays his younger self in a fairly graphic scene where he loses his virginity to a prostitute. Thanks, dad!
Result: Even though what was shot very nearly qualifies as child pornography, it wasn’t traumatic. Mario grew up idolizing and often working with his father. He became a filmmaker himself, making “New Jack City” and “Baadassss!,” an account of the making of his father’s pioneering black cinema landmark, starring Mario as his wildly charismatic pop.

Tatum and Ryan O'Neal both did career peak work in Peter Bogdanovich's "Paper Moon"
Tatum and Ryan O’Neal both did career peak work in Peter Bogdanovich’s “Paper Moon.”

Ryan and Tatum O’Neal
Film: ”Paper Moon” (1973)
Ages: 32 and 10
Roles: Ryan is a con man in the Depression-era South who collects fraudulent fees for Bibles. Tatum plays a grifting prodigy who may be his daughter.
Result: Ryan, often a wooden rent-a-hunk, was atypically alive and hilarious. Ditto, for that matter, Tatum, who became the youngest-ever Oscar winner for her spirited turn. This might be the doing of director Peter Bogdanovich, whose reign as Hollywood’s golden boy ended right after this, his third straight monster hit. Ryan did two more films of major note (“Barry Lyndon” and “The Driver”), but soon returned to performances of low wattage in films of questionable pedigree. Tatum did “The Bad News Bears” but struggled through an adult career. Tatum reported that Ryan hit on her at Farah Fawcett’s funeral.

Henry and Jane Fonda
Film: ”On Golden Pond” (1981)
Ages: 76 and 44
Roles: Henry is a crotchety, terminally sweary old-timer who is estranged from his daughter, played by Jane. This isn’t that far from the truth.
Result: The two were famously estranged, despite him being, like her, a liberal, back when such a thing wasn’t cool. The film helped them patch things up, just as happens in the film. Henry died soon after winning his first Oscar, which Jane accepted on his behalf.

Clint and Kyle Eastwood
Film: ”Honkytonk Man” (1982)
Ages: 52 and 14
Roles: Clint plays a never-been western singer circa the Depression heading for his big break at the Grand Ole Opry. Kyle plays his nephew, along for the ride.
Result: Kyle had uncredited bit roles in “The Outlaw Josey Wales” and “Bronco Billy,” but didn’t really pursue acting after this, one of his dad’s lower-key, lesser-seen works. His father had a bigger impression with his other passion: music. Kyle became a jazz guitarist whose music, and his bands, have appeared in many subsequent Eastwoods.

Martin and Charlie Sheen played a disapproving father and his loutish son in "Wall Street"
Martin and Charlie Sheen played a disapproving father and his loutish son in “Wall Street.”

Charlie and Martin Sheen
Film: ”Wall Street” (1987)
Ages: 47 and 22
Roles: Charlie is an upstart who gets associated with the wrong scene, while his father scowls. They also acted in this movie together.
Result: The two would reunite, for about 10 seconds, in “Hot Shots Part Deux,” in a scene that parodies “Apocalypse Now”: passing by each other on ships, they simultaneously stand and proclaim, “Loved you in ‘Wall Street!’”

Sylvester and Sage Stallone
Film: ”Rocky V” (1990)
Ages: 44 and 14
Roles: Sly is a slow mumblemouth who solved the Cold War, but is still stuck penniless in a miserable South Philly neighborhood because his brother-in-law Paulie is an idiot. Sage is his resentful son who gets an earring.
Result: Sage took over the role of Rocky Jr. from someone actually named Rocky Krakoff. He didn’t get great reviews, but neither did the film. Still, he acted again with his dad in “Daylight,” and appears in Vincent Gallo’s “Promises Written in Water,” which Gallo won’t let anyone see. Last year, Sage died of a heart attack at 36 years old.

Kirk, Michael and Cameron Douglas
Film: ”It Runs in the Family” (2003)
Ages: 87, 58 and 24
Roles: Kirk is a grandfather who has suffered a stroke, Michael is his lawyer son who works too damn much and Cameron is Michael’s rebellious son.
Result: Everyone hated this movie. Cameron has since had drug felonies and is currently serving a sentence that will end in 2018. Kirk, however, is a robust 96.

Jon Voight and Angelina Jolie
Film: ”Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” (2001)
Ages: 63 and 26
Roles: Jolie is a buxom archaeologist who does all the things that Indiana Jones can’t, like have breasts. Voight is her dead father who she meets in an alternate dimension.
Result: As a child, Jolie made her debut with her father in the 1982 gambling comedy “Lookin’ to Get Out.” They had a bumpy relationship, due to his marital infidelity, but managed to patch things up as her career blew up. Then Voight went kind of crazy. Their relationship again deteriorated, only to come together again after her mother’s death. Still, Voight found out about her double mastectomy with everyone else.

Will and Jaden Smith
Film: ”After Earth” (2013)
Ages: 44 and 14
Roles: Will is Cypher Raige (this is his actual name), a general in the deep future who tries to survive on a dangerous post-apocalyptic Earth alongside his rebellious son, played by Jaden (who is not rebellious).
Result: Jaden is the luckiest kid in the world, whose father bought him “The Karate Kid.” But their films together aren’t pretty: “The Pursuit of Happyness,” made when Jaden was 8, found them pursuing the American Dream while spending nights on the street or in dodgy shelters.



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