With children of celebrities regularly becoming fixtures of the entertainment industry themselves these days, it’s clear to see the role that nepotism plays. What’s more arguable is whether those children would be able to maintain successful careers in acting, modeling, filmmaking, and the like if they weren’t actually talented. Does a recognizable name just get your foot in the door or does it keep you inside it, too? A conversation about just that erupted on Twitter when it was announced that Steven Spielberg‘s daughter, Destry Allyn Spielberg, would be directing a short film starring the son of a famous actor and written by the son of an iconic writer. Read on to see what the 24-year-old had to say in response to the controversy.
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The conversation got started when Destry’s new short film was announced.
The Rightway—a new short film directed by Spielberg; starring Hopper Penn, the son of Sean Penn and Robin Wright; and written by Owen King, the son of Stephen King—was announced by Deadline on July 27. It will be Destry’s second short film.
The news got some people talking on Twitter, especially when producer Franklin Leonard tweeted, “Hollywood’s a meritocracy, right?” Leonard created the website The Black List, which provides a way for unknown screenwriters to get their work seen and produced.
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Ben Stiller fired back at Leonard’s tweet and soon, Destry joined the conversation.
Leonard and actor Ben Stiller, son of the late comedic actors Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller, then got into a back-and-forth about the extent to which Hollywood is a meritocracy. Ben argued that Hollywood “is ultimately a meritocracy,” but agreed that there needs to be more diversity in who is getting jobs in the industry.
Destry, who was part of the reason the conversation started in the first place, joined in and wrote in a since-deleted tweet, “I am just a young aspiring female filmmaker who admires the art of cinema. 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.”
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She then clarified her thoughts in another tweet.
Destry deleted the tweet she wrote to Leonard and Stiller, but wrote another tweet, separate from the conversation, in which she acknowledged the privilege she has becoming a filmmaker when her father is one of the most famous directors of all time.
“I acknowledge that i was born with privilege!” she wrote.”I own that through and through! I make it my mission to bring new talent into the industry & give opportunities to artists of all backgrounds. No one should be left out because of the connections they dont have.”
Destry has used a stage name to try to carve her own path.
In a 2017 interview with W Magazine, Spielberg—who has at times just gone by Destry Allyn—was asked if it was hard having a recognizable last name. “To be honest, I’ve been somewhat frustrated,” she said. “I go into things feeling like, did I get this because I’m really up for it, or because of who I am? It’s hard, because if people are just going to take me for my name, then this isn’t the right industry for me. I’m trying to be myself, but I’m really trying to just go by Destry Allyn now. Everyone has stage names, and Destry Allyn is my stage name.”
At the time, she was hoping to become a comedic actor. As an actor, she has appeared in the film Mass Hysteria and in an episode of the miniseries I Know This Much Is True. She also starred in and directed a short film titled Rosie.
One of her sisters also uses a stage name.
Destry has six siblings, including 44-year-old stepsister Jessica Capshaw, who starred on Grey’s Anatomy, and 31-year-old Sasha Spielberg, an actor and musician who uses the stage name Buzzy Lee. Sasha has acted in several of her father’s movies, including The Terminal, Munich, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. She released her debut album Spoiled Love in 2021.
But all of the Spielberg kids work in front of or behind the camera in some way. There’s also 36-year-old Max Spielberg, a graphic designer; 33-year-old Theo Spielberg, a talent associate; 29-year-old Sawyer Spielberg, also an actor; and 25-year-old Mikaela Spielberg, an adult film star.
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