Actor Ben Stiller and filmmaker Destry Spielberg have disputed the role nepotism plays in Hollywood, telling Black List founder Franklin Leonard that the focus should be on hard work and individuality.
Destry Spielberg, the daughter of Steven Spielberg, took issue with a tweet from Franklin Leonard that appeared to mock her new short film The Rightway, which stars Hopper Penn, the son of Sean Penn, and is written by Owen King, the son of novelist Stephen King.
“Hollywood’s a meritocracy, right?” Leonard tweeted sarcastically, setting off a chain reaction of replies.
Hollywood's a meritocracy, right? https://t.co/jELCVujYyB
— Franklin Leonard (@franklinleonard) July 28, 2021
Ben Stiller, the son of actor Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, replied, “Too easy @franklinleonard. People, working, creating. Everyone has their path. Wish them all the best.”
Stiller 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. Show biz as we all know is pretty rough, and ultimately is a meritocracy.”
Yes. 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. Show biz as we all know is pretty rough, and ultimately is a meritocracy.
— Ben Stiller (@RedHourBen) July 28, 2021
Leonard chimed in again, saying, “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?”
Destry Spielberg initially disputed Leonard’s tweet, saying her accomplishments are the result of hard work.
“I am just a young aspiring female filmmaker who admires the art of cinema,” she wrote in a tweet that has since been deleted, according to a report from Variety. “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.”
She later added: “I acknowledge that I was born with privilege! 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 don’t have.”
I acknowledge that i was born with privilege! 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 Spielberg (@destryallyn) July 29, 2021
The Twitter spat has drawn enough industry attention that ABC’s The View spotlighted the feud in a segment that aired Thursday.
BEN STILLER CRITICIZED FOR NEPOTISM REMARKS: The children of Hollywood A-listers, such as Steven Spielberg and Sean Penn, are joining forces for a new short film that critics are calling the picture of nepotism — the co-hosts react after Stiller came to their defense. pic.twitter.com/1PJNOjBqsm
— The View (@TheView) July 29, 2021