Ben Stiller receives criticism for comments dismissing nepotism

Stiller is son to legendary comedians Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara

Ben Stiller has come under fire for denying the presence of nepotism in Hollywood.

Stiller, who is son to esteemed comedians Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, took to Twitter to defend an upcoming project that had been announced via Deadline.

The short film, called The Rightaway, is directed by Steven Spielberg’s daughter Destry Spielberg, and Stephen King’s son Owen King. Sean Penn’s son Hopper Penn is to star in the film, which is reportedly about conspiracy theorists.


The news, which was picked up on Twitter by Discussing Film, was met accusations of nepotism in Hollywood and how it is impacting those from less privileged backgrounds from breaking into the industry.

“Man I really gotta get me a famous parent,” wrote one filmmaker in response to the news.

The announcement also motivated producer Franklin Leonard to sarcastically tweet “Hollywood’s a meritocracy, right?” in response to the news.

This tweet in particular caught the attention of Stiller, who stepped in to defend those involved in the short film.


“Too easy @franklinleonard. People, working, creating. Everyone has their path. Wish them all the best,” the actor and filmmaker tweeted.

He added in a later response: “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.”

However, Leonard rejected Stiller’s claim. “If it were, how do you explain the utter lack of diversity behind the camera? Lack of merit?” he wrote.

Stiller replied: “100 percent agree. Diversity is much bigger issue,” he wrote. “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.”

Meanwhile, some of those following the disagreement took against Stiller’s comments.

“How many Black, Latino, Native & Asian people do you think had parents who were in a position to give them their first acting gigs?” tweeted one user.

“Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara’s son would like you to know that Hollywood ‘ultimately is a meritocracy.'” wrote another.

Elsewhere, Sean Penn has refused to return to the set of Watergate drama series Gaslit until everyone on the production has been vaccinated for COVID-19.