Nine Actors Whose Careers Were Upstaged By Their Siblings

Justine and Jason Bateman

It's not unusual to find groups of famous siblings in show business. Why, I've written about it here before. And again. And again. But this time I'm listing those actors who were supposed to be the star of the family, only to watch their siblings go on to greater fame. I'm sure, in most cases, that there's been no bitterness. But who can say? You'll just have to ask...

  1. Eric Roberts. Being born eleven years before his sister Julia gave Eric Roberts a head start at Hollywood stardom. And in the early '80s he seemed bound for the A-list, thanks to acclaimed dramas like Runaway Train and The Pope of Greenwich Village. But the public never bought him as a headliner. By the time Steel Magnolias and Pretty Woman made Julia Roberts a superstar, brother Eric was acting in, well, junk. You gotta hand it to him, though: he's racked up over 400 film and TV credits since then. And if the IMDb is to be believed, he has sixty-two projects coming out in 2016 alone!
  2. Joan Cusack. The plucky comic actress has been identified as John Cusack's second-banana sister for so long that most people forget that her career kicked off first, with a strong role in the winsome 1980 teen film My Bodyguard. Joan and John both had memorable bit parts in Class and Sixteen Candles, but by 1985 it became clear that he was a lead, she a supporting player.
  3. Meg Tilly. One of the great beauties of '80s cinema, Tilly made her name in Tex, Agnes of God, and of course The Big Chill. Then she started picking the wrong projects. Bomb after bomb, her career faded, until she went into semi-retirement in 1995. (She returned to screen acting in 2010.) Older sister Jennifer Tilly, however, was a late bloomer, slowly climbing up the ladder of fame in the '80s and finally making it big with '90s hits like Bullets Over Broadway (which earned her an Oscar nomination), Bound, Liar Liar, and of course the Chucky franchise.
  4. Justine Bateman. Younger brother Jason actually was the first to nab a part on TV, in a late season of Little House on the Prairie, but the '80s absolutely belonged to Justine, thanks to her role on the hit sitcom Family Ties. After a pair of box office disasters (Teen Wolf Too for Jason, Satisfaction for Justine), things looked bleak for the Batemans. But whereas Justine resurfaced in little-seen indies and scattered guest starring spots on TV series, Jason eventually became a star with Arrested Development. A slew of big-screen comedies solidified his status as the prodigal son.
  5. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. It's nothing short of amazing that the Olsen twins channeled their weird quasi-celebrity as child actors into a veritable empire of fashion and toys for the under-13 set – they are literally multi-millionaires – but their shtick on Full House and subsequent video projects could hardly be called "acting". Meanwhile, younger sister Elizabeth Olsen wowed 'em in Martha Marcy May Marlene and now plays Scarlet Witch in various Avengers-related movies. She's a bona fide Hollywood star, while the twins have been reduced to drifting through high society like tiny gaunt vampires.
  6. Emilio Estevez. Estevez and his brother Charlie Sheen – sons of Martin Sheen (née Ramon Estevez) – started their careers at around the same time. By 1982, Estevez nabbed his first starring role, in Tex. Then came The Outsiders, Repo Man, The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire... All was well and good, but then Sheen, who had been plugging away in smaller roles in Red Dawn and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, suddenly nabbed the lead in Oliver Stone's Platoon. Fame and infamy alike followed for the reckless younger brother. Estevez, meanwhile, would continue to act and direct, but has been out of the spotlight for years.
  7. Rosanna Arquette. As with the Roberts siblings, Rosanna is eleven years older than her sister Patricia. In 1989, when Patricia made her inauspicious debut in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, Rosanna was already famous for Desperately Seeking Susan, After Hours, and so forth. By 1994, however, the tables had turned with a pair of Quentin Tarantino projects: Patricia headlined True Romance while Rosanna had a minor (if funny) supporting role in Pulp Fiction. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention brother David Arquette, whose fleeting renown surpassed that of his sisters for about five years.
  8. Randy Quaid. It's hard to accept that eternally handsome Dennis Quaid and eternally doughy Randy Quaid are brothers, born just four years apart. But there you have it. Long before Dennis became a name, Randy was a dependable presence in '70s cinema, with memorable roles in The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, The Last Detail, and Midnight Express. Even after a strong showing in 1978's Breaking Away, Dennis didn't become a star until 1983, with The Right Stuff. Obviously, the younger Quaid was cut out for leading man status, whereas Randy was destined to be a supporting player – and, later, a raving, semi-homeless goony bird.
  9. Luke Wilson. Flipping the Quaid paradigm are fellow Texans the Wilson brothers. Hunky Luke seemed tailor-made for leading man roles – and indeed, he was awarded plenty of them early on. But goofy-looking Owen was simply funnier and more interesting, and ultimately became the bigger draw.