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Ben Stiller defends Hollywood ‘meritocracy’ in Twitter exchange

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Ben Stiller

Ben Stiller has refuted claims that children of celebrities have a leg-up in Hollywood in a Twitter exchange with Vanity Fair contributing editor Franklin Leonard.

The exchange began earlier this week when Leonard shared an article highlighting an upcoming short film filled to the brim with the children of famous figures. The film, The Rightway, will star Hopper Penn, Sean Penn’s son, and 13 Reasons Why’s Brian d’Arcy James. The film is being directed by Destry Spielberg, Steven Spielberg’s daughter, and was written by Owen King, author Stephen King’s son.

Along with the article, Leonard, who founded the site The Black List which aims to make screenwriting a level playing field for underrepresented voices, wrote on Twitter, “Hollywood’s a meritocracy, right?”

The Night at the Museum star, whose parents were renowned comedians Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, replied to the tweet, writing, “Too easy @franklinleonard. People, working, creating. Everyone has their path. Wish them all the best.”

Leonard replied, tweeting, “I do, without fail, but I also think it’s important that we acknowledge those paths.” Stiller took in Leonard’s point, but spoke to his own experience as a star with famous parents.

“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,” he argued back.

The conversation between the two artists continued, with Leonard reiterating his initial claim to Stiller, “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.”

Stiller tweeted back, “100 percent agree. Diversity is much bigger issue. 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.”

Leonard and the actor continued their exchange, acknowledging that they both know “plenty of unqualified people” who are in the industry, due to reasons outside of being talented in their field. Leonard closed by writing that the problem goes beyond access to Hollywood, as many famous children do, but also “undervaluation” and “active discrimination”, with top execs in the industry being “the least diverse sector in American business.”

Each concluded the argument with a GIF image, Stiller choosing one with the caption, “I’m dead inside”, and Leonard with one saying, “Those are the facts.”

– Cover Media