Watch: Ben Stiller defends Hollywood 'meritocracy' in Twitter exchange
Ben Stiller has come under fire after wading into a discussion about nepotism to say that showbiz “is a meritocracy”.
The debate started on Twitter after it was reported that the children of director Steven Spielberg, author Stephen King and actor Sean Penn were all involved in a new film called The Rightway.
TV and film producer Franklin Leonard tweeted a link to the news and asked: “Hollywood's a meritocracy, right?”
Stiller – who is the son of late actors and comedians Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara - chimed in: “Too easy @franklinleonard. People, working, creating. Everyone has their path. Wish them all the best.”
He later added: “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."
Leonard replied to say he rejected 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?” he asked.
Stiller responded: “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 then said that he disagreed and that “numbers don't lie”.
“Based only on the exclusion of other folks, statistically speaking, roughly 1/3 of the industry has their job not because of merit, but because of other factors (who they know, colonial legacy, sexism, whatever),” he said.
Stiller has now been criticised by people saying he is denying the existence of nepotism in the industry.
"Seriously? Nepotism exists in every industry..." one person tweeted.
"I think it’s hard for you to understand given your background," said another.
One person posted: "I love Ben Stiller, but I think it’s pretty clear that the son of famed comedic actor Jerry Stiller has a dog in the 'nepotism in Hollywood' fight. Just sayin’."
Spielberg’s daughter Destry Spielberg, who is directing the film, has also weighed in.
Read more: Ben Stiller remembers father Jerry Stiller
According to reports, she 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.”
She later said in another post: “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.”