×

Why the glut of showbiz southpaws?

The leftie accusations are accurate

In an election year, you will repeatedly hear politicians claim that showbiz is a hotbed of lefties.

In one sense, they’re wrong: The conglomerates that own the studios and networks tend to be right-leaning. But in another sense, the leftie accusations are accurate: Showbiz is overrun with southpaws.

If left-handed people comprise only 10% of the population, why were 50% of the Beatles left-handed (Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr)? And lefties are disproportionate in categories like execs (Jeffrey Katzenberg, Brad Grey, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates), filmmakers (James Cameron, Spike Lee, Ken Burns), top female stars (Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson), and late-night comedy hosts (Jon Stewart, Jay Leno).

The roster of southpaws is eclectic, including Matt Groening, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Whitesell, Julianne Moore, Matt Lauer, Adam Venit, Keanu Reeves, Morgan Freeman, Hilary Swank, Will Ferrell, Jerry Seinfeld, Sid Ganis, Steven Bochco, Lisa Kudrow, Henry Selick, Donald De Line, Eminem and Seth Rogen.

So, is it safe to assume that left-handed people are more creative and somehow superior? We lefties would like you to believe that, but the rollcall also includes Billy the Kid, Jack the Ripper, John Dillinger and the Boston Strangler.

Clearly, it’s not a matter of better or worse, just … different.

Before he discovered his directing talents, John Madden was a thesp. He told me, “As an actor, I thought ‘Oh, no, this (career) won’t do for a left-handed person.’ Left-handed people are very aware of the whole, of the big picture.”

The director of “Shakespeare in Love” and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (which had its world premiere in London this week) says he studied the connection between the brain and hands when working on Arthur Kopit’s play “Wings,” about a woman’s stroke and its aftermath. Right-handed people are controlled by the left hemisphere of the brain, which manages speech and logic — “crucial activities to get through life,” says Madden.

Lefties, on the other hand, are ruled by the right hemisphere, “which has all the intuitive, whole, overview functions.”

That might explain the number of performers who also work in other territories like writing and producing: Whoopi Goldberg, Tina Fey, Ben Stiller, Griffin Dunne, Tony Goldwyn, Emma Thompson, et al.

And then there are nuances. Christopher Nolan told me he writes with his left hand, but brushes his teeth with his right. Ambidextrous? That term seems a little too prosaic for him. Like many of the other names here, the man behind “Inception,” “Memento” and the upcoming “The Dark Knight Rises” is clearly too original and creative to be confined by easy classifications.

Five of the last six Presidents have been left-handed: Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton and now Barack Obama. The right-handed Commander in Chief: George W. Bush. (And, yes, politics counts as showbiz. And no, we won’t make a cheap joke at the expense of righties here.)

Left-handed athletes? We don’t have space to get into that.

The late, lamented list of southpaws include Cole Porter, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and two people who were key to the creation of showbiz as we know it: Thomas Edison and Charlie Chaplin.

So are there disadvantages to being left-handed? In the book “Left-Hander Syndrome,” Stanley Coren cites medical studies saying lefties “seem to be more anxious about nearly everything,” and that being a southpaw is “linked to a number of factors that might be associated with reduced survivability” — sleep problems, possible neurological damage, some forms of diabetes, epilepsy, alcoholism, and “certain psychopathological conditions, such as schizophrenia.”

Despite the stellar athletes, studies show that lefties tend to be clumsy. (I admit, guilty as charged.)

And southpaws have a tendency to complete 90% of a job and then abandon it — for example, doing the dishes, but leaving two glasses in the sink, unwashed, for no good reason. (Again, guilty.)

OK, dirty dishes, high anxiety and Jack the Ripper: Clearly, leftism is not necessarily a good thing. Still, they’re offset by Thomas Edison, half the Beatles and Bart Simpson (did we mention that Bart is a lefty?). So being on that lefty list feels so … right.

More Film

  • 'Tomb Raider' Star Simon Yam in

    'Tomb Raider' Star Simon Yam in Hospital After Stabbing

    Hugely popular Hong Kong actor, Simon Yam was stabbed while on stage Saturday at a presentation in Zhongshan, Guangdong province in southern China. He is in hospital recovering. The incident happened at the opening of a branch of the Beijing Easyhome building materials company, where Yam was a guest. A man was seen rushing on [...]

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolosnaro attends the

    Bolsonaro Threatens Brazil’s Central Film Fund with Censorship or Closure

    In typical shoot-from-the-hip remarks, Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has declared that Ancine, Brazil’s powerful state-backed federal film agency, should accept “filters”or face closure. “If it can’t have a filter, we’ll close Ancine, or privatize it,” Bolsonaro added, attacking Ancine, which plows some $300 million a year into Brazil’s film and TV industries, for supporting [...]

  • TSOM-MASK

    Director Sara Gouveia on ‘Looking At Resilience Through Art’

    DURBAN–The Mapiko dance of Mozambique’s indigenous Makonde people was long used as a tool for social commentary. But during the colonial era it became an act of political resistance, prompting the Portuguese to stamp it out during Mozambique’s 10-year war for independence. Decades later, the art has been revived as a celebration of freedom. For [...]

  • Don Edkins

    Documentary Filmmaker Don Edkins on ‘Creating an African Voice’ 

    DURBAN–For the 10th Durban FilmMart (DFM), the industry program of the Durban Intl. Film Festival, a new strand was created to look at the unique challenges and opportunities facing documentary filmmakers in Africa. The two-day program, Durban Does Docs, offers a series of conversations, seminars and workshops with an intensive focus on the aesthetics, funding, distribution [...]

  • A Faithful Man

    Film Review: 'A Faithful Man'

    French actor Louis Garrel has been married twice, first to Iranian talent Golshifteh Farahani, and now to model-cum-actress Laetitia Casta. He has also directed two features, the first a free-wheeling love-triangle comedy called “Two Friends” in which Garrel plays the cad who comes between his best friend and the object of his obsession (played by [...]

  • LGBTQ Film Festival Outfest Opens With

    LGBTQ Film Festival Outfest Opens With Documentary About Gay Porn Shops Circus of Books

    Granted, the red carpet at the opening night of Outfest in DTLA may not have been the most star-studded but it was without a doubt the most diverse, inclusive and, yes, fabulous. “I’ve never been here before,” admitted “RuPaul’s Drag Race” vet Trixie Mattel, who stars in the documentary “Moving Parts.” “It’s supposed to be [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Russ Tamblyn's Career Had Legs After Childhood

    With an acting career that spans work for Cecil B. DeMille and Joseph Losey to Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch, Russ Tamblyn’s creativity and longevity is proof that there’s life after child stardom. In Tamblyn’s case, there’s also been a bounty of juicy film and TV roles long after his legendary legs no longer kicked [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content