The Sons of Lee Marvin | An Iconic Brotherhood of Famous Look-alikes


Lee Marvin in his iconic role-- Chino from The Wild One.  Marlon rode a triumph (his own) but Lee rode a Harley.

Lee Marvin in his iconic role-- Chino from 1953's The Wild One. Marlon rode a Triumph (his own) but Lee and his brood rode Harleys. Lee Marvin was 10X cooler and had more natural biker vibe than the posturing Brando-- even though it was his first experience on a bike.


I’m a huge fan of Lee Marvin– as well as Jim Jarmusch, Tom Waits and Nick Cave.  If I had the looks, this would definitely be the club for me.  From the website–

Jarmusch is the founder of The Sons of Lee Marvin, a humorous ‘semi-secret society’. Members of the society reportedly include musician Tom Waits and actors John Lurie and Richard Boes, all of whom have worked with Jarmusch on several occasions.  Nick Cave has also “been included”, and John Boorman has been “given a card” as an “honorary member”. (Thurston Moore, Iggy Pop, Josh Brolin and Neil Young have at various occasions been rumored to be members as well.) The entry criterion for the club is that the person must have some physical resemblance or plausibly look like a son of the actor Lee Marvin — as such, women are not allowed to join. The club supposedly meets occasionally to watch Lee Marvin movies together. Its members perpetuate the joke in the media.


Jim Jarmusch Tom Waitslee marvin 

In an interview, Jarmusch had this to say:

“I’m not at liberty to divulge information about the organization, other than to tell you that it does exist. I can identify three other members of the organization: Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Richard Bose. You have to have a facial structure such that you could be related to, or be a son of, Lee Marvin. There are no women, obviously, in the organization. We have communiques and secret meetings. Other than that, I can’t talk about it.”

(Interview Magazine, No. 11, 1989: pp 146-150.)

Tom Waits:

 “We are both members of an organization called the Sons of Lee Marvin. It’s a mystical organization and they have a New York chapter, and we met at one of the annual meetings. It’s some where between the Elks Club and the Academy Awards.”

(Rolling Stone Magazine, Nov. 6, 1986.)


John Wayne & Lee Marvin hamming it up during the filming of Donovan's Reef.

John Wayne & Lee Marvin hamming it up during the filming of Donovan's Reef.


Apparently, not everyone’s a fan of The Sons of Lee Marvin–


“Just the idea of Marvin’s characters being outsiders and very violent appeals to me. Some seem to have a very strong code – even if it’s a psychotic one – that he follows rigidly. 

A secret organization exists called The Sons of Lee Marvin – it includes myself, Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Richard Boes… Six months ago, Tom Waits was in a bar somewhere like Sonoma County in Northern California, and the bartender said:

    ‘You’re Tom Waits, right? A guy over there wants to talk to you.’

    Tom went over to this dark corner booth and the guy sitting there said,

    ‘Sit down, I want to talk to you.’

    ‘What do you want to talk to me about? I don’t know you.’

    ‘What is this bullsh*t about the Sons of Lee Marvin?’

    ‘Well, it’s a secret organization and I’m not supposed to talk about it.’

    ‘I don’t like it.’

    ‘What’s it to you?’

    ‘I’m Lee Marvin’s son’, and he really was.

He thought it was insulting, but it’s not, it’s completely out of respect for Lee Marvin

(“Jim Jarmusch’s Guilty Pleasures“, Film Comment, May-June, 1992, pp 35-37.)


Of the bunch, I see the most resemblance between Lee Marvin & Tom Waits.

Of the bunch, I see the most resemblance between Lee Marvin & Tom Waits.


In an interview for Venice Magazine (March 2000), Jarmusch spilled some more beans:

“The Sons of Lee Marvin is a secret organization. I can’t tell you much about it other than we have cards, and if you get a card from one of the founding members, you are an honorary member. Some of our founding members are myself, Tom Waits, John Lurie. We inducted at one point (musician) Nick Cave, because if you look like you could be a son of Lee Marvin, then you are instantly thought of by the Sons of Lee Marvin to be a Son of Lee Marvin. I lived in Berlin for almost a year in ’87. Nick Cave lived there too and we used to hang out. People would always mistake us as brothers. 

It all started years ago with an idea I had for a movie where Lee Marvin was a father with three sons who all hated each other, and he was an alcoholic guy and lived in a barn somewhere. It was one of those ideas that gradually became more interesting to me, then Lee Marvin crossed over to the other side.”


Tom Waits in his physical prime-- late 1970s.

Tom Waits in his physical prime-- late 1970s.



lee marvin esquire

Lee Marvin working the 'stache and chops on the March 1970 cover of Esquire.



Nick Cave giving a 1970 Esquire cover flashback

Nick Cave giving a 1970 Esquire cover flashback



lee marvin the wild onetom waits 76 mitchell rose session 



There's even a Sons of Lee Marvin t-shirt.

There's even a Sons of Lee Marvin t-shirt.



What a way to start a movie career - in trouble with Lee Marvin! Playing a sheriff, Marvin holds a gun to the head of O.J. Simpson to prevent a violent clash between black militants and the Klu Klux Klan in a scene from the Paramount release . Football's O.J. is making his film debut in the movie.

Wow. Considering O.J.'s later troubles, this picture gave me the chills. Lee Marvin holds a gun to the head of O.J. Simpson in O.J.'s screen debut.



23 thoughts on “The Sons of Lee Marvin | An Iconic Brotherhood of Famous Look-alikes

  1. Is it weird that inevitably I always wanted to be the cooler supporting role than the hero of the movie?

  2. Lately, I bet Julia Roberts could break the gender barrier into this club. Also that Brit trainwreck who sings about rehab, Amy Winehouse.

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  5. Not so sure about everyone on that shirt. I believe the person who designed it made their own choices as to who was or could be a member. There is a certain “Lee Marvin” type face out there, you see it pop up from time to time. I myself saw it on a Greyhound bus driver in the early 80’s. There are more than a few musicians who have it. Can’t remember his name at the moment, but there was a guy on Myspace hawking his indy record a while back and he definitely belonged.

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  7. JP,

    Recently, stumbled across your blog. It’s great — my new favorite. The Sons of Lee Marvin is one of my favorite modern “legends” and I was happy to find your post about them. Coincidentally, the Esquire cover of Lee Marvin, includes one of my dad’s many photo essays — Evil Lurks in California. However, he did not take the picture of Lee Marvin. You can check out some of his other work at
    All the best.

    • BH,

      Thanks for the kind words, glad to have you. You’re father was an amazing photographer. I might have to post some of his incredible pics.



  8. There was a biker in Panama City Florida that claimed his dad was Lee Marvin, his name was Too Tall, rode a Harley, hard drinker, hung out with a dude named Special Ed, damm the places I’ve been.

  9. If Thurston is a son of Lee so am I. I’m more a son of Orson Wells. Gary Busey does not look like Lee Marvin and Jeff or Ron are a stretch.

  10. The story about the real son of LM doesn’t surprise me. He’s well known around Sonoma County bars, and apparently Marvin treated him and his mother incredibly abusively. He has serious issues, as they say about being Marvin’s son. And he looks exactly like him.

  11. Some of those guys may have the craggy bone structure, but no way in hell will they ever have those eyebrows!


    & did you guys follow up on *Lee’s final wishes to be interred at “Arlington, cem?”

    I loved “Cat Ballou” since I was a kid

    (P.S. they have been kicking around a remake of “The Dirty Dozen” for years too!)


    • John Boorman tells the story of when *Lee was loaded & literally
      hung on top of his car driving along the Pafific Coast Highway & a cop stopped him & simply said “Mr. Boorman are you aware you have *Lee Marvin on your car?”
      By that time he had hooked himself to it & passed out!

      Pal & sometime co-star *Ernest Borgnine, now 93!
      When the topic of *Lee comes up, always says “If only he didn’t smoke so much”

  13. What about “Thomas Haden Church” The Dude form Tombstone. He looks like a Lee Marvin spawn.

    • They both look a like, sound a like and behave in similar style. Church seems to be the secret son of Lee Marvin.

  14. JP,
    Great post / article (can’t tell where the thin line between the two is) as usual. But … Nick Nolte is not a member of the club? That’s weird.

  15. What about the father’s of Lee Marvin? I think Abraham Lincoln belongs atop the list. There’s also (my hero) Joe Hill, and (of course) Hank Williams. In the category of younger brother, I nominate Porter Wagoner. Damn! I wish I had a screen press.

    • God damn! I can’t believe I left off Woody Guthrie. He was only 12 when Lee was born, but lord knows most boys can blow a wad when they are 12, so he’s a father. Then there’s Pete. He’s a dead ringer. He was 6, so he’s a brother.

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