Big brother Tim, 28, who made his splash in The Last Picture Show, starred on TV in 1979 in A Shining Season. That same year younger brother Sam, 23, was the zonked-out PT boat crewman in Apocalypse Now, and Ben, 19, was Cindy Williams' radical brother in More American Graffiti.
So when Tim recently dropped out of a Canadian-backed love story, Surfacing, the role was rewritten for Joe. On location in Canada, Joe found himself falling in love with the film's executive producer, Delilah Andison, a former psychotherapist and divorced mother of two. Though a decade older than Bottoms, Del (as she's called) "knew from the beginning that it was going to be more than a professional relationship." The romance blossomed for three months, while, unconventionally enough, Joe and Del never considered living together. "It was either marry or separate," she explains, but they delayed until the day her 10-year-old son James piped up, "Mom, I really love that guy. Why don't you marry him?" At the wedding Del's English housekeeper cracked: "Aren't you glad your name isn't Belle?"
Puns on the family name are a Bottoms bane. They began when Joe and his brothers were acting in high school dramas in their native Santa Barbara, where their father was a teacher and artist. "We lived in 22 houses," Joe remembers. "One year we moved five times." (Family friends included the Louds of TV's An American Family.) Joe says the brothers blame themselves for their parents' 1972 split. "They didn't have time for us and their own lives," he says, "but now they're very much together although they're divorced."
Joe landed his first acting jobs in TV series like Owen Marshall and movies like 1974's The Dove. At one point reduced to voice-overs for a bird (in Jonathan Livingston Seagull), he rebounded as the anti-Nazi resistance fighter Rudi Weiss in Holocaust. Elizabeth Taylor was impressed enough to request him as her romantic lead in her 1978 TV movie Return Engagement. Next he's starring with Jennifer O'Neill and David Carradine in a feature film, Cloud Dancer.
In the meantime, Joe and Del have moved themselves and their fox terrier into a new three-bedroom place in Palm Springs that, he reports, "is below Elvis' old house with a view of Bob Hope's new house." They plan to buy a condo in Toronto so she can visit her children. The two of them are talking of writing and producing movies together, and the four brothers have long fantasized about a family project. Joe marvels at it all. "I used to think I'd never have a Chihuahua, I thought I'd never live in Palm Springs, and I thought I'd never get married," he reflects. "And here I am with a fox terrier that looks like a Chihuahua, a house in Palm Springs, and I'm married. Strangest of all, I love it."
In Hollywood, Joseph Bottoms remarks, "Once you've got a Disney film under your belt, you've sort of paid your dues." So it's no matter that The Black Hole is yet another derivative Son of Star Wars or that Spock & Co.'s Star Trek broke first and fastest in skimming the lucrative sci-fi movie till. The visually stunning Disney film has propelled Bottoms, at 25, from a TV mini-series, Holocaust, to movie stardom and his own identity in the most prominent clan of showbiz siblings whose last names are not Fonda, Carradine or Bridges.