Maybe it’s a gay thing, but I am a bit of an age fascist when I watch films. Not in a sexist way or anything. It just bugs me when I’m watching a film where, for example, the supposed teenage son is about thirty-five years-old.
It’s made me think about some of the classic films that feature actors playing roles where they are meant to be much younger than they actually are.
Here are few that sprung to mind.
Ahh, how we cried as 17-year-old Rizzo bared her soul about sleeping around and teenage pregnancy, with her angst-ridden rendition of ‘There are worse things I could do’. Perhaps we would have been less sympathetic if actress Stockard Channing had been playing her real age, 33. Come on woman, you’re practically middle-aged, kick Kenickie into touch and grow up! And if you’ve only slept with a boy or two at your age, you’re hardly loose! Channing was not alone in playing way below her real age. Jeff Conaway, who played Kinickie, was more than mature enough to handle the responsibilities of fatherhood, at 28 and sweet, naive Sandy was portrayed by a 30-year-old Olivia Newton John.
North by Northwest
Yes, Cary Grant was known as the ageless, debonair star of everything from screwball comedies to intense thrillers, but actress Jessie Royce Landis must surely have been slightly put out at being cast as his mother in Hitchcock’s 1959 North by Northwest. Grant was 55 at the time of filming, while his screen mother was just eight years his senior. Jessie was far nearer the star’s real age than Eva Marie Saint, who plays Grant’s love interest – she was 35 at the time of filming.
When his character Benjamin Braddock tells older fame fatale, Mrs Robinson, “I will be 21 next week”; Dustin Hoffman was actually 29, while Anne Bancroft, playing the seductress Mrs. Robinson was just 35 – despite telling the hormonal Benjamin, “I’m twice your age.” Kind of makes the whole scenario seem a lot less scandalous, doesn’t it. Just get on with it guys!
The Railway Children
Who can forget those adorable kids, waving their red bloomers at a steam train to prevent immanent disaster? In fact, one of those children, cute little 11-year-old Phyllis was played by 20-year-old actress, Sally Thomsett. Sally was actually three years older than Jenny Agutter, who played her big sister. Sally’s real age was a closely guarded secret, even from the crew working on set. The actress nearly let the cat out of the bag, however, when she and Jenny ducked out for a wild night of clubbing during filming. According to IMBD, director Lionel Jeffries was not impressed and grounded both stars until the final scenes had been shot.
Critics had a lot to say about Madonna’s performance in film musical Evita,not all positive. Personally, I thought she was very convincing as a not-that-talented entertainer who slept her way to the top. Slightly harder to swallow is the facts that at the outset of the movie, Eva is meant to be 15 years old – Che, the narrator confirms this in the lyric: ‘There was nowhere she’d been at the age of fifteen’. While Madonna looked great for 38, even she couldn’t carry off 15! No doubt, the diva’s’s closest advisors offered words of wisdom such as ‘Maj, if you’re going to play a girl of 15 you need to take a long holiday first, or get some new material, girl!’
Consummate professional and English rose, Kate Winslet, could convince us of most things, but maybe not that she was the same age as super-hunk Liam Hemsworth in 2015 movie, The Dressmaker. Winslet, 40 years-old at the time, was actually 15 years the senior of Liam, despite their characters having been in the same school year. Washington Postcritic Ann Hornaday questioned the believability of the pairing in her review, asking: ‘And how are we supposed to believe that an ab-tastic love interest named Teddy (Liam Hemsworth) is remotely believable as her contemporary?’ I’m assuming it’s the age difference Ann is referring too and not Hemsworth’s hotness, because Winslet has a hotness all of her own!