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Aging Women in Hollywood

By John Campea - May 13, 2005 - 11:29 America/Montreal

You know, none of us think twice about an aging Sean Conery as a lead in a film. We don’t blink at a 43 year old Russel Crowe, a 55 year old Samuel L. Jackon, a 58 year old Arnold Schwarzenegger, a 53 year old Liam Neeson, a 62 year old Robert De Niro, a 64 year old Al Pacino, a 68 year old Anthony Hopkins or even a 45 year old Sean Penn. Nor should we.

Actors get better with age. Same as with almost anything in life. Over years and years of practicing their craft, being in front of the camera, working with hundreds of other good actors… the good ones never stop improving.

But I was reading an interesting article today over at the United Press where actress Charlotte Rampling (who is currently at the Cannes Film Festival where the 59-year-old’s role in “Lemming” has made it a favorite to win a Palme d’Or) talked about the European film industry treats aging actresses much better then they do in Hollywood:

“Aging can be quite beautiful,” Rampling said of the wrinkles that come with time. “That’s no reason people should feel we should be put away. In Europe they have understood that, thank goodness.”

The actress who splits her time between London and Paris said Hollywood executives practice a form of racism when they sidestep veteran actresses for youthful leading ladies.

I looked at that and it struck me how true it is. Tons of films released today have leading men who are 45+. How many can you think of over the last 2 years had women leads over 45?

This sucks… forgive my language here…. but we (the movie going audience) are being deprived of the best actresses with the most experience who will give the best performances just because their tits aren’t as firm as they used to be?!?! That’s just stupid!

If all I want to see is a pretty face with a tight little body I can go download porn off the internet for free thank you very much. When I drop $13 bucks to see a film I want the best actresses for my money. Yes, sometimes that calls for younger ones… but the most interesting, influential and powerful women in the world are mostly over 45… so where are their stories? Why are non-age specific roles in films being given to 26 year old’s instead of 49 years olds when the MALE lead in the same movie is 54?

Take Julia Roberts for a moment. The lady has got a lot better as an actress over the last 6 or 7 years… she’s even got an Oscar. But guess what folks… in just over a year she’ll be 40. I guaran-damn-tee you that you will not see her in as many films in the next 5 years… and it won’t be because she has kids now. It’ll be because she’s over 40 and there are a new younger batch of Hollywood pretty faces producers and directors can choose from. How pathetic. We have to watch her in 100 movies when she’s just “OK” as an actress… but when she starts to get really good… BOOM… pack her up.

I know that this isn’t all the studios fault. The hungry marketing machine has 1 goal in mind… MAKE MONEY. unfortunately, Hollywood is only really responding to our (yes, that’s right… US) viewing habits. Hell, because of OUR demand Hollywood is putting Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton in movies while the great actresses (who would give us better performances and better movies) are getting the proverbial pat on the back and shipped of to Hollywood’s old age home.

We have been conditioned by the media to believe that unless a woman has a nice ass and a smooth face she has no value… and that shows in our movies these days. That’s really sad… and stupid.

Am I way off here? What can we do about this? Your thoughts?


  1. Lilly says:

    And not only does it show in the movies, but now it’s starting to show in our personal values. IE: botox, lipo, tummy tucks, facelifts, boob jobs… the list of affordable proceedures is endless today, and the girls in high schools are linging up along side my mother’s generation to “redo” themselves. It’s sad. And gross. Esp. the chicks who pay for ass impants to have a fat ass like J-Lo. Whatever happened to the old fashion method of eating like a horse at Buger King to get that kind of junk in the truck?

  2. Triflic says:

    I love Charlotte Rampling, and she is an excellent actress…

    It is undeniable that she was knock-out gorgeous in THE NIGHT PORTER (1975).

    /not really adding to the conversation.

  3. Luxury says:

    I love Charlotte Rampling, and she is an excellent actress
    I know that this isn’t all the studios fault. The hungry marketing machine has 1 goal in mind… MAKE MONEY.

  4. Donna says:

    The only way that the older actress can get work is the buying public need to change their mine. The only good thing. Is at lest the older actress can find some work in other countries. I know that is sad to loose such great actress. But America has become shallow.
    Donna A.

  5. sam says:

    i have to disagree and say that this young trend hasn’t come from our end. we didn’t demand it. studios put young actresses in their films and people go see these films. not because we necessarily can’t get enough of them, but because there’s nothing else. studios geared this trend, not us.

  6. Simon says:

    When Thomas Crown affair came out a few years ago, on dateline I believe, they had a report about the same thing, aging actresses and how it was diffrent with men.The report centered around the actress in that movie (getting a blank with her name) and how she is over 40 and did a topless scene.

  7. Simon says:

    thats it! Renee Rousso

  8. Arethusa says:

    I’m somewhere in the middle between you and Sam. I think it is undeniable that we are a society that values youth. I think it’s naive to deny that if you placed two quite similar movies, one with Scarlett Johansson as the lead, and the other with Lauren Bacall, and the bulk of the movie-going public would gravitate to the former and that her youth and physical attractiveness would be noticeable factor. Let’s not be silly, it’s not as if Hollywood woke up one day and began to flood the market with this trend, and we were caught in the storm. Trends don’t generally work like that.

    Of course it is also the fault of movie studios who have found a bankable formula, and conservatively stick with it, acting more like staid old corporations rather than art businesses. It’s all about the bottom line, no one really wants to do anything deemed risky. The media has gained such a prominent position in our lives, that it becomes more and more of a “chicken or the egg” argument as time goes on.

    I’m not entirely sure what we CAN do about it. For once I’m at a loss. ;) Unless society loses interest in such glaringly obvious marketing tactics, and films with older actresses are given better distribution here, it looks like we’re stuck.

  9. Arethusa says:

    Oh, and to correct Rampling, err older folks aren’t a race? I think “ageism” is the word she’s looking for. It’s not any kind of racism at all.

  10. Marla Singer says:

    what about sarah jessica parker getting dumped by GAP? she turned 40 and they replaced her with joss stone…ew
    i think sarah is beautiful and she did an awesome job with the GAP ads

  11. Lilly says:

    Arethusa, what can we do??? We can vote with out wallets, that’s what! And our brains, and our tastes and our intellect. That’s why blogs are such a great forum for this kind of debate. Someone out there from some studio or some producer could potentially be reading this and think a new trend is afoot, and he or she would be half right! We are talking about it, and that’s a great start. We suck at follow through, however. That’s the next plan of attack. Who’s with me on this?!

    And as for ageism, yes it’s not about race, but it’s till discrimination. Package it any way you want to, but a certain segment of our society is being marginalised and shelved long before their expiration date. That’s just wrong! That shouldn’t happen, nor should they be so powerless to stop it.

  12. Arethusa says:

    Well Lily, I already do vote with my wallet, so I’ve got that pat, but I was thinking in terms of more practical, influential means of getting the general public to take to it. Like I said, this trend is evasive in most of the media and our lives, it’s not just Hollywood. It’s also dicier in getting wide spread support for such things because movie tastes are mostly subjective.

    My comment on ageism was just a correction, I wasn’t disputing the point. :)

  13. m$m says:

    its really a soceital problem not a hollywood problem. Our soceity puts more value on lust rather than love for the individual female.

    I think its cause we exaggerate the theory that men mainly lust , women mainly love and theres nothing you can do to change that natural way of the world.

    Once more people start thinking older women hot ill bet youll start seeing more of em in movies.

  14. Christopher says:

    I was actually at the screening of Lemming at the Grand Lumiere the other night and I must say that there is a particular scenen in that film were Charlotte Rampling is more sensual than almost any other woman I’ve ever seen on the screen. Here seens truly made the film for me. She was absolutely stunning. It’s ashame older women aren’t more promenent as they seem are able to convey so much more than just a good ass.

  15. jodie says:

    i think that society constructs social roles, which people conform to. Hollywood is simply applying these social expectations in an attempt to satisfy the surrounding society. If they were to subvert from these roles, it may result in disapproval and rejection, a costly error for Hollywood, which they are not going to take.

  16. labtec says:

    I for one am growing weary seeing 20 year olds trying to play a part that should be for someone who has been around long enough to make the part they are playing believable. With all the technelogical advances in surgery, exercises, and make up, a woman can be absolutely stunning past 40.

    I can’t think of a 20 year old who would have been more sexy, or beautiful than Diane Lane in “Unfaithful”. Just a couple of others who are older than her are Elizabeth Shue, & Elizabeth Hurley. These women are gorgeous. A 20 year old boy would jump at the chance to have any one of these women on his arm.

  17. Liz says:

    Women in Hollywood have to be young, pretty and willing to bare it all. That’s because the vast majority of directors, producers and casting people are men. They write and direct movies using their fantasies. That’s why even though women are 52% of the population they only comprise 28% of acting roles. Male writers write movies with male leads. They throw women in there as eye candy for themselves. It’s disgusting! It doesn’t stop there though. Men are also given all the credit. If you look at any movie summary or the info on a show or movie on tv you’ll see the description is centered around the male character AND most of the time it only lists the male characters too.

  18. labtec says:

    Here are more reasons that mature women are more desirable than school girls. I read in a medical oriented magazine that men reach their sexual peak at age 17. It’s hard to believe it’s all down hill from then on, but that’s what the experts say. Women, on the other hand reach their sexual peak at between 35 and 40 years old. Add to that fact, that a world of experience, and practice comes along with that 40 years.

    Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer, Goldie Hawn, Jessica Lange, Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Demi Moore, & others are all 40, or over, and are still heart breakers. These actresses could all play “The other woman” in a movie, and be a lot more believable than a Paris Hilton, or Jessica Simpson, because the knowledge they have gained both on the movie set, and in the bedroom over those 40 years count for a lot.

    What would Paris, or Jessica really know about it, other than get “nekid” and lay there.

  19. Janet S. Tiger says:

    I agree - I miss seeing actresses who have ‘aged’ (don’t forget Sally Field, in spite of Gidget and Flying Nun fame, she did some very fine work - as good as Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon) But there are a lot of post-40 actresses working in the theater - and a lot of great roles for them.

    Maybe I’m prejudiced because I write plays and have many friends who also write, so I know there are roles out there. My question is - are these actresses we haven’t seen recently ready to take a chance on new work by unknown writers? If they were, I think you’d see a lot of them working in some incredible shows. If anyone on this blog knows some of these actresses, ask them - Do they look for unknown stuff? And not through the regular channels. Do they travel the country on a search for a new writer hiding in Dubuque, Iowa? Or look at the new plays at not only the Humana Festival, but maybe some little ones, like the Fritz Blitz of New Plays in San Diego?

    I think that there is a wealth of material (maybe not all of mine, but maybe some of mine!) and I challenge them to put up some kind of real

    search before they all come out with the line, ‘There’s nothing out there for actresses over 40.’