We’ve written a lot about ageism in Hollywood, but no matter how many times an actress in her twenties or thirties is told she’s too old to play the love interest of a much older male actor, I’m still shocked.
On The Howard Stern show yesterday, Olivia Wilde revealed what happened when she auditioned to play Leonardo DiCaprio’s wife in The Wolf of Wall Street:
The funniest thing I heard recently was I had heard for a part that I was too sophisticated. And I was like, Oh, that sounds nice. I like that feedback. I didn’t get the part, but I’m a very sophisticated person. And then I found out later that they actually said “old.” I want to make a translation sheet for Hollywood that’s all the feedback your agents give you and what it really means… I did not [have to audition for Vinyl], because I had auditioned unsuccessfully for Wolf of Wall Street — that’s the one I was too old for.
Wilde was 28 at the time she was deemed too old and decrepit to believably play Leo’s love interest. The part eventually went to Margot Robbie (likely 21 then, depending what time of year she was cast). DiCaprio was 37.
As our contributor A.J. McConnell explained last year after news broke that Maggie Gyllenhaal was considered too old at 37 to play the love interest of a 55-year-old-man, the trouble with an age gap between actors in movies isn’t that age gap relationships themselves are bad. Far from. Plenty of adults have excellent relationships with partners many years their senior or junior.
What’s disturbing is that Hollywood defaults to casting young women as the love interests to much older men, often without acknowledging that age difference in the movie. Since characters’ ages frequently aren’t specified, the implication is that all women need to look like they’re in their mid-twenties to be romantically viable, even when they’re paired with middle-aged male actors and therefore could conceivably be playing a character in that age range as well.
It would be another thing if Hollywood frequently did the reverse and paired female actors with male actors decades their junior, but that never happens unless the movie is focused around their May-December relationship. Actresses over 40 are rarely if ever cast as romantic leads, but Leonardo DiCaprio might conceivably be wooing twenty-something women on screen well into his AARP years.
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