In 1967, Anne Bancroft was 36 when she played the role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate. Her character would become synonymous with “predatory old sex fiend” forever. It was the story of a mother who seduces her college-aged daughter’s boyfriend. The boyfriend was played by Dustin Hoffman. He was six years younger than Bancroft.
Six years younger.
It’s almost 50 years later, and the age disparity in casting hasn’t improved much, as evidenced by an anecdote 37-year-old Maggie Gyllenhaal told The Wrap in a recent interview. The actress claims she was recently told by a Hollywood producer she was “too old” to play the love interest of a 55-year-old man.
“There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time,” she said in the interview. “I’m 37 and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad, and then it made me feel angry, and then it made me laugh.”
Of course she’s laughing — to keep from crying. There’s nothing funny about being told you’re too old to play the love interest of someone almost 20 years your senior. Go home, Hollywood. You’re drunk.
Sally Field played Tom Hanks’ love interest in the 1988 film, Punchline. In “real life” Field was 10 years his senior. Six years later, Field was cast as Hanks’ mother in Forrest Gump. There are too many examples of this type of casting nonsense to count. And on the flip side, leading men age while their love interests do not. Look at these in-real-life comparisons of the ages of some famous actors and their love interests: Denzel Washington’s love interest in the 1990 movie Mo Better Blues was 28. 22 years later, in Flight, his love interest was 35. Tom Cruise’s love interest in the 1988 movie Risky Business was 23. 30 years later, in Oblivion, his love interest was 33. That would never happen to an actress. Never. Men just don’t age-out of romantic relationships like women do. They are eternally fuckable. After a certain age, women, on the other hand go “mom” and never come back. (By the way, moms still have sex, Hollywood. Imagine that!)
Last year, Esquire writer Tom Junod wrote an article entitled, “In Praise Of The 42-year-Old Woman.” In it, he basically praises women in their 40’s for managing to still look like they’re in their 30’s – specifically actresses like Cameron Diaz and Sofia Vergara, who’ve all but defied aging. He hypothesizes that a casting situation akin to The Graduate could never happen today: “simply imagine The Graduate remade today, with Cameron Diaz in the part made famous by Anne Bancroft. Or Sofia Vergara… Or any of the forty-two-year-old women now gracing our culture… In the right hands, it would be funny; but even in the wrong hands it couldn’t get away with what Mike Nichols and Dustin Hoffman got away with: a movie that turned on the hero’s disgust with himself for having an affair with a forty-two-year-old woman.”
Um, Hoffman wasn’t disgusted that he was having an affair with a 42-year-old woman, he was disgusted that the woman was his fiancé’s mother. And herein lies the rub: Hollywood is controlled by men, and some men just absolutely do not equate aging women with sex. And that is dumb — especially when those aging women are 37 years old.