In Hollywood, Time is Unforgiving

In Hollywood, you have to look hot to get the hot leading roles; sorry Jack Black. Sorry Jonah Hill. Sorry John C. Reilly. Sorry Paul Giamatti.

And the next Batman is, envelope please: Ben Affleck. This is not current news, but it it does define the obvious. The sizzling roles (and the sizzling contracts) go to those with the cleft chin, the decisive eyebrows, the determined look, the chiseled nose. Ears, not too big, please.


It should be said that Hollywood is more forgiving of its leading men than, say, the National Football League or Major League Baseball. Athletes in those arenas rarely make it to their 40’s, and never much older. The latest big star to retire from MLB was Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, who turned 40 in July, a ripe old age for an infielder. Well, at least he still has his looks.

Still, makeup aside, dim lighting aside, inventive camera angles aside, it seems that many of the so-called big name matinee idols of today are getting just a bit chunkier, softer, slower, older.

The aging of the breed is pretty obvious when you line up the casts to some of the latest slow-motion action films, such as The Expendables One, Two or Three, which feature a who’s who of the bi-focal-wearing stars, such as Arnold Schwartzenegger, Sylvestor Stallone, and Bruce Willis, who also appears in the Red and Red 2, another celebration of aging action heroes.

What can you say? When two of Hollywood’s biggest attractions, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, star in a movie called The Bucket List, about their must-do-before-death laundry lists, then the jig is up. Time to roll up the sidewalks.

Actors, of course, do not retire as a rule, but there is a sizable group of male stars who were once the hottest of the hot, but are now more suited to the role of Alfred than they are the role of Bruce Wayne.

Here’s a list of some of biggest names who are aging warriors of the silver screen.

Bruce Willis – turned 59 in March. Now takes roles that mock his former status as an action star (although he was generally tongue in cheek about those roles, anyway).

Arnold Schwartzenegger – turned 67 in July. When he was 20, he was crowned Mr. Universe. He still looks tough, but it’s all downhill from here.

Sylvester Stallone – turned 68 this year. His breakout role in Rocky came out in 1967. The Rambo films debuted in 1982.

Mel Gibson – is now 58. He has many action roles to his credit, from Martin Riggs in the Lethal Weaponfilms to William Wallace in Braveheart.He also looks ageless, but time is pretty unforgiving. No exceptions.

Liam Neeson – Oddly, Neeson, now 61, was never much of an action hero until late in his career, as he took on the role of retired CIA officer Bryan Mills in the movie Taken in 2008. Now there is a Taken 2 and a Taken 3,which completes the trilogy. Neeson also squeezed in a role of Bill Marks in the action thriller Non-Stop, released this year.

Clint Eastwood – Mr. Macho himself is now 84. He literally bridges the gap between John Wayne (born in 1907) and today’s punks, like that wimp Schwartzenegger and that rag doll Stallone.

Steven Seagal – the French high kicker is 62 and a bit puffier than he was in the hard old days. Lately, he boasts a friendship with another bad ass: Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister.

Jeane-Claude Van Damme – The Belgium martial arts star is now 54. He could probably outrun a few of the actors listed previously, but all bets are off if Stallone or Schwartzenegger ever caught up with him.

Chuck Norris – otherwise known as Mr. Norris, sir, turned 74 this year. He also made the Expendables cut list – although his acting talents (or lack thereof) make him a kind of inside joke in the movie business. In a film called Dodgeball released in 2004, he played himself. Grrr. Tough guy.

Harrison Ford – born in 1942, Ford is now 72. Once a kind of modern era swashbuckler, a.k.a. Hans Solo, a.k.a. Indiana Jones, a.k.a. Jack Ryan, a.k.a. Rick Deckard, Ford has starred in more top-grossing films than anyone in history. But now he is interesting, whereas before he really made ’em swoon.

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