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File:Hypatiainagora 5483.jpg

This is supposed to be a 65 year old.

In movies and television shows, an actress often tends to look younger than the age her character is supposed to be. When the character is middle-aged or older, this is a case of Hollywood Old. A character can be "supposed to be" a certain age in two ways: Either an age is stated outright in the story, or the character is a historical person.

Hollywood Old activates in three slightly different ways.

  1. The actress is far younger than the character is at any point in the story.
  2. The character starts out in an age bracket appropriate for the actress. However, as the years go by (or are skipped by time travel, whether in universe or in the meta sense) and the character ages, hardly anything is done to make the actress look older.
  3. The actress and the character are technically the same age, but the actress looks much younger because of Botox, plastic surgery et cetera. The character is a real woman who looked her age or a fictional character inhabiting a time, place, or economic situation in which such things aren't available.

When a Hollywood Old character has teenage or adult children, the age difference may become a Playing Gertrude.

Characters that are Older Than They Look should not be considered Hollywood Old, as long as the difference between looks and actual age is explained in one way or another. Improbable Age can be considered Hollywood Old when not justified in one way or another.

In itself, Hollywood Old isn't a gendered trope. However, like Hollywood Homely, Hollywood Old seems to be mostly restricted to actresses. Hollywood Old is the reverse of Dawson Casting, where a young character is played by an actor who both is and looks somewhat older than the character is supposed to be. See also Absurdly Youthful Mother. Compare Hollywood Thin and similar Hollywood Tropes. Compare White Dwarf Starlet to see what Hollywood reserves for actual old actresses. Contrast Age Lift, where a story is changed so that the character will fit a (usually male) actor's age.

Examples of Hollywood Old include:


  • Agora: Even in the first scenes, the character Hypatia ought to already be much older than the actress. By the end of the movie, the character was 60 or 65, while the actress still looked like 25 to 35.
    • Given various sources of her birthdate, Hypatia might be as young as 45. Rachel Weisz was 39. Also, the film took aesthetic license in liberal dosage, so Hypatia might even be canonically in her 30s in the movie.
  • Sara Dane: At the beginning of the movie, Sara is 18. The actress looks the part. However, the movie spans most of Sara's life, without the actress ever showing any signs of aging. Halfway through the movie, she has drifted into Hollywood Old territory. and at the end she even has children who look older than she does.
  • The Aviator: A classic type 2. Leonardo DiCaprio is right for only the first few scenes, then looks way too young during the rest of the movie. Makes it look as if everything accomplished by the middle-aged Howard Hughes was actually accomplished by a man still in his 20s.
  • In Superman Returns, Lois Lane was the mother of a 5-year-old and was experienced and established enough in her career to have won a Pulitzer Prize. She was played by then-22-year-old Kate Bosworth.
  • In one adaptation of A Christmas Carol, a then 34-year-old Albert Finney played elderly Scrooge. They do a pretty good job of making him look older, but Finney still looks significantly younger than Scrooges in other adaptations. Finney also played the young adult Scrooge (late teens/20s).
    • However, Scrooge may not be as old as most adaptations show him to be. He is usually played by actors in their late sixties (or made-up to look so), but if the woman Scrooge once courted had a teenager and an infant at the time when Jacob Marley died, which was seven years prior to the story's present, then Scrooge is probably somewhere around 50, maybe a few years older.
      • Anyway, Albert Finney did an excellent job of playing the mid-50s Hercule Poirot, when he himself was in his mid-30s, in Murder on the Orient Express. It took the help of some make-up, but Finney is a very good actor.
    • Likewise, in ACT's annual stage production, the laundress and charwoman, who are middle-aged, are often played by younger actresses. The late John Gilbert, the original Scrooge in the production, started playing the role at age 37.
  • Having Angela Lansbury, famous for playing a Little Old Lady Investigates on Murder, She Wrote, play Agatha Christie's elderly spinster detective Miss Marple in the film version of The Mirror Crack'd might seem like a very logical move. However, said film was made back in 1980, when Lansbury by her own admission was 20 years too young for the role.
  • In the Watchmen movie, Matthew Goode was about 27 or 28 when he was filmed as Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias. Although the character was supposed to be in his 40s in the story, he was also remarkably well-preserved. Veidt's age in the film is never given.
  • The characters in the flashforward in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 are type 2. Really? Nineteen years later? Really?
    • It wasn't that bad. Ron and Malfoy were very obviously balding and probably looked older than they were supposed to look as a result.
  • In The Sound of Music, a then-35-year-old Christopher Plummer played Captain Von Trapp, who was actually in his 50s at the time the movie was set.


  • In a rare non-visual case of Hollywood Old, all magic users in The Wheel of Time age at a slower rate upon reaching adulthood, to accommodate their longer lifespans. But as a side effect of an artifact used in their Initiation Ceremony, all Aes Sedai additionally develop a botox-like face they describe as feeling "stretched" and outsiders invariably describe as "ageless," making it impossible to tell if a gray-haired 150-year-old is 20 or 40. In an effect that might make even Hollywood actresses cringe, this also directly results in their careers being cut in half what more wrinkly people can manage.

Live Action TV

  • In one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Picard is reunited with a woman he dated 20 or so years ago. The woman looks like she's 25, as a result of 24th century medical science. Similarly, "The Survivors" features 67-year-old John Anderson playing 85-year-old Kevin Uxbridge and 55-year-old Anne Haney playing 82-year-old Rishon Uxbridge. The pilot has 67-year-old DeForest Kelley playing 137-year-old Admiral McCoy (although he does look pretty withered).
    • In the episode "The Pegasus", Terry O'Quinn plays Commander Riker's former CO, Admiral (formerly Captain) Pressman. Pressman is, presumably, 15-20 years older than Riker, but Terry O'Quinn, who plays Pressman, is barely a month older than Jonathan Frakes.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Girl in the Fireplace", (adult) Reinette looks exactly the same no matter what year she's shown in.
  • Lost: With all the flashbacks and flashforwards and time travel going on, the same character can be Hollywood Old and looking too young in the same episode. In later seasons this is sometimes averted by making the same character be played by different actresses (who look really similar but with a clear age difference) in different time periods. This series contain several cases of Playing Gertrude that are NOT also cases of Hollywood Old.
  • Happens a lot in the present-day scenes in Cold Case, particularly in episodes where the case in question took place before about 1960.
  • This is the 50-year-old King Henry VIII according to The Tudors. This is the 50-year-old Henry VIII according to Hans Holbein the Younger.