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Hollywood Old

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"Hamlet's mother will not be played by a woman who could have gone to high school with the actor playing Hamlet."

In movies and television shows, an actor often tends to look younger than the age their 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 actor 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 actor. 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 actor look older.
  3. The actor and the character are technically the same age, but the actor looks much younger because of Botox, plastic surgery, etc. The character is a real person who looked their age or a fictional character inhabiting a time, place, or economic situation in which such things aren't available.

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 gets disproportionately applied to actresses, probably because of Hollywood Beauty Standards. 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.


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    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Dan in Real Life, 24-year-old Emily Blunt plays Ruthie Draper, who's supposed to be 40-ish. (Her age is never specified. She went to high school with Mitch and Dan, whose ages are also not stated, but Dan has a 17-year-old daughter and is played by Steve Carell, so it is safe to say that the characters are at least in their 40s.) Ruthie has had a lot of plastic surgery, herself being a plastic surgeon.
  • 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.
  • Old is about people that undergo Rapid Aging. The children change their actors. The adults enter type 2 of this trope, given there's barely any attempt at making them look older. As a result, Prisca tells Guy that he has noticeable wrinkles when there aren't any visible on his face, the ageing effects are of different speeds and much more variable, and it's mainly noticeable once the characters' hair goes gray that they're supposed to be elderly.
  • 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. Especially jarring as she was meant to be the same character played by Margot Kidder (32 at the time) with over five years more added since the events of Superman II.
  • Harley Quinn was played by 25-year-old actress Margot Robbie in Suicide Squad. At that point in the timeline, she had to be at least 35, as her crime career didn't start until after she received her MD (at 26), and backup commentary said she had been with Joker for 10 years (supported by extensive rap sheet). Likewise, Enchantress was played by 23-year-old Cara Delevingne, even though it's shown that her host body was of an archaeologist who is referred to as "Doctor", something that implies over a decade of studies.
  • In Scrooge (1970), 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 of A Christmas Carol. 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.
      • Speaking of Belle, in the 1951 and 1984 films, both her past and present ages were played by the same actresses.
      • 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.
  • Speaking of Miss Lansbury, while their ages are not given in the film, she played Lawrence Harvey's mother in the 1962 adaptation of The Manchurian Candidate despite being only three years his senior.
  • In the Watchmen movie, Matthew Goode was about 27 or 28 when he was filmed as 45/46-year-old Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias. Possibly justified, as Veidt's age in the film is never given, Ozymandias has appearances in flashbacks two decades prior, and he's meant to be preternaturally youthful-looking anyway.
  • The main trio at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. It's supposed to be 19 years later (putting them in their late thirties), but Harry and Ron only look slightly older and Hermione hasn't aged at all. Ginny does look somewhat convincing though. Ironically, this scene was reshot, as the original version made the actors looked "too old"!
  • 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.
  • Guy Pearce appears with a quite unconvincing makeup job to play the very aged Peter Weyland in Prometheus. Footage of Weyland as a young man had been shot but was cut from the film and only appears on its website. The younger Weyland does eventually appear in the Distant Prologue of Alien: Covenant.
  • In Queen of the Damned, forty-year-old Paul McGann plays David Talbot, a character who's supposed to be quite old. At one point he says he's "too old to live forever" and it comes across a bit strangely, particularly if you know the line was written for someone who's actually old.
  • In The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, 36-year-old Luke Garroway is played by 29-year-old Aidan Turner.
  • In the film adaptation of Les Misérables (2012), 44-year-old Hugh Jackman plays the much older Jean Valjean.
  • In Star Trek (2009), Winona Ryder was cast as Spock's mother Amanda, who would first appear in a scene of his birth, and then wear old age makeup for the rest of her screentime. Then the birth scene was cut, giving the impression that a younger actress was cast for no reason.
  • In Le destin fabuleux de Désirée Clary, Gaby Morlay is initially much older than the titular Désirée, as she was 48 and convincingly played a woman in her late twenties/early thirties. However, flash-forward later to the last scene of the film, set in 1840 when Désirée was 63 and she still looks exactly the same, even though her husband shows very clear signs of the passage of time.
  • Happens by retcon with Moira MacTaggert in the X-Men films. If you accept that X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: First Class are both set in the same timeline, and that Moira is the same character in both films, Moira would be nearly as old as Xavier in X3 (Patrick Stewart was 66 at the time). Moira, however, was played by then-38 Olivia Williams in X3, while then-32-year-old Rose Byrne portrayed her in First Class. Williams does look a bit older than just the 5-6 year gap between herself and Byrne, but nowhere near the 60+ she ought to be to match Xavier.
    • Two decades pass between X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Apocalypse, and none of the characters appear to have aged a day, even though at that point Charles and Erik should be in their fifties.
    • This is handwaved in First Class regarding Raven and Hank, as Hank states her shape-shifting abilities provide her with extended youth, and she'll age much slower than the others (in order to excuse the fact she's depicted here as Xavier's age, where the prior films she was portrayed by Rebecca Romijn, who was in her late twenties during the original trilogy). Hank reverse-engineers this in order to make his (failed) mutant suppression serum, which transforms him into his Beast-like mutated form. As a result, it's assumed he gained her extended youth as well. Furthermore, given that mutants were, during First Class, still a newly discovered phenomena that they were only just beginning to understand, its possible that Hank's discovery of Raven's mutation-born extended youth isn't unique to her and may be a trait common among mutants (supported by the fact Wolverine as well explicitly doesn't age until the events of The Wolverine weakened his powers, and the same applies to Sebastian Shaw in First Class as well), which would explain this away for Erik and Charles as well...though it still raises the question as to why Moira MacTaggert didn't age during the 20 year gap between First Class and Apocalypse either.
    • Happens again in Dark Phoenix, which is set in 1992, 9 years after Apocalypse. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy were 41 and 39, yet not only Magneto and Xavier are supposed to be in their sixties, but they should in less than a decade look like Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, so maybe Magneto and Charles's ages caught up with them at an impressive rate.
  • Martha Kent in Man of Steel would have to be pushing 60 in the present timeline, but is played by 46-year-old Diane Lane. Justified in that she plays the character across a 20-year timeline. Kevin Costner meanwhile, was a good 10 years older than both her and his character John Kent when he dies in a flashback. Again somewhat justified as Kevin Costner is playing a farmer, so he can get away with looking older than his character's age.
  • The 1992 Steve Martin/Goldie Hawn comedy Housesitter has the then 46-year-old Martin and 35-year-old Dana Delaney play characters who had been high school sweethearts (and explicitly in the same grade even.) While no onscreen ages are given and it is fair to say Martin has a certain ageless quality he still looked a lot older than Delaney. The same film had Donald Moffet play Martin's father with only a 15 year age gap between the two actors.
  • Parodied in The Lovely Bones where Grandma Lynn insists she's thirty-five (despite having two teenaged granddaughters). She's played Susan Sarandon, who was in her 60s at the time.
  • Christopher Lloyd (born in 1938) was 47-years-old when he played Doc Brown in the original Back to the Future (1985). During the portion of the movie when Marty time travels back to 1955, Doc is in his forties too. But during the scenes set in the present year of 1985, Doc is in his seventies — though as with Albert Finney mentioned above, Lloyd is aged up rather convincingly. Back to the Future Part II forgoes the old age makeup for Doc, since in the sequels Lloyd is predominately playing the 1985 Doc in his seventies, rather than the 1955 Doc in his forties as he did in the first movie. Rather than having Lloyd wear old age makeup for the majority of his screen time in the sequels, Doc mentions that he underwent a rejuvenating procedure (and got his spleen and colon replaced to boot), which he demonstrates by removing his old age makeup to reveal that he now looks identical to how he looked in 1955, aside from the hair.
  • In The Greatest Showman Charity and Barnum have loved each other since childhood. The child actors were close in age but, Charity's adult counterpart Michelle Williams is 12 years younger than Barnum's Hugh Jackman.
  • Strangely inverted in The Mummy (2017). Russell Crowe identifies Tom Cruise as a "younger man" - apropos, considering he's on active duty in the military. Cruise is two years older than Crowe.
  • Although unstated in the film, Qui-Gon Jinn is supposed to be sixty years old in The Phantom Menace, but was played by then 47-year-old Liam Neeson, who doesn't look anywhere near sixty in the movie. Perhaps because of this, the rebooted Expanded Universe changes his age to forty-eight.
  • Actively defied by the makers of Book Club; an interview says that they were advised to cast younger "older" women. They ignored this advice and gave the four leads to Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen — all 60+, with Fonda in her early eighties and Keaton and Bergen also 70+.
  • Jupiter Ascending shows Kalique before the youth-restoring tonic with a bit of grey hair and wrinkles, and Jupiter guesses her age as "late forties". Tuppence Middleton was in her mid-20s and looked like a young woman wearing older age make-up.
  • Queen Ramonda of Black Panther (2018) has white hair to indicate that she's old. Her actress Angela Bassett was fifty-nine and did not look old enough to have such white hair.
  • The film of Easy Virtue treats Larita almost as an Old Maid, by giving Jessica Biel crows' feet in some scenes. She is several months younger than Ben Barnes - who plays her boy toy of a husband.
  • Jennifer Lawrence in every movie David O Russell has directed her in.
    • Silver Linings Playbook - she's the love interest of the 37-year-old Bradley Cooper and has been married for years, also having spent time in a mental hospital. She was twenty-one at the time. Anne Hathaway was the original choice for Tiffany - late twenties at the time - making it slightly more reasonable.
    • American Hustle - she was twenty-three playing a bitter housewife with an 8-year-old son. Rosalyn's real life counterpart was in her forties when the ABSCAM scandal took place.
    • Joy (2015) - Joy Mangano didn't start inventing or becoming a businesswoman until she was thirty. Jennifer was twenty-five.
  • The film version of Hello, Dolly! was criticised for casting the twenty-five-year-old Barbra Streisand as Dolly Levi. In the original stage version, she was played by Carol Channing, who was fifty.
  • A male version in Hidden Figures. The astronaut John Glenn was in his forties at the time the film takes place. They cast Glen Powell - who was twenty-seven. And they even show pictures of the real man in the end credits.
  • In the original 1934 version of Imitation of Life, Louise Beavers played the mother to Fredi Washington - who was only two years her junior. True to the trope's form, Louise played the role when her daughter is a child and continued to do so after a Time Skip. Her more matronly frame made the casting believable, as well as Fredi Washington not looking thirty at the time - Peola is meant to be eighteen.
  • Florence Foster Jenkins - the real Florence was ten years Meryl Streep's senior. Meryl had her costumes padded.
  • The Lord of the Rings - Aragorn, who is age 87, is played by 43-year old Viggo Mortensen. Justifed because his particular race of men in Middle-Earth have very long lifespans.
  • Based on the amount of time that passed between her her solo movie and Avengers: Endgame, Carol Danvers should be in her 50s, yet she is played by Brie Larson, who was 27/28 at the time of filming. Fans largely Hand Waved this as her natural aging being delayed as a side effect of her exposure to the Tesseract.
  • Inverted hard in Kenneth Branagh's All is True, in which octogenarians Judi Dench and Ian McKellen play Anne Hathaway (who was about 60 at the time the film is set) and the Earl of Southampton (around 40 when the film is set, and famous for being the "Fair Youth" of the Sonnets), respectively.
  • In Exodus (1960), Barak Ben Canaan and his brother Akiva are both played by actors in their fifties (albeit both David Opatoshu and Lee J. Cobb were well-known for being Younger Than They Look). Their age in the film is never explicitly stated. In the book, Barak was eighty and Akiva two years younger.
  • Meryl Streep almost wasn't cast in The Bridges of Madison County because the studio said - at 44 - she was too old to play the love interest of Clint Eastwood. The latter was in his sixties at the time.
  • The Alfred Hitchcock film Marnie plays with this. Louise Latham was only about nine years older playing the mother of Tippi Hedren. This was for the sake of appearing in a flashback sequence to Marnie's childhood. However the old age make-up she wore for the present day scenes was so convincing that when she appeared without it for the flashbacks, the crew thought it was a different actress!
  • Speaking of Tippi Hedren, she was considered a bit too old to be a Hollywood leading lady when she was cast as Melanie Daniels in The Birds (she was thirty-one). The studio publicity department gave her a false birthdate to change her age to twenty-eight.
  • Eve Arden hid her birth date for most of her career in an attempt to avoid falling into this trope. It wasn't until she died that her tombstone confirmed she was eighty-two; born in 1908 and therefore already in her thirties by the time she got a breakout in Hollywood.
  • Margaret Hamilton was Younger Than They Look and so got cast to play old spinsters and other elderly roles in Hollywood. Her most famous role in The Wizard of Oz was filmed when she was only mid-thirties. Lines from Auntie Em in the Kansas portions suggest that she's playing someone much older than her real age.
  • In the stage version of Cats, Grizabella is meant to be an old cat who is long past her glamorous prime. Her song "Memory" is in fact about her Glory Days. The 2019 film adaptation casts 37 year old Jennifer Hudson.
  • In the Irish film Mr Peterson, Karl Flood is playing a father of Bonnie and Robbie, whose ages aren't stated but they are nineteen at the youngest (Robbie is said to be nineteen in the script). Upon meeting him on set, the actor playing his son said "wow, you're way too young to play my dad". You could Hand Wave it by saying that Bob Clyde was a young father, as he does share a house with his sister (who outright says "this is my house") - who is at least ten years older.
  • In Valley of the Dolls:
    • Susan Hayward had to bleach her hair to be grey for the scene in which Helen Lawson is revealed to be wearing a wig. The role was originally to be played by Judy Garland, who was similarly too young to have grey hair.
    • In-universe example, where Neely is replaced with a younger actress after she's fired for her drug problems. She's only 28.
  • Moonstruck: Nicolas Cage was 23 at the time of the film's release, yet his love interest is 37 (played by then-42 Cher), and his older brother is 42 (played by 54-year-old Danny Aiello). Although Cage's character's age is never mentioned in the film, it seems to be trying to pass him off as being in his 30s, as there's never a hint of any substantial age gap between himself and either Cher's character or his brother, and Cage had a mature enough appearance to pull it off.
  • Selena: Selena's mother Marcela Quintanilla is portrayed by Constance Marie, both in Selena's childhood and adulthood. Marie is only four years older than Jennifer Lopez, who plays Selena as an adult, and Marie was only given a short wig and glasses for Selena's adulthood.
  • The Sunshine Boys: The film stars George Burns and Walter Matthau as an elderly, retired former comedy duo. Burns was actually in his late 70s at the time, but Matthau was only in his mid-50s.
  • What's Love Got to Do with It (1993): Ike and Tina Turner are portrayed by 32-year-old Laurence Fishburne and 35-year-old Angela Bassett, from the late 1950s all the way until 1983. Other than hairstyle and wardrobe changes, neither Ike nor Tina change at all as they age despite Tina being 44 and Ike being 52 by the end. Their grown sons look more or less the same age as the parents.

  • In-universe in Nighttime Is My Time, this came up in a conversation between Alison and Laura about a potential role in an upcoming sit-com; Alison said they might be looking for a younger actress for the role in question, only for Laura to argue that she's only thirty-eight and that the character has a twelve year old daughter, plus she can pass for younger.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A.N.T. Farm has a principal who is supposed to be horrifically old. She is played by a 50-year-old woman.
  • In Arrow, John Barrowman and Colin Donnell play father and son Malcom and Tommy Merlyn, when in reality they are only 14 years apart in age.
  • Happens a lot in the present-day scenes in Cold Case, particularly in episodes where the case in question took place before about 1960. "Family 8108" has a particularly noticeable example, where a couple who already had teenage children in the 1940s looked no older in present-day scenes than said children's contemporaries (who accurately appeared to be in their seventies.)
  • Doctor Who:
    • William Hartnell himself was in his late fifties but playing a character who was the equivalent of at least seventy in human terms. In the 50th anniversary special An Adventure in Space and Time about the early years of the show, Hartnell is played by 71-year-old David Bradley, who's a perfect fit.
    • Of course, the Doctor is said to have been at least 450 years old at the time Hartnell played the character, and this would, therefore, apply to every actor who played the role after, especially Peter Capaldi, who as of the end of Series 9 in 2015 was now playing a character who is at least 4.5 billion years old. But the physical age of the body he has at any given time is relevant to this trope in the usual way. Hartnell's Doctor, for example, reacted to physical stress in a manner commensurate with his apparent age, which was not true of successors whose physical bodies corresponded to that of a younger man.
    • In "The Girl in the Fireplace", adult Reinette looks exactly the same no matter what year she's shown in.
    • In season seven, a big deal is made out of the Ponds moving on with their lives and aging every time the Doctor comes back to see them (they mention having traveled with the Doctor for 10 years and in their last appearance, Amy now needs reading glasses). The problem with that second bit? Not one bit of effort is made to make Arthur Darvill and Karen Gillan look like anything other than extremely attractive people in their early thirties. Although considering Amy was maybe nineteen in her first episode and about twenty-one during the rest of series five, "early thirties" arguably is them aging and moving on with their lives.
  • In-universe example in Feud - in which studio execs want to cast young actresses in the film version of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. Ironically this didn't happen in reality - as the entire gimmick around the film was that leading ladies from the 1930s and 40s would star as has-beens.
  • Forever: Abigail Morgan is played by Mac Kenzie Mauzy in flashbacks from 1945 to the Vietnam War era, with only changes in clothes and hairstyles to show the passage of time. Averted when the age-appropriate Janet Zarish played the role in 1982 and 1985 flashbacks.
  • Full House - Danny Tanner, played by 29-year-old Bob Saget, is a widower with a successful career in TV journalism, an 11-year old daughter, who also financially supports his brother-in-law and best friend.
  • House of the Dragon: Two notable examples are Alicent Hightower and Rhaenyra Targaryen who start as 14-15 years old played by the then 18 years old Emily Carey and 20 years old Milly Alcock. After the 10 years time jump that takes place in episode 6, the two actresses are replaced by Olivia Cooke and Emma D'Arcy, both of them matching the age of the characters, who are 29-30 years old. This trope starts to apply to Alicent and Rhaenyra beginning with episode 8 which takes place after another 6 years time jump.
    • Daemon Targaryen is an odd example. He is around 30 in the pilot, played by the then 37 years old Math Smith. After approximately 2 decades In-Universe, he is 50 years old and a decade older than Math Smith.
      • It should be noted that the show is planned to run for approx. 4 seasons with only 2-3 years passing In-Universe without any other major time jump. With the latest trend of big shows getting filmed usually at every 2 years, every actor who is in this situation will catch up with the age of the characters in time.
  • In Jesus of Nazareth, Olivia Hussey plays the Blessed Virgin Mary, who appears to remain the same age throughout the miniseries, until after The Crucifixion.
  • In The Last Kingdom, Queen Aelswith's character is supposed to be a middle-aged woman in her early-to-mid 40s and 50s throughout most of the show, and was the mother of Prince (and later King) Edward, who was supposed to be in his mid-to-late 20s and 30s. The actress who played her character, Eliza Butterworth, was actually only between 21 and 28 years old during the show's run. This trope was exaggerated even more with the fact that her character was slightly aged up for each season she played in until her character's death in the final season.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit introduced the character of Sheila Porter, the biological grandmother of Lieutenant Benson's adopted son Noah. Said character is played by Brooke Shields, who is a year younger than Mariska Hargitay. Noah's biological mother was intended to be young enough for it to not be implausible for Shields to play her mother, only for Shields's character to be as old as she apparently was when having her.
  • In Legends of Tomorrow, Agent Smith doesn't look a day older in the episode "Phone Home", despite it taking place 37 years after his younger self was first shown in "Invasion". Also, Young!Stein looks the same at 42 as he does as a college student.
  • 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.
  • In Luke Cage (2016), 42-year-old Mahershala Ali is portrayed as just a slightly younger contemporary of 63-year-old Alfre Woodard and 67-year-old Frankie Faison. This gets especially funny when his character appears as a teenager in a series of flashbacks to before Ali was even born.
  • Edie McClurg played a woman going to her 30-year high school reunion in an episode of Mr. Belvedere. In the episode, she looked like she could be in her 40s while everyone else at the reunion looked like they could be in their 50s or 60s.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • A strange case with Lana Parilla as Regina the Evil Queen from Snow White. She's only a year older than Ginnifer Goodwin - who plays Snow White. While it's justifiable that Regina's relatively young since she's the stepmother and her backstory episode pretty much says she was a Trophy Wife, child actress Bailey Madison plays Snow in the episode that depicts them meeting, where teenaged Regina is still played by Parilla. And ironically the show eliminates the 'wish to remain young and beautiful' aspect from the character.note 
    • Inverted where Barbara Hershey plays Regina's mother Cora in her sixties. Her younger self is played by Rose McGowan - who was forty (but didn't look it). It's not said how young Cora is in those flashbacks, but one of them revolves around her being Defiled Forever after being tricked into sleeping with a scoundrel (conceiving Regina's older half-sister Zelena, who became the Wicked Witch of the West) - suggesting she's in her twenties and thus wouldn't be married yet.
    • While It Makes Sense in Context for mother and daughter Snow (the aforementioned Ginnifer Goodwin) and Emma (Jennifer Morrison) to be the same age given that the former spent 28 years in a cursed town where no one aged, around Season 4 they started dressing Ginnifer Goodwin down in an attempt to make her look older so she could come across as a more maternal figure.
    • The Blue Fairy's counterpart in Storybrooke is the Mother Superior of the nuns. In most traditions, a Mother Superior has to be at least forty, and her actress Keegan Connor Tracy was only mid-thirties. Of course A Wizard Did It, so we can't expect Regina to be completely accurate when creating her curse.
    • Caroline Morahan as Queen Elinor from Brave probably would have been the right age if the show took place in the same timeframe as the film. But it's at least ten years later, with Merida being a grown woman ready to ascend the throne of DunBroch. Charitably, you could say that Amy Manson (who was 29) is playing Merida a few years younger, and Elinor may have been a young mother.
    • Victoria Smurfitt joked that she saw Cruella De Vil as a Dirty Old Woman and played her as such, despite her only being in her forties when she played her (and the flashback establishing Cruella's backstory treats her as a young woman).
  • The Other Two: Parodied, late-20s Cary is considered "perfect" for the role of an elderly teacher with dementia on a Riverdale spinoff.
  • Outlander had a twenty year Time Skip between seasons two and three, but aside from any children, no Time-Shifted Actor's where used. In that time Jamie gained a pair of reading glasses and Clair a few virtually unnoticeable unless called attention to, grey hairs but other than that they and everyone else looked exactly the same. This came with some very heavy lampshading.
  • Slasher: The Executioner: Assuming that the events take place in 2016, Sarah is supposed to be 28 years old, but her grandmother Brenda (who should be pushing 80) is played by an actress who would be far more convincing as her mother (who is already dead within the show's Present Day storyline) or aunt, as Wendy Crewson was barely 60 while filming and she looked even younger.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • "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 (that said, the Uxbridge's given ages might be false because Kevin is really a powerful energy being and Rishon is an illusion; at any rate, humans are shown to live longer in the Star Trek universe, so being in your eighties in the 24th century could well be the equivalent of being in your sixties in the present day).
    • The pilot episode, "Encounter At Farpoint", 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.
    • Captain Picard himself was consistently described in the original series bible as a man of about mid-fifties in age. This age was given precisely so that he would not be an Action Hero type captain, and would, therefore, act like a real starship captain relegating all of the action stuff to a younger first officer (in an attempt to address a common criticism of the original series depiction of Captain Kirk). The Star Trek Encyclopedia by Mike Okuda gives Picard's birth year as 2206. Being that the first TNG episode is set in 2363 or 2364 means that Picard is about 12 years older than Patrick Stewart was at the time he began playing the role. Stewart was only 47 at the time but Picard started at about age 58. The Star Trek Universe has already established that humans remain in their prime a bit longer. Of course, given that Patrick Stewart looks almost exactly the same over two decades later, it was probably appropriate that he be aged up a bit.
    • The episode "Too Short a Season" centers around the 86-year-old Admiral Jameson, who uses alien technology to reverse his age. He's played throughout the episode by 27-year-old Clayton Rohner, wearing extremely obvious makeup in the early scenes.
    • In "Half A Life", David Ogden Stiers was 48 at the time he portrayed Dr. Timicin, who is just shy of 60. His bald and bearded look helps him look older than he is (though perhaps not quite as old as the character he's playing). Given we don't see any other Kaelons his age, nor know the age of any other Kaelons who do appear, it's theoretically possible Kaelons actually age slower than humans, though there's no indication given of this in the episode. It's also mentioned in dialog that Timicin is especially virile for his age, so he might naturally come off as younger than he really is. This works out really well narratively, as it contrasts with Timicin's descriptions of the elderly all being invalids and makes it seem all the more absurd that he's expected to commit ritual suicide.
  • Strangers with Candy focuses on the 46 year old Jerri Blank played by 38 year old Amy Sedaris. A combination of makeup, hairstyling and unflattering facial mannerisms was used to make her look much older. In the series finale, Jerri gets a makeover which shows how young Sedaris really looked back then.
  • 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.
    • Charles Brandon is this trope in spades. You'd never guess that Henry Cavill is supposed to be portraying a sixty-year old man during the war scenes in France. He looks young and fit until he's inexplicably given wrinkles and graying hair in the final episode.
  • Discussed by Bree, an actress in her 40s, on Reboot (2022). She protests the idea of giving her onscreen son a child because if she plays a grandma on TV, Hollywood will start seeing her as elderly and it will be the death knell for her career.
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody parodies this with the twins' mother Carey. Her actress Kim Rhodes was in her mid-thirties, which is a reasonable age to the mother of preteens (although she looked a few years younger). The twins however would constantly joke about her being old, to her annoyance. The dissonance is clearly meant to be intentional - and in an episode where they plan to make a sitcom about the twins, they cast a twenty-two year old to play the mother (who insists she's "played old" before).
  • The Suite Life on Deck has Ms. Emma Tutweiler. She is supposed to be a caricature of an old maid, worrying about being single, living with her cats, and one character remarks that she aged since high school in a very tactless fashion. This seems understandable and relatively bearable for a kids show. Except for the fact that she is played by this actress (see Erin Cardillo and for the costume, it doesn't change anything). This is part of the joke for her.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "The Convict's Piano", the 62-year-old Norman Fell plays Eddie O'Hara, an old convict who has been in prison for 58 years because he was framed for murder when he was at least in his 20s.
  • Victoria cast 40-something Rufus Sewell as 60-something Lord Melbourne, the better to make an implied romance between Melbourne and 19-year-old Queen Victoria a little more palatable.
  • In The Witcher (2019), Jaskier is a mortal man who travels on and off for over two decades with Geralt and Yennifer, who both age extremely slowly due to magic. He also does not age perceptibly across this time period, despite a mention of having supposed developed crow's feet, enhancing the confusion of the first season's Anachronic Order.
  • Lampshaded in Wizards of Waverly Place, when addressing the eldest son and daughter's misconceptions about age. Thirty-five doesn't equal middle age. The scene is really cathartic in a form of media which generally displays sexism and ageism in order to pander to a younger audience.

  • Eric Lambert ("MC Moisha") and Joe Stone ("Easy Irving") of 2 Live Jews (a comedic hip-hop act in The '90s) were indeed Jewish, but much younger than their Alter Kocker personas.
  • Eminem has fun with a grouchy old man persona on his album Kamikaze, but — as he points out in the later "Killshot" single — he's only 45, and still outselling much Younger and Hipper stars. Not the faded coot implied by the imagery in lyrics like "my dick is the hair length of Cher, each nut is the size of an Acorn stairlift".

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In The New '10s, when the annual Hall of Fame inductions came around, it became increasingly suspicious at how much younger the female inductees were compared to the men. The initial women inducted into the Hall of Fame were The Fabulous Moolah, Sherri Martel, Mae Young and Wendi Richter - who were indeed older, and the younger two (Wendi and Sherri) were in their late forties and had been retired for nearly two decades. The next inductees Sunny, Trish Stratus and Lita were much younger (their late thirties in fact) and, given Sunny's status as Ms. Fanservice when she was in WWE, may have been sending mixed messages. Beth Phoenix and the Bella Twins' inductions came as a shock both because of their youth (Beth at 36 was the youngest inductee, beating Trish's record when she went in) and how soon the inductions came after their retirements - Trish, Lita and Sunny had been gone from wrestling altogether for nearly a decade, whereas Beth and the Bellas had only a couple of years out of the company and were the same age as some of the women still wrestling actively in it. Of the other female inductees - Ivory and Jacqueline were in their mid-fifties while Torrie Wilson, Molly Holly and Stacy Keibler were all 43 when they were inducted.
  • The angle of the veteran returning to work a program with a newer wrestler can sometimes fall into this, depending on the age of the veteran. As many wrestlers get into the business young (during their teen years is quite common), some retire in their thirties. Thus if they make a comeback, the storyline can sometimes treat them as if they are much older than they actually are.
  • Katey Harvey was involved in a few Older Hero Versus Younger Villain storylines when she was only in her late twenties.
  • Mickie James highlighted the double standard in her second run with WWE, where she was treated like she was "too old" and pressured to retire even though she was only 41 during her second release. For comparison - when Edge returned in 2020 at 46, he enjoyed a main event push and Royal Rumble win during his return. Mickie never held a title in her second run nor was she pushed in any meaningful way. She mostly just did jobs for younger women.
  • In the 2000s and early 2010s, the WWE Divas were likely to be released once they hit their early thirties, and the few who stayed on at that age were often de-pushed. For example, Ivory was signed when she was 37 and kept with the company until she was 43, but she was more or less Demoted to Extra after the end of the Attitude Era. Victoria is another example, as she was signed at 29 and kept on until she was 38, but was working solely as a Jobber during her last few years in the company. As of the mid-2010s, WWE hires actual women wrestlers instead of eye-candy models as in-ring talent, and since it takes several years to become experienced enough to wrestle for a major promotion, many of the modern women wrestlers on WWE's roster are in their thirties, sometimes upon being signed. Though this trope still seems to apply in cases when they get closer to 40 (see Mickie James above).

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy X - Tidus frequently jokes about Auron being an old man and says things like "don't break any bones". Auron is 35, though that probably does seem old to Tidus (who's only 17). In-universe, with Sin regularly destroying everything in Spira, the average citizen appears to be lucky to make it to their thirties.
  • Lusamine in Pokémon Sun and Moon claims to be 40, but looks no older than 20. Her connection to the Ultra Beasts might have something to do with this.
  • Old Lady Gibson in Fallout: New Vegas, despite her white hair, barely looks older than about 40. Then again, some people in real life get gray hair at 30 or earlier. This also applies to the older age settings for the player character (said to go up to 60), as there is no "wrinkled" face option for them outside of mods, unlike certain NPCs.
    • In fact, early Bethesda games (Fallout, Elder Scrolls) had a weird issue portraying elderly characters, due to re-using one body frame for each gender. Thus you could have an elderly woman with a wrinkled face, grey hair... and a 23-year-old's firm and svelte body. They have addressed this somewhat, but there still are several characters who are old only from the neck up.
  • Atrus in Myst is played by the game's co-creator Rand Miller (who does double duty as Atrus' son Achenar) who was in his early thirties when he first assumed the role in the original game. Rand Miller has noted that he once felt he was too young to play the role of Atrus. But since his likeness and voice has become engrained as Atrus to Myst fans, it would have been wrong to recast the character in the sequels.
  • Sun Jian in the Dynasty Warriors franchise has three adult-aged kids and sports an entire head of white hair, yet he is still physically fit for fighting and doesn't look much older than 35. Somewhat Justified, as the real life Sun Jian was killed in his 30's.
    • In addition, the oldest character in the cast is not white-bearded Huang Zhong with his many references to his advanced age. It is actually, by a year, Jia Xu; who shows no sign of being any older than 30.
  • Solid Snake of Metal Gear gets treated this way in Metal Gear Solid, where he's only 33 years old and everyone keeps treating him like he's too old to be on the field anymore (e.g. Campbell commenting that "age hasn't slowed you down one bit" if you get out of the opening docks fast enough, Gray Fox claiming that Snake "hasn't aged well" near the end of the game, etc.). This ended up becoming a plot point in later games, as by Metal Gear Solid 4, nine years later, he really does look like an old man who'd fit in more at a nursing home than a battlefield, because he was genetically modified to age faster as part of multiple efforts to keep the "Sons of Big Boss" out of anyone else's hands.
  • Tekken: Nina and Anna are subversions. They are chronologically in their early 40s from 3 onward, but continue to exhibit their youthful, 20-something looks. This is because, in-story, they are physically frozen through cryogenics shortly after the events of 2.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • BoJack Horseman: In "The Dog Days are Over", Stefani mentions this trend when she demands a listicle about "five empowering roles for women over 40 that would be better played by Jennifer Lawrence." Lawrence was 28 at the time of airing.
  • The antagonist of the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Mean Seasons" is Page Monroe, a former model and actress who fizzled out of the industry after turning thirty. The pressures of the ageism caused her to develop severe body dysmorphia and swearing revenge on those who ruined her.
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode “The Grim Show”, Grimm’s favorite horror hostess Atrocia, an Elvira parody, is being forced to retire because she’s turning 30, and no one wants to watch “an old bat like her” anymore.

Alternative Title(s): Historical Age Downgrade