Actor told she was over the hill in her mid-30s, as Hollywood finds itself under increased scrutiny for its failure to represent women fairly on screen
Maggie Gyllenhaal was told by a Hollywood producer that she was too old, at 37, to play the love interest of a 55-year-old man, the Oscar-nominated actor has revealed.
In an interview with The Wrap, Gyllenhaal said her shock at finding herself “over the hill” in her mid 30s soon segued into derision fostered by the farcical nature of the situation.
“There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time,” she said. “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 feel angry, and then it made me laugh.”
The commonplace practice of casting a much younger female against a much older male has been prevalent since Hollywood’s golden age: Kim Novak was half the 50-year-old James Stewart’s age during filming of 1958’s Vertigo.
Recently, new Bond movie Spectre won praise (not least from the actor herself) for casting 50-year-old Monica Bellucci opposite 47-year-old Daniel Craig. However the movie’s other two “Bond girls”, Léa Seydoux and Stephanie Sigman, are both in their late 20s, and the long-running spy saga has also made a habit of pitching 007 against love interests half his age. Roger Moore, then 57, romanced 29-year-old Tanya Roberts in the Englishman’s final outing as Bond, 1985’s A View to a Kill.
However, Hollywood finds itself under increasing scrutiny in 2015 for failing to represent women fairly on screen and behind the cameras. Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union announced it would demand that state and federal agencies investigate why major studio regularly fail to hire aspiring and seasoned female directors for movies, citing “rampant discrimination” in the industry. Meanwhile, a report by the Center for the Study of Women in Television, Film & New Media at San Diego State University found that female actors took just 12% of leading roles in the top 100 domestic-grossing films of 2014.
At the Cannes film festival earlier this week, the makers of drug-war thriller Sicario revealed they had at one stage been under pressure from producers to rewrite the lead role, a female FBI agent played by Emily Blunt, to make the character male. And research last year found that only 22% of crew members involved in making 2,000 of the biggest-grossing films over the past 20 years were female.
Gyllenhaal told The Wrap that despite her recent experience - she did not name the production nor the older male star - she remained hopeful that Hollywood was slowly becoming a better place for women to work. “A lot of actresses are doing incredible work right now, playing real women, complicated women,” she said. “I don’t feel despairing at all. And I’m more looking with hope for something fascinating.”
This article was written by Ben Child, for theguardian.com on Thursday 21st May 2015 09.06 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010