Earlier this year, it was announced that Nicole Kidman had joined the cast of Aquaman. The Big Little Lies star and Emmy winner will be playing lead star Jason Momoa's mother. The only thing is, she's only 12 years older than he is. What's more, Kidman is the exact same age as Lisa Bonet, who happens to be Momoa's wife.
If you think that's weird, wait until you hear this one: in 1994, Sally Field played Tom Hanks' mom in the classic movie Forrest Gump. Field, who is only 10 years older than Hanks, had played his love interest in another movie only six years before.
It seems as though there's an invisible threshold in Hollywood. Once women pass it, they're relegated to the "mom" pile — Amy Schumer's "Last Fuckable Day" sketch, which has Schumer join Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, and Patricia Arquette as they celebrate their last day as viable, sexy female stars, is the perfect satire of this. Men, on the other hand, can continue being sex symbols forever, à la George Clooney, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford, Robert Downey Jr, etc., etc., etc.
When men do get cast as fathers, they usually get paired with a younger, hotter wife, leaving fewer parts for older actresses looking for three-dimensional roles.
According to Allison Estrin, a casting director who has worked on movies like Pitch Perfect, Lovelace and Spider-Man: Homecoming, part of the reason women start getting cast as moms at a young age is because there are just more mother parts than there are father parts.
"Women definitely do get cast younger as moms, even in their early 20s," she said. "I find men usually don't start getting cast as dads until at least mid-30s."
The pressure on actresses to appear young and beautiful forever means that they often have to take more drastic measures. "There are definitely two types of actresses," Estrin explained." There are the actresses early on who know they're going to be the character actress, and they kind of age into that. And then there are the young, beautiful ingenues, and I do find that they start doing the botox and plastic surgery."
But Estrin does point out that this is starting to change, especially as more women get behind the camera and into positions of power in Hollywood. "There have been a lot more projects like Big Little Lies, that are really showcasing adult women that actually look their age, and that's really important," she said. "As women are finding their voices right now and becoming stronger and stronger, this is the exact sort of thing that they're fighting against. We're in a really great time for women to be standing up and saying no to roles [that] don't feel age-appropriate to them."
When it comes to TV, things are a little better, mostly because of the unprecedented abundance of shows being made right now. Casting duo Amber Horn and Danielle Aufiero, who cast shows like The 100 and Disney's Andi Mack, explained that unlike 15 years ago, when movie studios ruled the business, actresses don't have to immediately say yes to a project they feel is unsuitable for fear that another one won't come along anytime soon.
"So much is changing," Horn said. "There's so much content, and so much more opportunity. There's so many more roles, and it's the best time for actors right now."
But still, Aufiero says they have to remain vigilant, especially when it comes to casting women in older roles, or alongside an older man. "Amber and I are really cognizant of it, so I'll bring up: 'Why is he so much older than her,' and we'll say it if we see a disparity that doesn't make sense. It's kind of our job to shine a light like that."
Click through for a roundup of some of the times actresses were way too young to play the mothers of their on-screen children.
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