Actors regularly play a different age than they are in real life. Just look at any TV show or movie with 30-year-olds playing teenagers next to 35-year-olds playing their parents. But age differences are especially interesting when an actor is playing a character based on a real person. Here are eight actors who were totally the wrong age for their character based off of a real-life person.
1) Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano in Joy
Jennifer Lawrence’s character in Joy is based on Joy Mangano, a divorced mother of three who invented the Miracle Mop in the early ‘90s. The real-life Joy was 34 when she invented her first product. So while Joy should have been in her mid-30s or early-40s during the time period of the film, Jennifer Lawrence was 23 or 24. I look forward to next year when she plays the 90-year-old Queen of England.
2) Kevin Spacey as Bobby Darin in Beyond the Sea
Kevin Spacey dreamed about making a film about Bobby Darin for a decade and by the time he had the chance to make it, he was way too old. But he’s Kevin Spacey, so he made it anyway. Darin was in his 20s and 30s for most of the movie (the movie ends when — spoiler alert for his life — he died at 37) and Spacey was 45.
3) Michael Ensign as Benjamin Guggenheim in Titanic
The movie Titanic is full of real-life people (but not Jack and Rose, they’re fictional), including Benjamin Guggenheim (one of the richest men in the world at the time, and who perished on the Titanic). Played by Michael Ensign, who was 53 but looked about 80, the real-life Guggenheim was a youthful-looking 46. For a movie that got so much right, I’m not sure why Cameron made such a strange casting choice for Guggenheim.
4) Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly in Grace of Monaco
Nicole is still gorgeous at 46, but during the events of the film Grace was in her early 30s and still looked very youthful. Grace’s family called the movie a farce and boycotted the Cannes film festival when it premiered. Ouch.
5) Matt Damon as Scott Thorson in Behind the Candelabra
At the beginning of the film, Damon’s character Scott Thorson, who was Liberace’s lover, was supposed to be 18. Matt Damon was 42. At the end of the movie, Thorson is 28, and Damon was still 42.
6) Sam Shepard as Frank James in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Frank James was 25 when the James brothers started their outlaw years and 39 when Jesse was assassinated. Shepard was 65 when he played Frank in the 2007 film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. The James brothers were only four years apart in age and even Brad Pitt was ten years too old for his role, though that’s no FORTY YEAR AGE DIFFERENCE like ol’ Sam Shep. To be fair though, Shepard is great in this role so who cares.
7) Angelina Jolie as Olympias, Alexander the Great’s mother in Alexander
The real life Olympias gave birth to Alexander the Great when she was 21, in 356 BC. Jolie was 29 when she played the mom of grown-up Alexander. Colin Farrell, who played her son, is only one year younger than Jolie in real life.
8) Jimmy Stewart as Charles Lindbergh in The Spirit of St. Louis
Stewart was 48 when he played a 25-year-old Charles Lindbergh. You might not know who pilot extraordinaire Lindbergh is now, but in 1957, everyone did and nobody was fooled by Stewart dying his graying hair blonde. But everyone loves Jimmy Stewart and his performance was widely seen as the best part of the movie. And if you don’t know who Jimmy Stewart is, you have a lot of great movies to watch.
Did I miss any you know of? Tweet at me @erikaheidewald!