Catherine Zeta-Jones says she was told “I was just a little bit too old … I wasn’t even 20”
It’s no secret that ageism is a major issue in Hollywood. When actors hit a certain age, it becomes increasingly difficult to land a job — especially for women.
While men in the entertainment industry are often allowed to age without too much disruption to their careers, many women find themselves losing out on roles to others half their age. In fact, some actresses say that they’ve been told they’re “too old” for a job even when they’re younger than their male co-star! It all happens far too frequently and thankfully, these women are speaking out.
Find out which actresses said they were rejected for being too old…
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1. Patti LuPone
Broadway icon Patti LuPone is such a big fan of the Apple TV+ series “Schmigadoon,” which parodies and pays homage to Broadway musicals, that she actually asked to join the ensemble cast. Unfortunately, she says producers told her she was “too old” to be featured in the show.
”I wanted to be in ‘Schmigadoon!,’ and I was too old…We reached out to them and said I want to be in ‘Schmigadoon!’ They said, ‘Sorry. You’re too old,'” she told Mashable. “It’s so sad. And it’s depressing. It’s their loss! I don’t know what else to say. I so wanted to be in it!”
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2. Olivia Wilde
Olivia Wilde once auditioned for “The Wolf of Wall Street” but ultimately didn’t get the part. At the time, Olivia says she was told she was “too sophisticated” for the role — but she later learned that it was her agent’s way of saying she was too old.
“The funniest thing I heard recently was, I had heard for a part that I was too sophisticated. I was like, ‘Oh, that sounds nice.’ I like that feedback. I didn’t get the part, but I’m a very sophisticated person. And then I found out later that they actually said ‘old,'” she said on “The Howard Stern Show.“
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When Elizabeth Banks auditioned to play Mary-Jane Watson in “Spider-Man,” she was told she was too old for the role — despite only being a year older than her potential co-star Tobey Maguire. Instead, the role went to Kirsten Dunst, who was a teenager at the time and 10 years younger than Tobey.
“I screen-tested for the role of Mary-Jane Watson in the first ‘Spider-Man’ movie, opposite Tobey Maguire. Tobey and I are basically the same age and I was told I was too old to play her. I’m like, ‘Oh, okay, that’s what I’ve signed up for,'” Elizabeth told Glamour U.K.
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Emma Thompson has been a vocal critic of ageism in Hollywood — and has experienced it herself. She says she was once told she was too old to play opposite Hugh Grant in “Sense and Sensibility,” despite the two actors being very close in age. In the end, Emma not only received high praise for her role but also ended up winning an Oscar for the screenplay.
“The age thing is insane. It was ever thus. I remember saying years and years ago, when I was 35, that they’d have to exhume somebody to play my leading man…Nothing’s changed in that regard. If anything, it’s got worse,” Emma told Vulture. “I remember somebody saying to me that I was too old for Hugh Grant, who’s like a year younger than me, in ‘Sense and Sensibility.’ I said, ‘Do you want to go take a flying leap?'”
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Catherine Zeta-Jones was once rejected from a role for being too old — and she was only 19! She says the audition was for an Andrew Lloyd Webber and Trevor Nunn production of “Aspects of Love,” which Trevor didn’t think she was the right fit for.
“Trevor is always charming and told me I was just a little bit too old and a little bit too pretty. I wasn’t even 20 and I remember telling him I could be as not pretty or as not old as he wanted, but it didn’t do any good,” Catherine said.
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Maggie Gyllenhaal admits that she was once told she was too old for a role where she would play the love interest of a male actor who was over a decade older than her. Although she didn’t reveal what movie the audition was for, she says it came as a surprise to her.
“There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time,” she told The Wrap. “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 me feel angry, and then it made me laugh.”
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7. Geena Davis
Geena Davis admits that ageism in Hollywood is “very strange and so prevalent” and something she’s often had to deal with. At one point, she was rejected from a role because she was “too old” to play a male actor’s love interest, even though she was 20 years younger than him.
“A certain male actor that was making a movie said that I was too old to be his romantic interest, and I was 20 years younger than him,” Geena told Deadline. “Women peak in their 20s and 30s, and men peak in their 40s and 50s as far as actors go. So the male stars of the movies want to appear to be younger than they are, or they want to appeal to younger people, so they always want a co-star who is really young. That is why that happens and that is why women don’t get cast very much after 40 and 50. It is because they are felt to be too old to be a romantic interest.”
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8. Nia Long
In the early 2000s, Nia Long auditioned for a part in “Charlie’s Angels” but was told she wasn’t the right fit. She explained that she was told she looked “too sophisticated and too old,” despite being five years younger than her co-star Drew Barrymore.
“‘Charlie’s Angels’ did not want me because they said I looked too sophisticated and too old next to Drew Barrymore,” Nia told Yahoo! Entertainment. “You can’t do everything, and every opportunity isn’t for you. And as much as it would’ve been fun to play that character, I think ‘Big Momma’s House’ was probably more fun for me.”
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Nicole Kidman admits she’s faced ageism in Hollywood, much like Lucille Ball, who she portrayed in “Being The Ricardos.” She says there’s one scene in the film that touches on the subject and it was pretty relatable for her.
“There’s a scene in it where they say, ‘You’re 39, and that’s it. It’s kind of over for you,'” Nicole said on the “Today” show. “I know that feeling. I sort of had that. And it was like, ‘OK.’ Where television suddenly opened a door for her, it opened a door for me. Around the same age, I was like, ‘Gosh, that’s kind of…I know that feeling really deeply.'”
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10. Jamie Denbo
In 2017, “Orange Is The New Black” actress Jamie Denbo revealed that she had been told she was too old to play the wife of a 57-year-old actor in a film, despite being over a decade younger than him. While she didn’t share who the actor was, she did share that the actor’s real life wife was actually even older than her.
“I was just informed that at the age of 43, I am TOO OLD to play the wife of a 57 year old. Oh, the characters also have an 18 year-old daughter. I am TOO OLD to be the mother of an 18 year-old,” she tweeted, later adding, “The real wife of the 57 year-old actor is EASILY AT LEAST 50. But this f— wants to be tv married to a 38 year-old -TOPS.”