Still Kicking – Aging Actors

With so many incredible talents now hitting their twilight years, it’s no wonder there’s more films offering roles to mature aged actors… but is that the only reason for the rise in films centred around older characters?

Josip Knezevic

Last Vegas, Dirty Grandpa, Grudge Match

These films are a clear reminder that Robert De Niro will happily do any script put in front of him, regardless of how terrible. At this point, it’s safe to say he probably doesn’t even have an agent anymore, because how could someone allow him to make so many questionable choices?

Nevertheless, De Niro isn’t the only veteran actor still churning out films these days. Actors such as Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Michael Caine and the ever-magical Maggie Smith don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon thanks to a rise in films centred around, well… old characters. But why is that? Is it purely to appeal to an older demographic? Or do these actors feel the need to keep continually adding to their already extensive filmographies? The answer is more complicated than you’d think.

Inevitably, it comes down to the film in question. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel boasts an ensemble cast featuring the likes of Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson, who are all over the age of 60 and are esteemed actors in their own right. The film follows a group of pensioners moving to a retirement hotel in India… and that’s it. No really, that’s it. Clearly this isn’t going to attract your average millennial, but baby boomers can relate to not only the actors, but also the situations they experience.

A more recent addition is the Zach Braff directed remake Going in Style, starring Freeman, Arkin and Caine. The film is centred around this trio of retirees who plan to rob a bank after their pensions are cancelled. Unlike Marigold Hotel, this film has a much wider scope. By playing on the well-known heist format and the action comedy genre, it’s able to appeal to a broader audience. It’s obviously not going to win any Academy Awards, but it’s a crowd-pleasing film that’s a good excuse for these actors to keep working.

Speaking of which, there’s also an increased number of award-winning films, or at least very well-crafted ones, offering up meaty roles for older actors. Nebraska and Blade Runner 2049 immediately spring to mind, featuring Bruce Dern and Harrison Ford respectively. While Blade Runner 2049 is set for release near the end of the year, Dern’s performance in Nebraska earned him an Oscar nomination. Though it’s unlikely Ford will be offered the same honour, this big budget blockbuster still has the potential to reach the heights of the classic prequel.

At the end of the day, the movie making business is only concerned with entertainment and profitability. In many cases, only the latter is considered. It seems veteran actors are less fixated on the box office takings of their films because there’s no need for them to be concerned anymore. When you’ve had an impressive career spanning decades, nothing can erase your legacy, no matter how many horrendous pieces of shit you make (looking at you De Niro…). For these more experienced actors, making films is about working in an industry they’ve loved their entire life and not slowing down while they still have energy in their legs. Sometimes these films work out. Sometimes they don’t.

Image courtesy of Going In Style, Roadshow Films

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