Julia Roberts in 'Duplicity'Why do so many women get stuck playing characters older than they are? While watching Duplicity, for example, I was thinking, "Wow, Julia Roberts really looks her age." (She's 41.) I don't mean that in a negative way -- she's still a fine-looking woman -- but it's rare to see an actress in her 40s or 50s playing a character who's in her 40s or 50s.

More often than that, we see younger women playing older characters, as Hadley Freeman points out in The Guardian: "It is all too easy for a female actor to find herself cast as the mother of someone who once played her boyfriend as soon as she blows out the candles on her 35th birthday cake." She cites various examples:

  • Sally Field as Tom Hanks' mother in Forrest Gump. Age difference: ten years.
  • Glenn Close as Mel Gibson's mother in Hamlet. Age difference: nine years.
  • Anne Bancroft as Dustin Hoffman's matronly seductress in The Graduate. Age difference: five years.
  • Elizabeth Taylor as Dennis Hopper's mother in Giant. Age difference: four years.
  • Angelina Jolie as Colin Farrell's mother in Alexander. Age difference: one year.
  • Lea Thompson as Michael J. Fox's mother in Back to the Future. Age difference: none.

Freeman concludes: "Quite why film directors are so averse to having middle-aged roles played by middle-aged women comes down to male insecurity and misogyny ... The sense of disgust of older women is so deeply entrenched in Hollywood that even when the role is specifically for an older woman, no one wants to see an actual older woman on screen." All of the directors of the films cited above are men.

Do you want to see more "actual older women" on screen? Or would you prefer that older female characters be played by younger actresses?