The 12 Oldest Actors to Play Teenagers in Film and TV
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12 Actors Much Older Than Jennifer Lawrence Who Were Still Playing Teenagers

By Dustin Rowles | Seriously Random Lists | July 15, 2015 | Comments ()


The trailer for David O. Russell’s Joy debuted this morning, and because the Internet is fueled by rage and indigence, we’ve all decided to get up in arms over the fact that Lawrence has been cast as middle-aged Mom, Joy Mangano, despite the fact that Lawrence is only 24 years old. I don’t know why the Internet decided to get mad about it today (the casting decision was made over a year ago), except we are currently occupying that pop-culture dead space between Comic Con and the Emmy Awards.

She’s an Oscar winner, the hottest actress on the planet, and probably one of the few who can stand to work with David O. Russell, so I’m not sure this level of outrage (via Jezebel) is warranted:

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.00.09 PM.jpg

There’s a lot of reasons to hate on Russell, but I’m not sure that casting Jennifer Lawrence at any age is one of them, so long as Lawrence can pull it off convincingly, and Lawrence usually can. After all, this is not her first old-lady rodeo: She played a 39-year-old widow in Silver Linings Playbook, and someone else who was probably pushing 40 in American Hustle. It’s such a thing that I’m surprised every time when I’m reminded that she’s only 24.

But, we must be aggrieved!

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 3.12.02 PM.jpg

They sell those crazy pills over the counter at any Los Angeles pharmacy!

Anyway, given the fact that Lawrence is 24 playing a “middle-aged mom” (Hey! 35 is not middle aged! It’s the new 15!), let’s look at the reverse of that. Here’s 12 actors who were older than Lawrence (in some cases, much) who were still playing teenagers.

1. Taylor Kitsch was 28 years old when he was still playing a high-school football player on Friday Night Lights.


2. Did you know that The Fonz on Happy Ways was supposed to a high-school drop-out (in fact, he re-enrolled in high school briefly) when Henry Winkler was actually 29 years old? He wouldn’t have even passed as a teenager on 21 Jump Street. (In fact, most of the cast of 21 Jump Street was 22-25 years old playing twenty-somethings who looked like teenagers).


3. Meanwhile, Rachel McAdams was a 27-year-old playing a high-schooler in Mean Girls. She was eight years older than Lindsay Lohan.

And yet, if you only had photos to go by, who looks 35 now, and who looks 27?



4. Charisma Carpenter was 27 years old when she began on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, playing the only 16 year old who had already started to form laugh lines.


5. Alison Lohman (where is she now?) was 27 years old when she played the 16-year-old lead in Flicka, and to be honest, she could’ve pulled off 14.


Of course, that was the twist in Matchstick Men, wasn’t it?


6. We all know that Stacey Dash was 29 when she played a 16 year old in Clueless.


Now that she’s 48, however, she’s finally starting to look 29 (she clearly sold her soul to the Karl Rove the Devil).


7. You may not remember this, but Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Catch Me If You Can was 16 years old when DiCaprio played him at the age of 28.


8. Daisy Fay in The Great Gatsby was supposed to be 17 years old, yet she was played by then 28 year old Carey Mulligan, who had come off playing high school students in both An Education and Never Let Me Go. (DiCaprio was 38, playing a 27 year old Jay Gatsby).


9. Alan Ruck somehow pulled off a high-schooler in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. He was 30.


Then again, no one blinked an eye when he dated then 36-year-old Sutton Foster in Boneheads. Ruck was 56 at the time.


10. Speaking of Amy Sherman-Palladino shows, Keiko Agena was playing a high-schooler at the age of 30. How is that even possible?


11. That rivals Gabrielle Carteris’ 14 year age difference in Beverly Hills 90210, where the 18 year old high-school student was being played by a 32-year-old actress.


12. Of course, Stockard Channing is the all-time winner in this category. She actually could’ve been a middle-age mom when she played an 18-year-old beauty school dropout in Grease. She was 34. The real-life Channing was already on her third husband.


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Thea

    I think you mean bunheads* for #9.

  • Steve

    34 is far from Middle aged haha Middle aged is technically 45-65..... Whomever wrote this article needs to get there facts straight.

  • Name Names

    Steve - it's ok. Age is just a number. I understand that turning 34 has made you start to question whether you can still "hang" and "rave til dawn" but don't take it out on Dustin. If you still want to sport some JNCO jeans and a middle part bowl cut, do you.

    But know that, in fact, the 20 year olds around you think you're kinda creepy.

  • James Bergquist

    Fact: Henry Winkler was so dyslexic that he had to remember ALL of his lines after someone read it to him. He could not read a word. He read his first book in his thirties.

  • Jiffylush

    Wait, Jennifer Lawrence's character was 39?

    Yeah, didn't see that at all. IMHO she looked and acted like someone in their mid 20s to very early 30s at the most. I realize that there was a certain lack of maturity in the character but there was nothing to give me any indication that she was something other than 27ish.

  • dort

    Doesn't Lawrence realize she should be tackling age appropriate roles like Harley Quinn?

  • Strand

    Jennifer Lawrence is great but I don't buy her as anything close to middle-aged. She just looked too young and baby-faced in American Hustle that it was too distracting for me. It was almost like Jodie Foster in Bugsy Malone.

  • e jerry powell
    1. Taylor Kitsch was 28 years old when he was still playing a high-school football player on Friday Night Lights.

    Using the word "playing" suggests that he was acting, and I still maintain that he's incapable of doing that. I allow that maybe he thought he was still in high school through the entire run of the show and was behaving accordingly.

    And quit playing like Karl Rov and the devil are two different people.

  • loo shag brolley

    True, but does anyone care?

  • e jerry powell

    Certainly no one at HBO.

  • Wigamer

    I was finally able to see The Normal Heart on HBO. Watching him try to act alongside the amazing Mark Ruffalo gave me the worst case of second-hand embarrassment I've had in some time.

  • e jerry powell

    Yup. Just there to be pretty.

  • Brittany Coffey

    really? happy ways? and rizzo was not the beauty school drop out in grease.

  • Marcelo Neves

    "She played a 39-year-old widow in Silver Linings Playbook" --- No, she played a young widow in her early 20's. The movie is not the book.

    "and someone else who was probably pushing 40 in American Hustle" --- No, she played a young, blonde, trophy-wife, just like Margot Robbie (same age as Lawrence) did in "Wolf of Wall Street". Note that Bale and DiCaprio also have the same age, so the age difference is the same in those two films.

    "12 actors who were older than Lawrence who were still playing teenagers" --- Well, Lawrence is still playing a teenager: Katniss.

    Now, when it comes to Joy, FOX already said that this is not really a biopic, but only inspired by Joy Mangano's story. And EW confirmed that Lawrence is portraying Joy from age 20 to age 40, with the pivotal moment at 27. Lawrence is 24, so the age is not really a problem.

  • I liked the trailer and I'm sure she'll be great in it. I don't know, I like her a lot but she doesn't have to be in everything...

  • I mean Jennifer Lawrence of course, I just realized I posted in the wrong thread!

  • Daniela

    I'm here to give love to Meredith Monroe, who was left off the list. She was 28 or 29 when she started playing Andie (who I think was supposed to be 15) on Dawson's Creek. Talk about a vampire! She's now 45 and she still doesn't look 35 yet!

  • Tommy Marx

    Please, please, please fix that. Sutton wasn't in Boneheads, she was in Bunheads. :-)

  • Annie

    Listen, Lawrence can pull it off, but there are a ton of more age-appropriate actresses out there stuck in that age of being too old to "play attractive" and still too young to play Queen Elizabeth II who aren't getting the chance. It's different than these gorgeous talented older people playing young. (Who in a non-Disney/Nickelodeon teen show isn't played by a legal adult?)

  • Daisy isn't 17 in The Great Gatsby--she's 23. She was a teenager when Gatsby first knew her, but that's it.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    And Rizzo isn't a beauty school dropout.

  • Wigamer

    As both an English teacher and a former 12 year-old obsessed with Grease, I pronounce you both correct.

  • CranAppleSnapple

    The entire cast of Beverly Hills 90210, not just Carteris.

  • CranAppleSnapple

    The Fonz was older than all the kids he hung out with. Not playing a teen.

  • Coolg82

    While she acted well in those movies, in no way did she ever look to be playing early-middle-aged women. She just has a much too youthful appearance for that unaided. Honestly, a little makeup could have given her a feel of being in her thirties, but I feel that while she was playing women in her late thirties, the producers/director were very unwilling to make her up to look that age. However, a lot of the people on the list were given help in looking 10-15 years younger in their roles. Some more than others.

  • lemurlove

    And why is it so horrible to be a middle-aged woman? Fuck these cocksuckers.

  • Holy shit, she was supposed to be 39 in Silver Linings Playbook? I thought she had married underage and lost her husband after a year or something. I was super grossed out seeing her with Bradley Cooper, not just because I hate him.

    The cognitive dissonance between her supposed and apparent ages in American Hustle was almost as unbearable as the movie itself.

  • M Disco

    If Rachel McAdams was born in '78 (as per her IMDB page) she would only have been 25 when Mean Girls was released (and presumably 24 when it was filmed). Unless she's been lying about her age?

  • Brooke Chook

    I feel like while it's ammusing, if start getting mad about this kind of stuff, we're heading to a place where you can only 'act' a part if you are exactly the same as your character. It doesn't make sense to me. It's like we've taken the idea that because blackface is wrong, and cis actors placing trans-characters is iff at best, any kind of difference between actor and character is wrong somehow.
    As for the list, I don't know how old Elliott is supposed to be in Mr.Robot but did ya'll know Rami Malek is 34???

  • lemurlove

    I agree--acting is ACTING.

  • Not really the same- especially when we heard yesterday that halle Berry cant find great movie roles. the issue here is that a "middle aged" woman is being played by a younger woman when there are many talented "middle aged" actresses they could have gone with.

    and also- 35 isn't middle age.

  • Maybe the reason Halle Berry can't get great roles has less to do with her age and more to do with her being Halle Berry.

  • Grifter

    I'm gonna upvote that, sir.

  • kasper

    The only reason that I can see for being upset is that there are a billion roles for Jennifer Lawrence (and about a million for any younger actress), but so few roles for middle-aged actresses. Kinda sucks that some very deserving actress won't work in a major release because the role went to Lawrence.

    Of course, the solution should be more roles for middle-aged actresses. I mean, if Schwarzenegger and Stallone can still do action movies in their 90s, why can't women in their 30-40s get leading roles?

  • Grifter

    This. I agree.
    It has nothing to do with "actors can only act their age" or [random comparison to older actors playing younger]. It is just another way in which Hollywood (and, sure, society in general) works hard to reinforce that youth/beauty is the only currency for women. Casting an older actress to play young is not the same thing at all as that's done when the actress looks/appears younger. If Hollywood had a history of casting whoever was best FOR THE JOB regardless of age/looks/race, then this wouldn't be any kind of issue. But they don't have that history. So now we have quantifiable "middle-aged" roles (even though 35 is not middle-aged, you guys) going to much younger women - women who still have the Hollywood rigid youth/beauty currency in their favor. It's not outrage for the sake of outrage, it's outrage that while women are finally getting top billing, they are doing so still within the strict boundaries of the qualities Hollywood values most: youth and beauty. Let women have top billing while owning their looks, their size, their age, and their race as qualities of value, not as things to work against.

  • sarah_jwh

    And I think it's more exasperation than outrage.

  • Halbs

    Helen Mirren was great in the Red movies and wants in the Fast & Furious movies and I would be into that. No qualms from me!

  • Tecumseh

    I'm not quite sure why I get today's INTERNET RAGEFEST OF THE DAY.

    Everybody complains that there's not enough movies in which there's a female lead in Hollywood and here comes a movie with a female lead (a very good one and one in which the internet loves) and....OUTRAGE. There's an element of damned if they do, damned if they don't here. Shouldn't there be some appreciation of the fact Lawrence is considered a big enough star that Hollywood has no problems giving her a lead role? And that if her movies do well enough (which is undeniable at this point), it'll help open up roles for other female actresses?

  • Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim dark Internet, there is only OUTRAGE. There is no peace amongst the comment sections, only an eternity of indignation and accusations of privilege...and the laughter of thirsting mods.

  • "...because the Internet is fueled by rage and indigence..."

    I think you mean 'indignation.' 'Indigence' is extreme poverty. Although given all the people constantly begging for money on the Internet, it is an understandable mistake.

    Also, Jezebel's level of outrage is never warranted, or at least not over the kinds of stuff Jezebel tends to get outraged about.

  • Kris

    I can't bother with Jezebel. Keeping up with all the rage and dealing with the mean girls is too exhausting.

  • Yssteria

    I had problems with her on SLP and AH (even though I understand that she was supposed to be a Trophy Wife ) but I don't see her miscast here, I mean she's going to play Joy in her teens and twenties (I think the film is going to cover 40 years total) so I could totally go along for the ride during her 30s and 40s, plus I completely bought whatever she was selling in that awesome trailer.

  • This only proves that Jennifer Lawrence is a good actress, that Rachel McAdams is bathing in the blood of virgins and that cocaine's a hell of a drug (as Lindsay knows).

  • Balodek

    Is it bad that I'm gobsmacked by the cellphones in that Clueless shot?

  • jon29

    It seems like there are lots of reasons to question this casting. For my money, JLaw as a middle-aged woman seems no more realistic than Emma Stone, one-quarter-Chinese. That aside, I'd imagine there are quite a few actresses who are actually middle aged who would probably like a shot at a role like this.

  • NateMan

    Is her age relevant to the plot in any way? Or is she supposed to be a struggling mom who makes good?

    I have trouble getting worked up over it. Sure, it'd be nice to see an older actress play the role in this movie I'll never watch anyway no matter who stars in it, I guess. But Hollywood's never cared much about age accuracy for men or women.

  • Seriously? You left off Sissy Spacek? Seriously?!

    Madam Spacek was 27 when she played teenaged Carrie White, and then portrayed a fourteen-year-old Loretta Lynn at the age of 31.

  • Kris

    They also left off Shirley Henderson, who played ghost/former Hogwarts student Moaning Myrtle at the age of 37.

  • DilettanteC

    And if the rumour is to be believed, she wanted to play the Emily Lloyd role in "In Country" - playing Bruce Willis's 17 year old niece when she was 39/40 years old in real life.

  • Mr Bissonette

    Current day Stacey Dash is still pretty much clueless ...

    ETA: (and pretty gorgeous)

  • TherecanbeonlyoneAdmin

    Does this accelerate the timeline on JLaw's Last Fuckable Day or is there some quantum time theory I'm missing?

  • Well, Jon Stewart has drawn the comparison to Queen Helen of Fuckingfantastica, and that bitch's last fuckable day still hasn't been sighted.

  • Kirre

    I'm just gonna say that the older people look young (but are older), but JLaw do not look old. I find myself very distracted by the fact that, even if she's a really good actress, she still look (to me) like a little girl who play dress out in mommys clothes when she play "older" women.

  • Valhallaback Girl

    I know this is neither here nor there, but Sutton Foster was in Bunheads, not Boneheads. For all that is good in this world, show some respect for a show that was taken too soon.

  • foolsage

    Good catch. Also, I think nobody blinked at the age difference in Bunheads for two main reasons: Alan was barely in the show, and almost nobody watched the show anyhow. The latter is a true shame, dammitall.

  • It was also sort of part of the story line, show girl gets wooed by rich older guy and he whisks her away to a better life. I watched the show after reading about it on a post here then was floored with how the pilot ended. I was expecting a nice little show to watch then boom, gamechanger. (But in a good way and I needed a good cry that day)

  • foolsage

    Yeah, that pilot really had a whiplash central premise.

    Damn I miss that show. Sigh.

  • BobbFrapples

    Alan Ruck was in Bunheads.
    Boneheads is the zombie sequel to Coneheads.

  • Or, what I call the people who CANCELLED BUNHEADS. /still not over it

  • loo shag brolley
  • God, I'm gonna miss that man.

  • Valhallaback Girl

    Ya beat me to it!

  • MRC210

    I saw Grease when I was 8 years old, at a friend's slumber party. The risque stuff went way over our heads (over my friend's mom's head too, presumably). But even though all teenagers past puberty looked like grownups to us, we were confused by Rizzo. Why was she so much older than Sandy? Did she fail to graduate and had to repeat senior year over and over again? Was she a teacher?

  • WinonaRyder

    Greased Lightning was such a rude song and performance! They actually sing 'real pussy wagon" lol.

  • Halbs

    I wish your name was WinoaRydordie and you loved the Bad Boys franchise.

  • WinonaRyder

    Do you mean the Will Smith film? I enjoyed the first one.

  • AlexW

    I remember watching a behind the scenes thing about that film (don't ask why, I don't even like that movie) and the cast talked about how they managed to sneak in "adult" stuff from the original musical that had to be cut for the film. Like when they rub saran wrap over their crotches as part of the Greased Lightning dance routine - that's supposed to be a wink to a part in the original show where the characters discuss using saran wrap as a condom alternative.

  • When we did Grease in high school, we didn't have the school version of the script. We had the original. The first night of rehearsal was mostly just the entire cast sitting in a room with scripts and pencils making all of the cuts and changes the director had deemed necessary to make it appropriate. It mostly confirmed my decision that we should have been doing any other show. The director was a bubbly elementary school music teacher who forced out the somewhat flighty and scatterbrained director of my first two years and Grease attracted a bunch of popular kids to audition who hadn't previously been interested. I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder.

  • Holy crap, JLaw was supposed to be 39 in Silver Linings Playbook? I must have missed that. I assumed she was one of those women tragically widowed in her 20s.

  • foolsage

    I'm fairly certain Tiffany's age is never mentioned or alluded to. I've seen the movie twice and have no recollection of anything about Tiffany's age.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I just watched the movie yesterday, and she says she was only married for 3 years, so the early 20s feel makes sense

  • Alicia

    Same goes for American Hustle (as far as I can remember) - they never discuss her age.

  • Tecumseh

    it's not- I just assumed she was widowed at the age of 24 or something but didn't really care that much because she was so good in it

  • kirivinokur

    We all love Stockard Channing, but she and Kenickie looked to be about 35 in Grease.

  • Wigamer

    Don't forget Olivia Newton John was pretty long in the tooth as well. I think Travolta was the only one even close to believably young.

  • Halbs

    Stockard Channing Tatum

  • WinonaRyder

    Also, there are usually a logistical and legal reasons for hiring older actors to play teens.

  • sarah_jwh

    Older actors can work longer hours, don't need tutors on set to make up course work. Yep. It makes sense to hire a 22 year old to play a 16 year old, but you wouldn't hire a 16 year old to play a 22 year old.

  • thatsmrsnyder

    I was going to make some snarky comment about Lawrence not at all looking old enough in either of her previous turns with O. Russell, but then I got to that Rachel McAdams picture and got a little distracted.

    Goddamn, she should have been on my list.

  • loo shag brolley

    Those green eyes, man.

  • BWeaves

    I never did get the casting in Grease. Everyone was way too old to be a teenager, but I thought Stockard Channing was one of the girl's mom.

  • Jiffylush

    Imagine Grease with the cast of High School Musical or Glee, it is wonderful as it is and there were no bad casting choices.

    Is the age of the actors in a musical where a greaser from LA goes to Australia for his summer vacation and has a flying car breaking that fourth wall?

  • loo shag brolley

    Yeah, but that girl's mom positively killed "There Are Worse Things I Could Do."

  • I get that it's JLaw and Russell is a type that likes certain actors. But I kind of sympathize with the point that we (Hollywood's role in this being egregious) put too much value on being young and attractive. Yeah the are examples of the contrary above. But I'm sure that whole thing with Maggie Gylenhaal is more pronounced and problematic.

  • ChainedVase

    I dont know whether to be honoured or aggrieved by this, but I stand by my original point that Hollywood doesn't understand Time or Aging. As is proven by this article. ;)

    Luckily those crazy pills are covered by Canadian Medicare! :)

  • loo shag brolley
  • Uriah_Creep

    Don't you love our government?

    (The answer is no, always no.)

  • AbbySaurus

    If you decide to go with aggrieved, I will bop Dustin in the schnoz for you.
    Take advantage of my cranky pants day!

  • ChainedVase

    Wednesday is Abby Smash day!

  • AbbySaurus
  • WinonaRyder

    Isn't this the site that despairs about ageism against women in Hollywood, and yet mocks those that point out that casting a 24 year-old as a character in their mid-30s perpetuates this?

    Also, Lawrence is a great actress, but there is no way she has ever convinced as someone in their 30s onscreen. Neither in her looks or portrayal of them. She's always made it look like the characters have been aged down.

  • underscoreBlake

    I'm pretty sure John Cho played a teenager in Better Luck Tomorrow when he was in his early thirties.

    Ellen Wong is the one that pisses me off: I'm fine with Knives Chau but for The Carries Diaries (yes that's TV) she was in her late twenties.

    I want her to be in more and better things.

  • And she was the best part of The Carrie Diaries, too. Still, I would love to see her get to graduate to playing an adult.

  • PerpetualIntern


  • Maya

    "She played a 39-year-old widow in Silver Linings Playbook"
    Not strictly true. I know the character was 39 in the novel, but in the movie she was very clearly meant to be in her early 20s.

  • davcamp

    That's what we call 'spinning a story to prove our article' in journalism-land.'

  • lillie

    Thank you. I assumed her character in the movie was early 20's and was pretty surprised when the article said 39.

  • PerpetualIntern

    I was going to say...I got no indication from the movie she was supposed to be that old.

  • sarah_jwh

    I think the problem is that there are lots of actresses that are in their mid-30s that would love to have a chance to play these parts, and there are more parts for mid-20s that younger actresses could take. So even when a part calls for a 30 something, they choose the 20 something instead, making 30 something actresses even more irrelevant in Hollywood. This is made worse by the lack of parts for women in general

  • cranky_chick

    I agree completely. Back in May when Maggie Gyllenhaal was deemed too old (at age 37) to play the lover of a 55 year old (Sean Penn), ( many of us were up in arms about the ageism in Hollywood and how great it would be to have an actress playing a character her own age. Many actors have played older characters as has been stated up thread, but does this always have to be the case? This will be the second time that JLaw does that in a David O. Russell film.

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