You can afford a lot when it comes to casting. Sometimes certain things like historical accuracy (in the case of biopics) or fidelity to the source material (in the case of comic book adaptations or remakes) can be overlooked when an actor is right for the role. Even when bold casting decisions draw backlash, sometimes all that matters is if the person is right for the role.
A casting can be forgivably implausible when it comes to casting an actor as a parent when the actor playing their child is almost the same age. This has happened many times throughout film history, and the following films are some of the best examples of large age gaps in the casting of characters who should have been born a generation apart.
‘North Through Northwest’ (1959) – Jessie Royce Landis & Cary Grant
Northwest for Northwest is one of the best thrillers Alfred Hitchcock ever judged. While he has made numerous films in which a character is on the run after being mistaken for someone they are not, this is probably the best of them as it has remained a fast-paced, entertaining film over 60 years after its release .
It’s a movie good enough that you don’t even mind that the lead role was probably written with someone younger than Cary Grant in the head. Make no mistake he is still fantastic in the role but when paired with him in romance Eva Marie Saint (20 years younger than him) and with his mother who is played by him Jessie Royce Landis (only eight years older than him!), one can’t help but notice his age a little.
‘The Graduate’ (1967) – Anne Bancroft & Katharine Ross
An important and daring film for the year it came out, The graduate tells the story of a young man fresh out of college struggling with what to do for the rest of his adult life. Part of his confusion stems from the affair he is having with Mrs. Robinson, who is many years his senior, and the mother of the young woman his parents want him to date, Elaine Robinson.
Mrs. Robinson is played by Anne Bancroftwho was born in 1931 while playing Elaine Catherine Rosswho was born in 1940. Still, the difference isn’t too big as Ross successfully plays a few years younger than her and Bancroft successfully plays a few years older, but the age difference between them is still quite small.
‘The Manchurian Candidate’ (1962) – Angela Lansbury & Laurence Harvey
A political thriller about conspiracies, paranoia and assassinations, The Manchu Candidate is a classic 1962 film remade in 2004. Laurence Harvey, then 34, plays Shaw, a man whose life is stolen when he is brainwashed into becoming an assassin. His mother is played Angela Lansbury who was 37 at the time of the film’s release – only three years older than Harvey.
It works well enough, thanks to Lansbury, who really melts into the role and convincingly plays a decade or two past her actual age. Sure, it’s not the most realistic cast, but the film holds up well and is something of a classic, so the decision to cast the two worked out in the end.
‘The Northman’ (2022) – Nicole Kidman & Alexander Skarsgård
2022’s dark and violent revenge epic shows that huge age gaps between actors playing parents and children aren’t just limited to old Hollywood movies. The Northmanalso provides an example of this phenomenon.
Alexander skarsgard (born 1976) plays the main character of the film, Amleth, who wants to avenge his father’s death and save his mother, played by Nicole Kidman (born 1967) by his father’s killer. While not the most egregious example of an age difference, it’s still less than a decade and becomes amazing when you recall that Skarsgård and Kidman had previously played husband and wife (on the TV show Big little lies).
‘Alexander’ (2004) – Angelina Jolie & Colin Farrell
A somewhat forgotten historical epic about Alexander the Great2004 Alexander contains one of the most dramatic cases of age difference between fictional parents and children. Angelina Jolie (born in 1975) is only one year older than Colin Farell (Born in 1976)… but in the film she plays his mother.
This is a particularly poignant example because little is done to make Jolie look older, and just as little is done to make Farrell look younger. It would make a lot more sense for the two to play siblings, but for whatever reason, they were cast as two real-life historical figures who were actually born about 19 years apart.
‘Scarface’ (1983) – Miriam Colon & Al Pacino
A classic Brian de Palma Film starring Al Pacino in its most explosive form, scarface has the enduring legacy of being one of the most iconic crime films of all time. It’s a classic rise and fall tale about an ambitious, ruthless gangster who builds an empire, only to see it crumble around him.
While Tony Montana’s sister is a prominent figure, there are also a few scenes involving Tony’s mother. Pacino was only four years younger than Miriam Colon, who played his mother. Assuming Tony is a good 10 years younger than Pacino, it’s not too hard to buy, but either way, it’s obviously way too close for her to be a parent in real life.
‘Woman. Miniver’ (1942) – Greer Garson & Richard Ney
A classic WWII drama about a family surviving constant air raids in England during the early years of the war. Ms Miniver stands out for being created in the midst of war, with the aim of reflecting the times and bringing some catharsis (and a little hope) to everyday people at a dark time in history.
Aside from its historical significance, it’s also notable for having the title character played by Greer Garson (born 1904) have a son, played by an actor who is only 12 years his junior (Richard Ney). Sure, the over 10 year difference is at least better than under that, but this example is worth noting since Garson and Ney married in real life shortly after filming Mrs. Miniver and were together between 1943 and 1947.
‘Blow’ (2001) – Rachel Griffiths/Ray Liotta & Johnny Depp
This biographical film about a 1970s drug dealer offers two for one when it comes to the age gap between parents and children. Johnny Depp was 38 the year the film was released while he was late Ray Liotta (who played his father) was 47 and Rachel Griffiths (who played his mother) was 33 years old in 2001…five years younger than Depp.
It’s surprising enough that two parents are played by actors of the same age, but that one is younger than their supposed on-screen child is something else. Granted, many scenes involving Griffiths and Liotta revolve around flashbacks when Depp’s character is played by a younger actor, but they also share the screen with Depp at a few points.
‘Tommy’ (1975) – Ann Margaret & Roger Daltrey
An ambitious and wild rock-opera-musical devoid of traditional/spoken dialogue, tommy is essentially a feature film adaptation of The Who’s album of the same name. It’s about a boy who grows into a man, loses and regains his sanity in the process, becomes a pinball expert and starts a cult. It makes a little more sense in context, but only just now.
The title character is played by the lead singer of The Who, Roger Daltreywhile his mother is being played Ann Margaret. The former was born in 1944 while the latter was born in 1941. You can kind of tell in the movie that they’re a similar age, but then again, there’s so much weird stuff going on that you could get too distracted to notice other weird things.
‘Giant’ (1956) – Elizabeth Taylor & Carroll Baker/Dennis Hopper
An epic family drama with a huge cast and running time (well over three hours!), giant spans many years and stars a young one Elizabeth Taylor. Of course, given the decades-long history, her “kids” are her age, with some makeup to make it less distracting.
The effects are far from seamless, but it’s an older film so it’s more forgivable. However, the fact that she has two improbably old children makes it a particularly humorous example of this type of casting. Taylor was born in 1932 while Dennis Hopperwho played her son was born in 1936 and even more surprising, Carroll Baker – who plays Taylor’s daughter – was born in 1931!
NEXT: Actors who played different characters in the same series
https://collider.com/10-actors-who-are-a-similar-age-yet-played-parents-children-in-a-movie/ 10 Pairs of Actors Who Are A Similar Age, Yet Played Parent & Child in a Movie