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Some movie characters are much older than the actors portraying them
Although they are just seven years apart in age, Amy Poehler plays Rachel McAdams' mother in "Mean Girls" (2004). - photo by Chris Hicks
In the Sunday Parade Magazine a couple of weeks ago, the Personality Parade pointed out that Lily James, who plays the title character in Disneys Cinderella, is only seven years younger than Hayley Atwell, who plays her mother.

But of course Atwell plays the mother in the film when Cinderella is much younger and is played by a child actress, not James. So that doesnt really seem so odd. Not even worth mentioning, really.

But it got me thinking about other examples, chiefly Giant and How the West Was Won, since those films were fresh in my mind after local big-screen showings over the past couple of months.

Carroll Baker plays the daughter of Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson in Giant (1956). During filming, Taylor was 23 and Hudson was 31, but Baker was actually a year older than Taylor and just seven years younger than Hudson.

In How the West Was Won (1962), Baker played the mother of George Peppard, although she was three years younger. (A year later, Baker played Peppards stepmother in The Carpetbaggers, but in that case she was playing the much-younger wife of his much-older father.)

A more recent example is Sally Field, only 10 years older than Tom Hanks but nonetheless cast as his mother in Forrest Gump (1994).

And there's Riding in Cars With Boys (2001), which stars Drew Barrymore as a character that becomes pregnant at 15. Later, when she is 35, she has a 20-year-old son (Adam Garcia). When they made the movie, Barrymore was 26 and Garcia was 28.

Of course, none of these examples is really all that odd either, since each film takes place over several years or decades, so the actors in question are aging appropriately thanks to hair and makeup specialists.

There are, however, some truly weird examples of Hollywood age disparity.

In North by Northwest (1959), Cary Grants mother is played by Jessie Royce Landis, who was just seven years his senior.

And Lorne Greene was only seven years older than Ava Gardner when he played her father in Earthquake (1974).

Crispin Glover three years younger than Michael J. Fox plays his father in Back to the Future (1985), and Lea Thompson, as his mother, was just 10 days older. Of course, Fox is playing a teenager, though he was 24 at the time.

Glenn Close is just eight years older than Mel Gibson, but she played his mother in Hamlet (1990).

In Alexander (2004), Angelina Jolie plays Colin Farrells mother, despite the fact that shes just a year older.

Amy Poehler is Rachel McAdams mother in Mean Girls (2004), though Poehler is only seven years older. Of course, like Fox in Back to the Future, McAdams was 25 and playing a high school teen.

In the 2009 Star Trek reboot, Winona Ryder plays the mother of Spock (Zachary Quinto), although Ryder is just six years older.

And theres just a 10-year age difference between Mark Wahlberg and Melissa Leo, the actress who played his mother in The Fighter (2010), and who won an Oscar for her portrayal.

Of these, Leo is by far the most convincing.

But shes still only a close second to Angela Lansbury, who, as the mother of Laurence Harvey in the classic thriller The Manchurian Candidate back in 1962, not only earned an Oscar nomination but handily stole the picture. In real life, however, Lansbury at 36 was only three years older than Harvey.

Still, all of this is nothing compared to Walter Brennan. The veteran character actor one of only three actors in history to win three Oscars was repeatedly cast in older roles. Typecast as such, even, starting in his 30s.

And that includes his three Oscar winners, Come and Get It (1936), Kentucky (1938) and The Westerner (1940). Brennan was in his 40s when he made those films, but his characters were much older or, in the case of the first two films, aged over a number of years to become much older than his actual age.

Brennan played old codgers in myriad films until he eventually reached the age he had portrayed so many times over the decades. And then he continued to perform those roles right up to his death in 1974 at age 80.
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