The Independent

Thursday, April 03 2008

Lifestyle

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The age factor

Catherine Zeta Jones says that, at 38, she’s past it when it comes to playing sexy roles. Has she gone crazy?

Catherine Zeta Jones: past it?

Catherine Zeta Jones: past it?

By Sinead Ryan
Wednesday March 05 2008

HITTING the big 4-0 isn't the thing it once was. For most women they're only just getting into their stride. In fact, 40 is something to be celebrated as you finally grow up and can get to grips with whatever life has thrown at you.

You might be juggling family, career and a thousand other things, but you have the maturity to handle it all and can get the best out of life.

You might curse the day Isaac Newton ever discovered gravity, especially when it's boobs rather than apples dropping, and you spend the money you used to go clubbing with in the hairdressers getting the grey bits coloured, but being on the wrong side of 35 is definitely not a death sentence, and many women are only coming into their prime.

Well, you can forget all that happy clappy stuff now. One gorgeous gal who's heading for 40 has said she might as well throw in the towel.

The glamorous Catherine Zeta Jones reckons she's all washed up as a sex symbol and has resigned herself to the fact that it's ‘mumsy' roles for her from now on.

In an interview prior to her latest film release, where she plays opposite Guy Pearce's Houdini in Death Defying Acts, the Welsh beauty says that she's too old to play a love interest in movies.

“I'm 38-years-old and I'm going to play more mums than sex symbols,” she said. “I think it's just a natural progression.”

The Oscar winner has regularly starred opposite some of celluloid's most gorgeous men, including Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Richard Gere. They're all in or past their 40s, and their careers are booming, with no ageism in sight, but for actresses, the same rules don't seem to apply.

Splash actress Daryl Hannah (47) has said that the problem lies with studio moguls. “They choose projects that they identify with and they say, ‘I'd like to be that man having an affair with a chick of 18.’”

And Desperate Housewives’ star Teri Hatcher has repeatedly slammed Hollywood for not offering adequate choices for older female stars. Hatcher has claimed that producers of her own show didn't realise that most of the actresses were above 40 when they cast them.

“I don't believe they intended to cast women over 40. We didn't look like we were over 40 and then after we were cast, we all realised that's what had happened,” she said.

Other Desperate Housewives, Marcia Cross (45) Felicity Huffman (44) and Eva Longoria (32), are in a definite minority playing sexy sirens, despite the huge popularity of the show.

The dumping of ‘seasoned' actresses led a group of 30 well-known faces to join forces in a documentary made by Rosanna Arquette (48) which attacks movie moguls who force women over 40 into ‘character' or ‘motherly' roles.

Meg Ryan (46), Holly Hunter (50) and Sharon Stone (50) have all taken part in Searching for Debra Winger which Arquette says was in response to the experiences of Terms of Endearment actress and three-time Oscar nominee Debra who quit movies when she hit 40 after being told by studio executives she needed diet pills.

“Ageing,” said Arquette, “equals Kathleen Turner, who memorably played a nude scene in the stage version of The Graduate, is now 53 and says that all films are now dominated by a teenage audience who don't want to see ‘real' women.

“It is incredible that taste in our country is determined by teenagers. The studios are run by the marketing and research segments.

Each film is seen as an investment and is tailored towards the safest and most active audience, which is teenagers. So they want young women and plenty of male action roles.”

But age is no obstacle to quality roles. Helen Mirren (62) scooped an Oscar last year for her role in The Queen, ironically playing a women two decades older than her while Judi Dench is still keeping an eye on James Bond as M.

It's a pity that studios can't see beyond the ‘laughter lines' and see older women as sexy, just like audiences do.

- Sinead Ryan

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