Reel to Real: 40-year-old hero
Fans of action movies are probably marking down the days until October starts, when they can go see Liam Neeson and Daniel Craig get down to badass basics in “Taken 2” and “Skyfall,” respectively. No matter what dangers Bryan and Bond face they always come out on top, despite femme fatales, injuries, or, when you really think about it, their ages.
Let’s be clear. I don’t think a person in his or her 40s is old. I just find it interesting that Hollywood, which reveres youth, tends to cast men over 35 in action movies. Daniel Craig was 38 when his first Bond movie came out, and he’s now 44 with no end in sight. Jeremy Renner, the heir to the Bourne films, is 41, and can easily be mistaken for a man 10 years younger. Robert Downey Jr. is 47, and has two successful action film series. Liam Neeson is 60 and can still kick anyone’s ass and “The Expendables” movies feature scores of action stars that made their debuts on the movie scenes decades ago. One would imagine that directors want someone younger, quicker, and prettier-faced. What’s the deal?
One thing might be the movies’ plots. “Taken” wouldn’t work with a 25-year-old. Most grad students I know don’t have CIA training, much less a teenage daughter. The whole idea of the movie is for Bryan Mills to be experienced and worldly. He thinks he’s past his prime, but when a loved one desperately needs his help, he launches into attack mode without a second thought. Bond works the same way.
No one wants to see James Bond having his first fumbling experience with a gun or trying to awkwardly ask a girl her number. He’s perpetually experienced, suave and deadly. Even in “Casino Royale,” when he is still considered a beginner he has a self-assuredness that a young guy wouldn’t be able to pull off.
Perhaps that’s what viewers enjoy. Men see these older, experienced action stars as role models, men who have already learned the ropes and are what they could be, with determination and hard work. Women, on the other hand, see an ideal.
These aren’t lazy, selfish, immature boys but people who basically have themselves together. Often, a guy is trying to prove himself (take a mid-30s Bruce Willis in “Die Hard,” whose wife earns new respect for him after he single-handedly destroys every bad guy in the building.) Even when the guy is more childish, like Tony Stark in “Iron Man,” he can still pull it together and save the day.
So what do you guys think? Does it say something about viewers that these “older” guys get picked, or is it just a matter of choosing the proper actor for the role? Would younger men get chosen if they were qualified for the part? Or is it a statement about maturity and experience?