There are so many little choices involved in creating a cringeworthy film moment: An inhuman wig that distracts you from a scene, like Nic Cage’s in Ghost Ride; the random use of CGI for a baby, a la Twilight, that could have easily been a real child; but the ultimate, totally avoidable silver screen annoyance is casting an old actor in too a young role.
Granted, it’s sometimes hard to spot the tell tale signs that an actor is ridiculously the wrong age for their part. But when you notice those crow’s feet and lined foreheads, even a high school wardrobe can’t pull you back into the plot of the story. These actors pushed their fake ages — the suspension of disbelief — to its limits…
1. Emma Thompson: A show biz secret: if you’re heavily involved in the making of the project, you get to call the shots. So, when 35-year-old Thompson penned the script for Sense and Sensibility, she wound up with the part of the 19-year-old lead.
2. Barbara Streisand: Just like Thompson, Streisand wielded her well-deserved power to play a teen. In her directorial debut of Yentl, Streisand put her skincare routine to the test, starring as a teen at 41 years old. If anyone could freeze the aging clock, it’s Babs.
3. Leo DiCaprio: In Catch Me If You Can, DiCaprio played a master con “teen,” Frank Abagnale Jr., a 17 year old daylighting as a 27-year-old professional. To further complicate the puzzle, Leo was actually 28 during filming.
4. Henry Winkler: The most famous teen in television also holds the role of the coolest of cool: The Fonz. Winkler held court as the infamous bad boy from age 29 until he was, yep, 40 years old!
5. Emilia Clarke: Age is just a number, and the Game of Thrones casting director agreed. Daenerys Targaryen starts the series at age 16, but Clarke snagged the role at age 28. It’s easy to overlook age when there are bigger suspensions of disbelief, like, um, the dragons.
6. Bianca Lawson: There is one ageless enigma that flutters through teenage roles like an immortal butterfly. For over 20 years Lawson scooped up high school roles, including a stint as a juvenile on Pretty Little Liars until the age of 34.
7. Matt Damon: One of the biggest age gap goofs went barely noticed. Damon scored positive reviews as the impressionable lover of Liberace, 18-year-old Scott Thorson. However, no makeup could conceivably hide that Matt Damon was 43 years old.
8. Shirley Henderson: The Harry Potter franchise scored big with Henderson as Moaning Myrtle, the broody 14-year-old ghost. Pigtails automatically knock five years off your appearance, but they shaved 22 of this 36-year-old actress.
9. Stockard Channing: Rizzo in Grease faced a teen pregnancy scare, but Channing could have feasibly been old enough to be her character’s mother. Nevertheless, everyone’s favorite pink lady was embodied perfectly by the 34-year-old actress.
10. Alan Ruck: We hate to burst the bubble of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but the angsty teen Cameron, afraid to confront his domineering father, wasn’t so young and helpless after all. Ruck was 30 years old.
11. Winona Ryder: Harkening back to Heathers, Ryder aged herself down from 28 to 18 for her role as Susanna in Girl, Interrupted. She slipped into the role of a troubled high school senior seamlessly, even after being ten years removed.
12. Stacey Dash: She portrayed the perfect valley girl sidekick as Dion in Clueless, so it’s hard to believe she hadn’t been in high school for over ten years. When she appeared in the hit film, she was 29 years old!
13. Jason Earle: Hannah Montana’s goofball brother Jackson was the older sibling, but his silly antics would make you think otherwise. Starring opposite a 14-year-old Miley Cyrus, Earle played the teen believably, considering he was 29 years old when the show began!
14. Gabrielle Cateris: Andrea from Beverly Hills 90210 stood out as more intelligent than her high school counterparts. But maybe that’s because she had a few more years of wisdom: Cast at age 29, she played a teen well into her thirties.
15. Ian Ziering: There must have been a shortage of teens in LA when they cast Beverly Hills 90210 because the part of Steve Sanders went to 26-year-old Ziering. Granted, he wasn’t the eldest on set, but he played the spoiled youth for a full ten seasons.
16. Tobey Maguire: Peter Parker is supposed to be just 15 years old, so why studio executives kept casting actors inching towards 30 is the real mystery. Maguire landed the part of Spider-Man when he was 27 and then carried the role across three films.
17. Andrew Garfield: Perhaps it was because they wanted to do Spidey justice a second time around that they rebooted the film with a new leading man. Too bad he was older than the first! Andrew Garfield was a 28-year-old teen slinging webs around the city.
18. Marisa Tomei: The most recent iteration of the superhero’s story, Spider-Man: Homecoming, came closest to the comics by casting Tom Holland at 20 years old. But casting chose 53-year-old Hollywood veteran Marisa Tomei to play 70-year-old Aunt May.
19. Tom Wellington: Calling the show Smallville wasn’t enough to distract viewers from the fully grown man assuming the role of a 14-year-old. Wellington had the strapping good looks of a young Clark Kent but was about ten years more mature.
20. The Titans: Remember the Titans, the high school football movie about a revolutionary integrated team, featured a team mostly made up of fully grown men. The eldest, team defensive end Julius Campbell, was played by 31-year-old Harris.