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12 Actresses Who Were Rejected for Being “Too Old” and Many of Them Aren’t Even 50

It’s no secret that the fear of aging and being left out from life’s opportunities is a dilemma that affects a large part of the world’s population. And it’s also known that the media industry doesn’t help us to think otherwise. Although times are changing, the truth is that we still have a long road ahead of us to prevent high beauty standards and stereotypes from harming actresses who, as they grow old, begin to notice how their job offers start declining.

Bright Side brings you a list of 12 female celebrities who were rejected for not being “young” enough, showing that, contrary to their male counterparts, the barriers to developing their careers begin to appear at a very young age.

1. Reese Witherspoon

After spotting Reese Witherspoon on this list, some may ask themselves: “Is this serious? How can this actress be considered ’old’?” Apparently, for the movie industry, she is. When the plan for making a biographical film about singer Stevie Nicks was proposed, Reese Witherspoon was one of the favored candidates for the leading role. But as the project unfolded, she was no longer seen as the best option. Later on, when Nicks was asked again if Reese Witherspoon would be the protagonist, she replied: “I’ve already told (Reese) she’s almost too old.”

The truth is that, at the time, the actress was around 37 years old, so it can be said that this statement is exaggerated. In any case, the rejection meant very little to Reese’s career. She founded her own production company, Hello Sunshine, where she carries out projects where women play leading roles without stereotypes. She’s currently producing and starring in Big Little Lies along with other celebrities.

2. Maggie Gyllenhaal

Another actress who was rejected at the age of 37 is Maggie Gyllenhaal. “There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time,” she shared in 2015. “I’m 37, and I was told recently that I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad, and then it made feel angry, and then it made me laugh.” She didn’t share the name of the production company that rejected her, but luckily, the event didn’t prevent her from advancing her career. To this day, she continues to work in films and series.

3. Elizabeth Banks

She’s probably best known for playing Effie Trinket in The Hunger Games saga, but at 28, the actress was denied the role of Mary Jean in Spider-Man in 2002. Producers hired 18-year-old Kirsten Dunst, instead. The decision would make sense since the character of Mary Jean in the comic is a teenager. However, when narrating the story, Elizabeth explained the reason for her concerns: “Laura Ziskin (the producer) said: ’She’s too old.’ It’s fine. I’m a lot older than Kirsten Dunst, so I get it. I’m not much older than Tobey.”

In fact, Tobey Maguire was the one who played Peter Parker, who was almost the same age as Elizabeth, 27, at the time, and was also as far from being a teenager like she was. As a result, it was Kirsten Dunst who kissed Spiderman under the rain. Nonetheless, Elizabeth got a supporting part in the film and then continued working on major projects that made no distinction based on age.

4. Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway is not yet 40, but declared that after turning 30, job offers were limited to the roles of characters of the same age. “When I was in my early twenties, parts would be written for women in their fifties, and I would get them. And now I’m in my early thirties, and I’m like, why did that 24-year-old get that part?” Fortunately, rejections have not prevented us from seeing her on-screen. She’s still the main character in various movies of all genres, from science fiction to drama and comedy.

5. Olivia Wilde

When 29-year-old Olivia, auditioned for the role of Naomi in The Wolf of Wall Street, she was rejected because she was too “sophisticated” for the role, and the casting team picked Margot Robbie instead. When talking about her experience, she once said: "I was like, ’Oh, that sounds nice. I like that feedback. I didn’t get the part, but I’m a very sophisticated person. And then I found out later that they actually said ’old.’’ Ironically, the leading actor was 10 years older than her. Olivia, who remembers the event as amusing, insists that the apparent failure left her free to be able to play a role in Vinyl.

6. Emma Thompson

Can you picture someone else playing Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility? Well, when the project was still in diapers, many doubted Emma was the right actress for the part since she was 36 years old at the time. She once said: “I remember somebody saying to me that I was too old for Hugh Grant, who’s like a year younger than me, in Sense and Sensibility.” Both the director and the cast ignored all the prejudices and carried on with the film, which became a great success on the big screen because of the chemistry between Emma and Hugh.

7. Melanie Griffith

Surprisingly, it was Melanie’s daughter, Dakota Johnson, who expressed disagreement about the lack of work proposals her mother gets, not the actress. In an interview, Dakota complained: “Why isn’t my mother in movies? She’s an extraordinary actress! (...) This industry is brutal.” Although the number of Melanie’s working projects has declined compared to other years, she currently enjoys motherhood by publicly supporting her daughter Dakota’s growing success. What a beautiful mother-daughter relationship!

8. Kathy Griffin

The 58-year-old actress and comedian hasn’t been afraid to say that, when auditioning for films, she instantly knows that when she’s told: “We’re just not considering females at this time,” what they really mean is, “They like you, they’ve just decided to go younger.” Far from sticking to movies, Kathy knew how to continue sharing her humor to the masses by releasing books, CDs with joke segments, comedy, and even some projects on the small screen.

9. Rene Russo

When, in 1995, producers approved the proposal to make the movie Batman Forever directed by Tim Burton, everyone thought Rene Russo would be cast to play Dr. Chase Meridian, since she had played that part in the prequel. However, when the protagonist of the previous film rejected the role, she, at 41, was discarded from the role. The producers considered Russo to be too old for the new Batman: Val Kilmer, who was 5 years younger than her. That event didn’t mean much in her artistic career. Until recently, she has been moving us with her work portraying Frigga, Thor’s beautiful and intelligent mother in The Avengers.

10. Jamie Denbo

Not everyone will recognize Jamie Denbo’s name. Perhaps she will look familiar in this picture, but not everyone will match her face to a film or a show. So, to give you a clue: You might remember her for her role as Shelly Ginsberg in Orange Is the New Black, among other projects. Unlike other artists, she wasn’t so subdued when talking about her disagreement with Hollywood’s ageism, because she was rejected for a project due to her age. In fact, she dedicated some of her tweets to the subject.

In 2017, she wrote a tweet that said: “I was just informed that, at the age of 43, I am TOO OLD to play the wife of a 57 year old.” Then she went on sharing even more shocking details: “Oh, the characters also have an 18 year-old daughter. I am TOO OLD to be the mother of an 18 year-old.” Despite the disgust, the actress hasn’t given up and today continues to work on several projects on the small screen.

11. Charlize Theron

If you were wondering at what age the film industry considers it reasonable to be considered a mother, here’s an enlightening example. In this case, 44-year-old Charlize Theron wasn’t rejected, but was instead the one who turned down the offer to play a role in Wonder Woman because of her age. She declared in an interview:

“This is a great example of how Hollywood slaps you when you start aging.” Then she explained that when she was offered a role in the project, she thought it was one to portray the heroine. However, the casting crew wanted her to play Hippolyta, Wonder Woman’s mom. The proposal wasn’t a very pleasant surprise, which made her realize what her current role in the cinema industry was at her age. Ironically, if she had accepted the role, her “daughter” would have been only 10 years younger than her. Fortunately, the actress and model can still select incredible roles that reflect her beauty and talent, even without portraying Gal Gadot’s mother.

12. Catherine Zeta-Jones

At this point on the list, seeing Catherine Zeta-Jones “rejected” because of her age doesn’t surprise you anymore, but you may be shocked to know she was denied a role at the age of 19. According to the star, when she was a teenager, most of her projects were on Broadway, and she wanted to audition for a role in Aspects of Love.

“Trevor (the director) is always charming and told me I was just a little bit too old and a little bit too pretty (...) I wasn’t even 20, and I remember telling him I could be as not pretty or as not old as he wanted, but it didn’t do any good.” Sometime later, he gave her the chance to act in other roles where she was able to prove her talent. Catherine finally triumphed in the film industry portraying major characters that made her famous.

Which of these stories surprised you the most? Would you like to see more diversity in terms of the age of female celebrities on-screen? Share who your favorite actress is, regardless of their age. As we’ve seen, talent does not grow old.