Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hollywood Hunks - Aging or Not?

he life-cycle of the leading man used to be predictable: the bigger the film star, the more you could bank on the four phases. Every 10-12 years these male actors would metamorphose, thereby holding old fans and gaining new ones as they aged. Think of Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, James Stewart and Henry Fonda. The changes wrought by aging were embraced, or at least capitalized on.

The NYTimes cites the 1959 classic western Rio Bravo as a freeze frame of the "Four Ages of the Movie Star:"

"[f]irst comes the rebellious young adult (Ricky Nelson, as a cocky gunfighter) who evolves into the conflicted middle-aged professional (Dean Martin, as the deputy with a drinking problem), who turn into the trustworthy elder statesman (John Wayne, as the self-sufficient sheriff), who eventually gives way to the lovable old coot (Walter Brennan as, well, the lovable old coot)."

Interestingly, RioBravo is a film in which the plot is simply a token and it is the nuanced characters which are essential.

Contrast this with today's aging action figures: nothing slows them down. They capitalize on the franchise, no older, no wiser. The biggest stars of yesterday didn't resist the transition to sagging jowls and character-etched visages. Today's stars make use of every trick that drugs, surgery, and the camera can offer in order to appear trapped in a time warp.

Sylvester Stallone (61) notoriously did it with hGH, gym time, and lots of plastic surgery. Before filming the comedy Oscar (1991) he had his first surgery, a unilateral direct browlift to correct a birth injury brought on by high forceps. Since then Rocky has had his nose broken, more brow work, belpharoplasty, and a facelift (2006). And probably botox and facial fillers.

Harrison Ford (65) went in for reputedly once went in for hair transplants & coloring in the 1980s and now a very young wife. But even without plastic surgery, his upcoming appearance in the upcoming 4th installment of Indiana Jones seems to confirm what's changed about today's leading macho man roles. Nothing.

Ford plays the same archeologist adventurer over a 20 year span doing the same stunts. The script may joke about aging, but essentially he doesn't age. Ditto for Bruce Willis (52) who is dying hard for the fourth time in 20 years. Hollywood uses every digitalized sleight of hand to make them appear unchanged.

Perhaps the exception to the pre-video cinema time machine was Cary Grant, the epitome of the seductive man – sauve, sophisticated, marvelously dressed. He never looked really young even in the 1930s when he landed on-screen and he never looked really old when he left the screen at age 62.

George Clooney (46) is heir to the Grant's bespoke shoes. Male actors can command a long life as romantic leads, just as they do in real life. The standards for masculine sex appeal are broad and encompass some aging, unlike the standards for action hero virility which requires that time stop.

Will Clooney make it to 62 without resorting to surgery? If he continues to emulate Cary Grant, it will be by making no attempt to hide his true age. So far, he hasn't.

According to the NYTimes, "[t]he stars who emerged in the 1960s and early ’70s — before cable television, home video and the Internet began to divide the audience into discrete demographic groups — will likely be the last generation to make it into coothood with their popularity more or less intact: Clint Eastwood (77), Jack Nicholson (70), Al Pacino (67)."

Stars like these have moved on with the times and chosen roles reflective of their age, despite modest plastic surgery. Jack Nicholson had a direct browlift after his first film success Five Easy Pieces. Robert Redford (70) had a blepharoplasty many years ago. Eastwood (despite misleading pictures) has not. Robert Duvall (77) has not. Warren Beatty (70) has perhaps had an upper blepharoplasty years ago, but nothing obvious.

Their behaviors and mates may not be age-appropriate, but their looks are.

But for stars who arrived in the late seventies, after movies moved out of the theatre, the options are very different. They are a generation of young actors aging on the small and large screen, their films out of chronological order. It includes the likes of Tom Cruise (45), Leonardo DiCaprio (33), Brad Pitt (44), Matt Damon (37) and Will Smith (39). Will they do without plastic surgery?

It's unlikely today's fans will tolerate their favorite stars getting any older. Tell us what you think.

Like the songs you heard on-air?

Karaoke - Ameritz - Big Karaoke Hits Vol.32 - Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (In the Style of Amy Winehouse)

Dinah Washington - Blue Gardenia - Teach Me Tonight

Diana Krall - Live in Paris - Just the Way You Are

1 comment:

Minneapplegirl said...

I would much prefer watching them age a little less oddly. Fine, get a little botox, maybe a little of this or that but once they look whacked...they lose credibility in my book as an actor. Meg Ryan for example and her lips. And that photo of Sly. Who is that? It's like I lose complete interest of ever seeing them in a movie/TV again.
There's my $.02.