Older men may fare well in Oscars’ acting categories, but voters treat the female acting races like a beauty pageant, frequently crowning such glamazons as Halle Berry, Charlize Theron, Natalie Portman, Reese Witherspoon, and Nicole Kidman. VIEW GALLERY
There is a clear divide in how male and female actors are perceived by the Academy. In the last two decades, only Helen Mirren (“The Queen,” 2006) was over 50 when she won for her lead performance. Meanwhile, three of the last four Best Actor champs — Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech,” 2010), Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart,” 2009), and Daniel Day-Lewis (“There Will Be Blood,” 2007) — had all reached the half century mark while Sean Penn (“Milk,” 2008) was 48.
Compare that to recent Best Actress winners Portman (“Black Swan,” 2010), Witherspoon (“Walk the Line,” 2005), Charlize Theron (“Monster,” 2003), Hilary Swank (“Boys Don’t Cry,” 1999) and Gwyneth Paltrow (“Shakespeare in Love,” 1998) who were all under 30 when they won. Actor winners skew far older with Adrien Brody (“The Pianist,” 2002) the only lead champion in Oscar history to win before his thirtieth birthday.
Last year, Melissa Leo glammed it up in her infamous “Consider” ads in a bid to win at age 50 for “The Fighter.” That pressure may be felt this year by contenders like the 46-year-old Viola Davis (“The Help“), 62-year-old Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady“) and 64-year-old Glenn Close (“Albert Nobbs“).
Youngsters like Michelle Williams (“My Week with Marilyn“) and Rooney Mara (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo“) need not worry about the effects of ageism. If that over-50 statistic holds true, Williams becomes something of a default frontrunner.