Our Aging Action Stars

This is a spin off from the Book of Boba Fett thread where there’s been some mention of Temuera Morrison’s age. He’s about 60, and, well, as much as I enjoyed the series the fact that he’s not a young man really shows. In the final fight between him and Cad Bane, Fett seemed to just plod along at a snail’s pace. I noticed this less in Morrison’s costar Ming Na-Wen who is pushing 60 but looks to be in her early to mid-40s to me. This got me to thinking: Is it just me, or has there been a change in how we view older people in more action oriented roles?

While filming The Wrath of Khan back in 1981, William Shatner was pushing 50 and one of the themes of the movie was Kirk’s realization that he was growing old, his best days were behind him, and it wouldn’t be long before he was replaced by the next generation. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will turn 50 this year, Tom Cruise 60, and even Keanu Reeves will be 58 but I don’t think any of them will have a hard time being viewed serious as the stars of action movies. (I see Lethal Weapon 5 is in pre-production with the two stars having been born in 1956 and 1946 respectively.)

So has something changed or am I just now noticing something that’s been business as usual?

The old Western stars were pretty much the action stars of their days. They kept it up to the same ages your talking about.

Would you say the action stars as we think of them today, basically started in the 80s? If so it well explains why they’re just reaching these ages now. Arnold & Stallone would have been the first 2 to still be action starts in their 60s and 70s. My bad, I forgot Chuck Norris.

I guess Bronson & Eastwood were the proto-types or transitions from Western to Action stars?

if I may drop in a slight tangent: where/who are the next generation of action stars? Gina Carano looked to be one until her foolish and transphobic statements (though I’m sure she’ll find a nest somewhere). Who else? Simu Liu looks like he has potential if Shang-Chi is any indication.

That’s not unreasonable. John Wayne was in his early 60s when True Grit was released but that character was supposed to be an fat old one eyed man. But throughout his 50s and 60s he continued to play the same tough cowboy characters he had always played.

I grew up in the 80s and the likes of Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Norris certainly shaped what I think of as an action star. I suspect most younger people look at those older movies, think they’re rather cheesy, and have a different idea of what an action star is today.

At least for Bronson, he kind of became a parody of himself with all those Deathwish movies. The Simpsons even had a parody where they show his latest movie and Bronson says, “I wish I was dead.” He was something like 73 when he made the last one in 1994. On the flip side, just a few years earlier he was believable as the tough old sea captain starring opposite Christopher Reeves in The Sea Wolf.

Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham are just two I can think of off the top of my head before I head out to work. I admit that I don’t watch many action movies today because I’m getting old and I find them ridiculous. With CGI, better practical effects, stunts, and changing styles, many action movies just look cartoony to me.

49 and 54 years of age, btw. The amount of time in the gym their jobs must require makes me exhausted (and envious). Chris Hemsworth is another, I’d suggest. Maybe Ryan Reynolds, though his stuff tends to be action-comedies.

This seems to be the main trend with Dwayne Johnson and Chris Hemsworth too. Maybe with the rise of the MCU/Star Wars franchising, the traditional pecs & guns actioner isn’t as big of a draw nowadays.

I think we tend to identify with the people, places, and things we grew up with. Actors are no exception. Also, I believe, people who reach their senior years find inspiration from actors like Helen Mirren, Bruce Willis, Denzel Washington, Laurence Fishburne, etc because they identify with them. They present older people who can still do amazing things.

Doesn’t Dwayne Johnson claim he works out 6 hours a day when he is not doing a shoot? I seem to remember reading that in an interview.

Given his build, the whole 5000 calories a day and 6 hours in a gym is very believable. If you look at the current batch of pro and amature athletes the whole ‘my day job is being in a gym’ is mind boggling. I can remember being at a decision point when I hit 15 of ‘have a real life’ or ‘dedicate all my time and resources to being the best equestrienne I can be’ and believe me, horses are freaking expensive unless you happen to own a farm large enough to have the fields and pastures to feed the damned thing, an indoor and an outdoor training ring, the money for vets and additional trainers … [I was trading sweat for my stabling and training costs to bring down the actual cash I was laying out. Pretty much everything I was making working my regular job went into paying for my critters] I opted to sell my boys and use the money I got for college, and don’t regret not pushing to ‘go pro’ in a manner of speaking. As nice as it would have been to get a medal for dressage, no way in hell could my parents and me manage to pay for the stabling, vetting, training and travel it would have taken.

Another example; in Liam Neeson’s recent films (perhaps starting with Taken) he’s an action film star, even though he’s 69.

I think this is part of it. Those aging action stars are baby boomers; and boomers, who still have a lot of entertainment purchasing power, want to see people their own age still being vital and active.

(for the record, I am the last of the boomers, born in late 1964)

I checked this and, at least by the sources I viewed, the “cut off date” for Boomers is accepted as 1964. I couldn’t find any reason why that particular year was chosen. Anyone know?

I think perhaps because the first boomers, born in 1946, would be turning eighteen.

Interesting thought! I’m wondering if it is because the men who returned from World War II would be reaching 40 or older, which is past the prime years for fathering children.

Yep, i think Dewey_Finn has it, a generational thing. Also, maybe a factor is that perhaps the % of babies being born per population had stabilized to some statistical mean by then.

Well, Sean Connery was 73 when he played Alan Quatermain in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Not to mention plenty of other flicks in the preceding decade)

Cary Grant was around 60 in North by Northwest and Charade

I’ll just note that one of my favorite aspects of Machete Kills was how clear it was that Danny Trejo could barely move, let alone kick someone’s ass (I mean, maybe he could strangle the life out of you, if he got his hands on you, but he certainly couldn’t do a flying spin kick to the head). The mountains they move to make the man come across as a fighting legend were simply hilarious and heartwarming. You couldn’t help but feel like Roberto Rodriguez had put the film together simply to help keep Trejo financially afloat, and he was willing to go to any length necessary to make it work, despite the actors’ age.

Great film.

It’s not just on the male side. The “And Just Like That” are now mid 50s. Ming Wa Nen was 57 during Boba Fett’s production.

Hugh Jackman is 53. He is still in great shape and probably will return to action roles.

It’s not the number. It’s the way they move. Once they start moving like they’re protecting their bodies it’s over. Robert Duvall at 70 was still an intimidating person but you could tell he wasn’t in the gym punching a heavy bad and sprinting regularly.

I’m not sure if she’s still at it in her films but, at least in 2016 (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Michelle Yeoh was kicking butt at 54.

She probably has a slight advantage of Jackie Chan of not having wrecked her body through so many stunts, so she could still have a couple of decades on her.