For years we've heard actresses bemoan the fact that there were no good roles for women as they got older. Conventional wisdom in Hollywood has been that young is good and old is bad — especially when it came to leading ladies.
This week's Oscars have changed that. Three of the five actresses nominated in the best actress category are older than 50: Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep and Judi Dench.
Bill Newcott, the entertainment editor of AARP the magazine, said he wasn't surprised at all that older women dominated the best actress category because Mirren, Streep and Dench delivered wonderful performances.
"It's a trend we have seen in the pictures we've been doing, a trend we have seen all along where more and more the actresses who are 50 and over are getting these wonderful roles in terrific movies," he told The Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen. "There was a time, if you were the young you are the ingénue, teenage you were a friend, and older, grandma."
Streep received her 14th Oscar nomination playing the editor of a fashion magazine in "The Devil Wears Prada," and Newcott said a 22-year-old actress couldn't play that role.
"An actress needs to be accepted in a leading role in a film," he said.
In "Notes on a Scandal," Dench plays a manipulative, repressed and psychotic teacher who becomes obsessed with Cate Blanchette's character. Technically, the producers didn't have to cast someone older, but Newcott said that Dench brings a greater depth to the role.
"This is a woman who has had a lifetime of terrible things happening and we don't know what they are, but she brings to it that lifetime experience unspoken in her face," he said.
Mirren was charged with playing the queen of England, but Newcott said she delivers a great performance even though she said the role was "intimidating and scary."
Older actresses such as Mirren and Dench are being more selective and are refusing to play the stereotypical roles, Newcott said.
"They aren't settling for the supporting role," he said. "They are saying, 'I want the starring role or I won't be in the movie.' "
Read Newcott's column at AARPmagazine.org.
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