The 51-year-old actress hasn't had a big hit since a string of commercial successes in the early and mid-1990s, including "Groundhog Day," "Michael," and "Four Weddings and a Funeral."
She said Thursday that while she didn't have trouble finding work in her 40s, American filmmakers may have had trouble finding good roles for her.
"In America, there's such a hunger for young people, so you get the young up-and-coming star. And then it becomes a time period when they really don't know what to do with you or how to use you," MacDowell told The Associated Press in an interview in Shanghai, where she is serving as a juror at the 12th Shanghai International Film Festival.
"And then it changes, I think, after 50 _ then you become _ 'I'm the mother of the 20-year-old.' So I'm hoping there's going to be a shift again and I'll work more," she said.
"I think you have to stay open and flexible and look for opportunities and not be arrogant," she said. "You're so used to being the lead or the hot thing. I think a lot of people get stuck in that moment. And I'm not really stuck in that moment. I just want to participate."
MacDowell, who lives in Asheville, North Carolina, said she still managed to find artistically challenging roles.
"I did a couple of crazy movies. They weren't that good. But I loved the process because it made me get out of my element. It was all improvisation. It was fun. Of course I would love to have a big box office success. But everything I'm doing, I still feel I'm being challenged. I'm working with interesting people," she said.
Her upcoming films include the thriller, "As Good as Dead," and "The 5th Quarter," which is about Wake Forest University's 2006 American football season. She said a third movie, "The Six Wives of Henry Lefay," a comedy about the funeral of a man with six former wives, may be delayed due to lawsuits. She did not elaborate.
MacDowell said she jumped at the opportunity to serve on the jury at Shanghai _ her first jury _ because it is headed by Danny Boyle, the Oscar-winning director of "Slumdog Millionaire."