Saturday, August 29, 2015

Growing old gracefully

We worship the cult of youth and beauty at the expense of character and depth but it's interesting to notice actors (or indeed, just regular people) who have aged well (without plastic surgery) and look better now than in their youth. There are plenty (and yes, it does seem to be men more than women – I guess men acquire dignity and character which they may lack when younger). Or maybe it's just they looked bad at the time because of the awful fashions and haircuts.

I was reminded of this when watching two specific actors – Sam Neil and William Devane. I don't know, when they were young, they looked pretty terrible; Sam Neil was bland and William Devane looked cheesy and always had a shit-eating grin on his face.

Contrast Sam Neil in Possession (a bizarre cult horror film from 1981) and the Tudors (2007-2010), where he plays Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. In the 1980s, anything William Devane was in was pretty tacky but fast forward to 24 (2005-2007), where he plays President of the United States and Interstellar (2014), which he's in for about thirty seconds. Both actors acquired gravitas, partly to do with the roles – you couldn't have a 20 year old playing the President or a Cardinal, but still, it just looks like they've not only matured in age but in ability too, and seem comfortable in their bodies.

Even Paul Giamatti, not exactly leading man material in 2010's Sideways (though he does get the girl) but by San Andreas (2015), playing a seismologist, he looks quite distinguished and far more attractive. Someone like Tom Cruise, on the other hand, looks basically the same as he did twenty years ago, and still appearing in the same crappy kind of films too. He lacks character, maturity and depth – and has never been in a great film (maybe Magnolia comes close). I would probably say the same of Brad Pitt too.

Creative people, whether it be actors, artists, writers, film directors or photographers, seem to work until they die. Most of us look forward to retiring (I have been since about the age of twenty one, when I probably wasn't actually working, but just had an inkling that to fast forward forty years and get to retirement would be bliss), work is something to do 9-5 five days a week, then switch off when not doing it, and count the days to retirement. But for creatives it's a way of life, a passion that lasts throughout their lives, no matter what their age.

Previously on Barnflakes:
The seasons of life

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