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Action Heroes: Young vs. Old

The Thompson on Hollywood site features an intriguing article that looks at the difficulty of finding a new crop of action heroes to replace aging veterans.
Here's an excerpt from the piece:

Action heroes come in two categories: New School and Old School. Just last weekend, Liam Neeson, 58, led the box office pack with Unknown, showing 16-year old Justin Bieber and I Am Number Four‘s 20-year old Alex Pettyfer who’s Daddy. Neeson isn’t the first, nor will he be the last, older man showing the world how a Hollywood action star should perform, both on screen and in the charts.

It all comes down to how our culture defines masculine authority. As America raises generations of man-boys, many of Hollywood’s most manly movie stars come from overseas. Thus it is no surprise that today’s crop of worthy male action leads is not only slim, but older than ever, from 55-year-old Denzel Washington in November action hit Unstoppable and Jeff Bridges, 61, in Oscar-contender True Grit to Harrison Ford, the 68-year-old star of Cowboys & Aliens, coming in July.... It’s tradition to hold on to our favorite leading men until they simply can’t hack it anymore. They gain gravitas and danger as they age. The real problem is how to replace them. Daniel Craig (42) and Matt Damon (40) are just now reaching their movie star prime (some already question Damon’s marquee power).

...The State’s John Anderson goes deep into the issue: “The landscape of recent motion pictures, in particular Manly Movies, looks increasingly like the last days of the dinosaurs.” By the time The Expendables II opens in 2012, Anderson writes, the combined age of its five stars will be 291: “If one were to compare the future of Hollywood He-Men to say, The Terminator, there would be few replacement parts in the warehouse. Who’s coming along to fill the shoes of Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis — or even Liam Neeson?” He offers Orlando Bloom as a would-be replacement…“Yikes.”

Yes, there’s Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Christian Bale and “a few others,” Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra tells Anderson. But, he admits, “It’s hard to find an actor who has the physicality, the good looks, the charm all on top of being an amazing actor.” The bottom line is that these older stars still prove potency at the box office—and The Expendables and RED are last year’s proof. Now Schwarzenegger will be back to fill the action void. It seems that these aging stars are not expendable after all.

Follow the link for the full article.
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EdGross
2/23/2011
Thompson on Hollywood

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