It’s okay for Sly’n’Arnie but Hollywood women can’t age


SCREEN WRITER:An amusing scene in Ivan Reitman’s 1988 Twins – one of the less terrible high-concept Arnold Schwarzenegger comedies – finds the monumental star encountering a poster for the latest Sylvester Stallone movie. The Austrian behemoth, confronted by Sly’s relatively dainty pectorals, is immediately reduced to a side-clutching pantomime of disdainful hilarity.

It’s an odd sequence. Was the larger actor really making fun of his rival? Were they friendly enemies like Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus? Or was the relationship closer to that between Churchill and Hitler?

At any rate, Arnie and Sly have been manacled together ever since. Born almost exactly one year apart, the Teutonic monster and the muttering New Yorker emerged as the biggest (in every sense) action stars of the 1980s. Ideally suited to the growing international market, their grunt- heavy festivals of disembowelment helped film rid itself of an unhelpful dependency on dialogue, plot and narrative coherence. Oh well. They gave us many good laughs as they reduced popular cinema to the status of visually rendered anaesthetic.

In the olden days, one could safely assume that this class of movie star – the star who shot people – would, after a few decades had passed, mature gracefully into a character actor or retire to run an unsuccessful diner in Atlantic City. Thanks to the stupid cult of youth, however, Stallone and Schwarzenegger refuse to go away or age gracefully.

When Arnold finished his term as governor of California, we half-hoped that he would buy a fishing rod and make for the lake. Hadn’t the time come for Sly to take that job at the Shopping Channel? Not quite. Both appeared in the not-very-good Expendables films, and over the next two weeks they return in (to be fair, perfectly decent) projects. Arnie plays a small-town sheriff in The Last Stand. Stallone is a Louisiana hitman in the delicately titled Bullet to the Head.

Both films do, of course, find time to reference their heroes’ age. You know the sort of thing. After performing acrobatically violent feats that would cause a teenager to crumble, they clutch the smalls of their backs and mutter: “I’m getting too old for this.” The parts are identical to the roles they assayed in the 1980s. But hired killer Stallone is now 66. Sheriff Schwarzenegger is 65.

Should we not celebrate? Older actors are still required and they can still kick up the same dust that dirtied their boots as youngsters.

But here’s the thing. Hollywood is happy to indulge men of that age. Few such welcomes are, however, extended to female actors when they reach middle age. They can play the silly granny. They can play the indomitable battleaxe. But those glamorous mainstream leads rarely come the way of Stallone and Schwarzenegger’s female contemporaries. No fair.

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