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The 25 Oldest Looking Teenagers in Movie History

The 25 Oldest Looking Teenagers in Movie History (photo)

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Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but in Hollywood, age is in the eye of the casting director. In the movies, playing a high schooler is less a matter of the actors’ real age than the filmmakers’ state of mind. Who cares if you’re pushing 30 and married and you’ve got a couple kids? How do you look in trendy clothes? How are your sideburns? Good, you’re hired.

True, movies are fantasies. And there are few fantasies more potent than high school fantasies: we’ve all indulged dreams of what our lives would have looked like if we’d only been more popular or more beautiful back in the day. But movies should also reflect reality, and so few high school movies do. And way too many feature casts that should be forced to read disclaimers before the film starts: “I’m not a real teenager, but I play one in the movies.”

To catalogue the worst offenders, we decided to put together this list of the oldest looking teenagers in movie history. Note before we begin that this is not a list of the oldest actors to play teenagers. If our highly scientific method — i.e. looking at them with my eyeballs — determined that you passed for a teen, you didn’t make the cut, regardless of actual age. Tobey Maguire was 26 in the first “Spider-Man.” So was Sissy Spacek in “Carrie.” Alan Ruck was 29 in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” but you wouldn’t know it from looking at him.

We were careful to disqualify anyone who wasn’t definitely playing a teenager. Curtis Armstrong — a.k.a. Booger from “Revenge of the Nerds” — shows up on a lot of other old movie teenager lists for his role in 1985’s “Better Off Dead,” when he was 31 years old. But his character, Charles de Mar, jokes that he’s been in high school for “seven-and-a-half years,” which would make him about 23 years old. No good. Likewise, we ruled out Luke Perry in the original “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” movie because it’s not entirely clear how old he is; he hangs around with Buffy, but he has a job as a mechanic and doesn’t ever go to school. No good either; he’ll have to wait for the inevitable oldest looking teenagers in TV history list. We also took into consideration the age of the character in question. A 21-year-old might be able to pass for 18, but 14? Not so much.

With those rules in mind, here’s our list. You can find the index at the end, with links back to each entry. For the sake of ease and consistency, all ages were calculated based on their movie’s release date. Now let’s get things started before this intro gets too old too.

[#25-21]   [#20-16]   [#15-11]   [#10-6]   [#5-1]   [Index]


darby2-05302011.jpg25. Kim Darby, “True Grit” (1969)
Age at Movie’s Release: 21

Last year’s remake by the Coen Brothers really threw into relief just how old Kim Darby looks in the original “True Grit.”  Her character, Mattie Ross, is supposed to be a 14-year-old girl.  When the first “True Grit” came out in the summer of 1969, Darby was a few weeks from her 22nd birthday.  When you compare her to the Coens’ Mattie, played by a then-14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld, the contrast is striking.  And it’s not just a matter of looking the part; looking the part changes the impact of the story, which is about a young girl hiring a U.S. marshal to help her track down and kill her father’s murderer.  Steinfeld looks like a little girl, and her physical immaturity amplifies the absurdity of the comic scenes and the stakes of the dramatic scenes.  Darby looks like a young woman by comparison, and a much more reasonable traveling companion for a western hero, someone who could back up her spunky words with her fists.  That makes her a better foil for John Wayne’s Marshal Rooster Cogburn, but a poorer fit for Mattie Ross.


coughlin-05302011.jpg24. Kevin Coughlin, “Wild in the Streets” (1968)
Age at Movie’s Release: 22

In the 1960s, American International Pictures was the studio for teensploitation: beach parties, juvie gang pictures, and other assorted drive-in friendly fare. One of the weirdest of the bunch is “Wild in the Streets” a hybrid rock ‘n’ roll and youth movement film. It’s about a socially conscious young rock star, Max Frost (Christopher Jones), and his efforts first to lower the voting age to 14 and then get himself elected as president of the United States. Max and most of his band are supposed to be in the 20-25-year-old range, but most — including a pre-superstardom Richard Pryor — are much closer to 30, the horrifying age that they all say they’d rather die than reach. The one teen in the band, Billy, is supposedly 15, “the youngest graduate in the history of Yale Law School.” But actor Kevin Coughlin was an obvious 22; he’d already left Hollywood for a few years to get a degree in theater from Northwestern University. “Wild in the Streets” is a fascinatingly weird movie with a dark sense of humor and a bleak attitude about politics and our government. The fact that all of its pro-youth, anti-adult messages were being fed to the audience by a bunch of near-30-year-old fogies only makes its worldview feel even more cynical.


bynes-05302011.jpg23. Amanda Bynes, “Easy A” (2010)
Age at Movie’s Release: 24

I have no idea whether Amanda Bynes’ inability to graduate into less kid-focused fare was the reason for her temporary retirement from acting in 2010 (when she tweeted “I don’t love acting anymore, so I’ve stopped doing it”) but it wouldn’t surprise me. The poor woman has been in high school for a loooong time. Bynes snuck into the job market, however briefly, on her television show “What I Like About You,” but otherwise spent the totality of the 2000s lost in compulsory education in films like “What a Girl Wants” (2003), “She’s the Man” (2006), and “Hairspray” (2007). She was still seeking that ever-elusive diploma at age 24 in last year’s “Easy A” from director Will Gluck, who we’ll later see clearly prefers casting his high school comedies old. Interestingly, though Bynes had always played the plucky heroine, in “Easy A” she’s something of a villain, a fundamentalist Christian who spreads lies about that film’s plucky heroine (22-year-old Emma Stone, who’d already played a college co-ed in “The House Bunny” two years earlier). It’s as if ten years in high school with no end in sight had curdled her perky persona into antisocial bitterness.


smith-05302011.jpg22. Kerr Smith, “Final Destination” (2000)

Age at Movie’s Release: 28

Movies have nothing on television in the doddering teenagers department. “Beverly Hills 90210,” “The OC,” “Gossip Girl,” “90210” again, you know the worst offenders. Most cast members didn’t make teen movies — probably out of fear of being typecast — but a few did. “Dawson’s Creek” co-star Kerr Smith’s turn in the first “Final Destination” is maybe the best worst example. He plays the jock of a group of survivors who get off a doomed transatlantic flight just before takeoff, and if he looks like he’s got half a decade on the main character played by Devon Sawa, that’s because he does. (Sawa was 22). It is weird how athletes in movies take on such freakishly adult attributes. They’re the nightmare versions of jocks dreamt up by their victims, the nerds who all grew up to become filmmakers. Personally, I feel like whatever evil force is killing the unplanned survivors could actually care less that Smith didn’t die in the plane crash. It just wants to get this guy for hiding from death in high school for years and years. By the way, give Sawa credit for having something in “Final Destination” that no one on this list — but just about every real teenager — has: acne.


oneal-05302011.jpg21. Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee Hardaway, “Blue Chips” (1994)
Age at Movie’s Release: 21 and 22

By the time Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway appeared in 1994’s “Blue Chips” as high school prospects recruited by a dirty university, they were already playing professional basketball together for the NBA’s Orlando Magic. True, they don’t look wildly out of place roaming college campuses (as a matter of fact, both men left college early for the NBA draft, meaning they could have still been upperclassmen in 1994). But if you look at pictures of Shaq at LSU or Penny at Memphis State you’ll see significantly shrimpier dudes than the bulkier, more physically developed guys who show up in “Blue Chips.” And even more than their physical appearances, it’s their behavior on the court that really gives them away. These aren’t raw, untrained talents; they’re clearly two of the best basketball players in the country, if not the world. No wonder they’re blue chips. They’re not nearly green enough to be credible as 17-year-olds.


[#25-21]   [#20-16]   [#15-11]   [#10-6]   [#5-1]   [Index]

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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