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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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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

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

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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