By Kyle Buchanan
Recently, Kristen Stewart fell out of the con-artist comedy Focus after Will Smith replaced Ben Affleck as the male lead; according to Variety, she was nagged by "the feeling that the age difference between the two would be too large a gap." For the record, Smith is a mere four years older than the 40-year-old Affleck, and if it seems a little odd that either of them would be considered a romantic partner for the 23-year-old Stewart in the first place … well, welcome to Hollywood. It seems like time and time again, male movie stars are allowed to age into their forties, fifties, and even sixties while the ages of their female love interests remain firmly on one side of the big 4-0, but is this a perception borne out of reality? To find out for sure, Vulture has analyzed the data of ten middle-aged leading men and the ages of the women they've wooed onscreen; you'll see the results in the charts below.
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Vulture How'd we arrive at our conclusions? For each of our leading men, we tried to pick a representative sample of films - usually ten - where that A-lister had a notable love interest or wife, then we plotted the age gaps on our charts over the course of that star's career. (Because production dates for older movies can be hard to come by, we measured the stars' ages on the day the film in question was released.) The results confirmed our suspicions: As leading men age, their love interests stay the same, and even the oldest men on our list have had few romantic pairings with a woman their own age (or even one out of her mid-thirties). If our actor was sharing the screen with an A-lister of commensurate star power like Julia Roberts or Angelina Jolie, the age difference would drop somewhat, but in movies that relied solely on our guy's big name, the lesser-known love interests would nearly always be decades younger.
Scroll down to check out our findings in-depth.
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Denzel Washington's pushing 60, but you wouldn't know it from his love interests, who tend to stay 35 and under. Perhaps that's because Washington rarely gets to romance an actress as formidable as he is (a fact of life that may owe more to Hollywood's racial prejudices than gender inequality), because when he went toe-to-toe with Angela Bassett for Malcolm X and Whitney Houston in The Preacher's Wife, the age differences weren't quite as egregious. (He did pair with Julia Roberts and Angelina Jolie when they were newbie superstars, but those films - The Pelican Brief and The Bone Collector - were cautious and chaste when it came to suggesting a love connection). The older Washington gets, the less it seems to matter to his love interests, as the last three notable ones - Paula Patton, Lymari Nadal, and Kelly Reilly - were all more than twenty years younger than he was.
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Vulture HARRISON FORD
Ford rose to stardom in his late thirties, but the first time he had a notable love interest in her late thirties, it was in 1999's Random Hearts … when Ford was an age 57 to Kristin Scott Thomas's 39. The vast majority of Ford's love interests have been at least fifteen years younger than him, and some were far younger than that: When Six Days Seven Nights came out in 1998, pundits debated whether the sexuality of Ford's co-star Anne Heche might prove a distraction, paying little mind to the fact that Ford was 26 years older than the woman he was supposed to woo.
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Johnny Depp likes 'em young: Nearly all of his notable love interests have been 25 or under, and a few of them - including Winona Ryder, Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci, and Keira Knightley (who shared a kiss with Depp in the second Pirates film) - would have been carded at the time they swapped spit with the star. In fact, the cradle-robbing Depp has only had two notable love interests in their mid-thirties, and all Juliette Binoche and Angelina Jolie had to do to make that cut is win an Oscar beforehand. Easy!
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Vulture TOM CRUISE
Tom Cruise has had an interesting romantic trajectory onscreen: At the start of his career, almost all of his love interests were older than him. Shelley Long in Losin' It, Rebecca De Mornay in Risky Business, Kelly McGillis in Top Gun … time and time again, an older woman would seduce the sexually inexperienced Cruise onscreen. It's no wonder women used to love him! In the nineties, though, Cruise began squiring the five-years-younger Nicole Kidman, and he's remained the older man in all of his romantic encounters since. From Vanilla Sky on, the closest Cruise will let a woman get to his age is ten years; in the new Oblivion, he's a full seventeen years older than his female lead, Olga Kurylenko.
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By Kyle Buchanan