17 Actors Who Were Not Afraid To Play Characters Much Older Than Them

Much of the magic of filmmaking lies in the makeup department, which is in charge of transforming our favorite actors into the roles we see on screen. Sometimes, they have to play a character much older than themselves, and over time we can see how well the makeup artists were on set.

1. Maggie Smith in Hook

At the age of 56, Maggie Smith played Wendy’s grandmother in Hook, a movie in which, thanks to makeup, she could look 92 years old. In the photo on the right, we can see Maggie on the red carpet at the age of 81.

2. Robert De Niro in Once Upon a Time in America

Robert De Niro had to convince director Sergio Leone that he could play Noodles as a young man and when he’s around 60. The photo on the right shows what De Niro really looks like in his 60s.

3. Sally Field in Forrest Gump

© Forrest Gump / Paramount Pictures and co-producers, Jason Mendez / Everett Collection / Depositphotos

At 46, Sally Field played Mrs. Gump at different ages, including an older version. At the time of the shooting, she was only 10 years older than her son in the movie who was played by Tom Hanks.

4. Mel Gibson in Forever Young

© Forever Young / Warner Bros and co-producers, Elizabeth Goodenough / Everett Collection / Depositphotos

In this film, Mel Gibson, who was in his 30s, played an aging version of pilot Daniel McCormick. Today, Mel looks amazing in his 60s.

5. Anthony Hopkins in Legends of the Fall

Anthony Hopkins brought veteran Colonel William Ludlow to the big screen when he was in his 50s in real life.

6. Melanie Griffith in Shining Through

© Shining Through / Twentieth Century Fox and co-producers, vienna report / / East News

At 33, the actress played Linda Voss, who in the present time of the film is an old woman telling her story for a documentary. Although Melanie is not exactly that old nowadays, we can see how time has treated her well now that she’s in her 60s.

7. Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future II

When the actor was 28 years old, he returned for the second installment of the iconic sci-fi saga Back to the Future. In this film, Michael’s character, Marty McFly, travels back to the future and meets his 2015, 47-year-old self.

8. Marlon Brando in The Godfather

To bring Vito Corleone to the big screen in his 50s and into his late 60s, Marlon resorted to makeup. In the picture on the right, we can see what the actor really looked like at 56.

9. Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2

Linda Hamilton was in her 30s when she played an aging Sarah Connor for the second Terminator installment. You probably don’t remember her, as this scene was removed from the final edit. Today, the actress is in her 60s and looking great.

10. Cate Blanchett in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Cate Blanchett played Daisy Williams in the renowned film starring alongside Brad Pitt. In this production, the actress played Daisy at different ages. In the scene on the left, her character was around 57 years old, while in real life the actress was not even in her 40s.

11. Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man


For this film, the actor had to age 88 years to impersonate Jack Crabb, a 121-year-old man. Fortunately, this was made possible thanks to the makeup of the talented Dick Smith. Today, the actor is in his 80s.

12. Julianne Moore in The Hours

© The Hours / Paramount Pictures and co-producers, Piovanotto Marco / ABACA / Abaca / East News

For this psychological drama, the actress played both the younger and older version of Laura Brown. At the time, she was in her 40s, so the makeup allowed her to make the leap in time she needed for the film.

13. Jada Pinkett Smith in Matrix Resurrections

After 18 years, Jada returned to the role of Niobe, who was given a look that made the passage of time evident to those outside the Matrix. After so many years, the actress still looks very beautiful.

14. Mandy Moore in This Is Us

© mandymooremm / Instagram, Gilbert Flores / Broadimage / Broad Image / East News

In This Is Us, Mandy Moore plays Rebecca Pearson through various stages of her life. The 36-year-old actress needed 3.5 hours in the dressing room to turn into an old lady.

15. Tilda Swinton in The Grand Budapest Hotel

The age of the spectacular Madame D is 84 years old. The actress played her when in real life she was a little over 50.

16. Russell Crowe in The Loudest Voice in the Room

Steve Sands / Bauer Griffin / East News, Invision / Invision / East News

This mini-series tells the story of media mogul Roger Ailes. At first, the hero Crowe, like him, is 55 years old, but at the end of the series, the mogul is 77 years old.

17. Carice van Houten in Game of Thrones

© Game of Thrones / HBO and co-producers, Everett Collection / East News

To turn the forty-year-old actress Carice van Houten into a centenarian old woman, it took not only many hours of make-up efforts, but also an understudy. The montage combined the make-up face of Carys and the body of an elderly woman.

What other actor do you remember who has brought a character older than themselves to life? How difficult do you think it is to act as someone much older than you?

Please note: This article was updated in January 2023 to correct source material and factual inaccuracies.
Preview photo credit Game of Thrones / HBO and co-producers, Everett Collection / East News
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