30 Actors Who Portrayed Younger Characters — And Totally Fooled Us!

In movies and television series there are always several embarrassing moments, that could range from very poor CGI, like in the latest Fantastic Four film, or characters using completely awful wigs that distract you from the actual film. But one of the most notorious embarrassing moments is when the production casts an old actor to play a very young role. #23, #12 and #9 are our favorites!

#30. Cole Sprouse in “Riverdale”

Riverdale’s Jughead, portrayed by Cole Sprouse (known for shows such as The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and the film Big Daddy with Adam Sandler). In the current show Riverdale, Cole plays a 17-year-old teenager and who is the leader of the local gang, The Southside Serpents. The actor is actually 26 years old.

Photo: Courtesy of CW

We also have some very interesting facts about Cole Sprouse and his twin brother, Dylan Sprouse. For instance, Cole is a very talented photographer and you can check his photos on his Instagram page. He also told WWD that at first, he was not into playing Jughead in Riverdale.

At first when I received the script for the Archie show, I was immediately turned off. But in more recent years, Archie comics have tried to stray away from the ‘golly, shucks Arch, let’s go to the sock hop’ thing“.

#29. Blake Lively in “Green Lantern”

Lively’s character Carol Ferris is meant to have known Hal Jordan (played by Ryan Reynolds). since they were children, but Lively and Reynolds are 12 years apart in age. The pair fell in love on the movie set, and are now married with two kids. Earlier this year Ryan confessed that a year after working together on Green Lantern, he and Blake, 28, attempted to date other people, but quickly realized they only had eyes for each other.

Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

He said: “That was the most awkward date for the respective partners, because Blake and I were just, like, fireworks”. Friends that end up with fireworks — I dig it! And it looks like these two were onto something, because they ended up getting married about a year later in September 2012, with a surprise wedding at Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

#28. Lindsay Lohan in “Just My Luck”

When she was 20 years old, Lohan portrayed a successful executive who gets romantically tangled up with a man played by Chris Pine (who is six years older than Lohan). Not that it’s impossible, but we doubt Lohan’s character was meant to be a 20-year-old.  Before this film, Lohan’s first film role was as a child actress in “The Parent Trap”. Before “Mean Girls”, she was in the Disney Channel movies “Life-Size” and “Get a Clue” and continued in other Disney hits “Freaky Friday” and “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen”.

Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

She is infamous for arriving late to meetings, court appearances or interviews. “I’m bad with timing. I always panic when people rush me. I’m like, ‘I’ll be there half an hour early if you just give me my space and don’t call me every five seconds”.

#27. Rachel McAdams in “Mean Girls”

Rachel McAdams’ portrayed high school junior Regina George in “Mean Girls” when she was 26, while her character was meant to be 17. In retrospect, it’s impressive to know McAdams blended in so well as a high school mean girl despite being a decade older than her character. Rachel graduated with a theater degree from Canada’s York University in 2001. Her Hollywood film debut was in “The Hot Chick,” where she starred alongside Rob Schneider and Anna Faris.

Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

She’s also well known for starring in “The Notebook“, Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes“, Marvel’s “Doctor Strange“, and was on the second season of “True Detective“. According to a report from People, the actress welcomed her first son with boyfriend James Linden April 10.

#26. Scarlett Johansson in “Lost In Translation”

An aging actor (Bill Murray) and a neglected wife (Scarlett Johansson) made an unlikely pair in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. But their friendship resonated with audiences back in 2003, and their respective charms still entertain today. Scarlett Johansson starred in “Lost in Translation” when she was just 18 years old, though her character was meant to be a college graduate.

Photo: Courtesy of Focus Features

The age difference was made even more notorious due to Bill Murray, who was 53 at the time, starring alongside Johansson in the semi-romantic role. Johansson said she felt “busy, vulnerable, and tired” during the 27 days of filming. She claimed Murray’s comedic persona was either “on” or “off.” Murray himself chalked it up to not being able to sleep when he wanted to.

#25. Erinn Hayes in “Kevin Can Wait”

Erinn Hayes, 41, played the wife of Kevin James, 52, on the CBS sitcom “Kevin Can Wait”. Hayes was more than a decade younger than her costar and onscreen husband. Fans were upset with the way “Kevin Can Wait” handled Hayes’ departure from the show. Actress Leah Remini, 47, is now a series regular opposite James. The show spent very little time on the wife’s death and didn’t even feature an explanation.

Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

On Wednesday, CBS execs admitted that the choice to make James’ character a widower didn’t go over well with viewers. “Creatively, the show made a choice at the beginning of last year”, said CBS Entertainment senior executive vice president Thom Sherman. “We agreed to go along with it and unfortunately the audience didn’t respond to it”.

#24. Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious”

Even if your movie knowledge is limited, there’s a high chance that you have seen Gabourey Sidibe’s face bouncing around the screens of Hollywood. After all, she has been in countless movies and television shows and has always left a lasting impression on her fans. However, what many people might not realize is that Gabourey has been fighting a battle with her weight for much of her life. These struggles further heightened when she made her way into the limelight, and she was determined to make a change.

Photo: Courtesy of Tumblr

At the time of portraying the lead role of 16-year-old Precious in the homonymous film, while she was 26 year old. In Precious, Sidibe played the main character, Claireece “Precious” Jones, a 16-year-old mother of two (both of whom are the results of being raped by her father) trying to escape abuse at the hands of her mother.

#23. Ingrid Bergman in Joan of Arc

In the Fifteenth Century, France is a defeated and ruined nation after the One Hundred Years War against England. The fourteen years old farm girl Joan of Arc claims to hear voices from Heaven asking her to lead God’s Army against Orleans and crowning the weak Dauphin Charles VII as King of France. Joan gathers the people with her faith, forms an army and conquerors Orleans.

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At the time of shooting the film and portraying a 14-year-old Joan of Arc, Ingrid Bergman was boasting her 34 years old on set. Ingrid Bergman said that one of her life goals was to play Joan of Arc and in keeping with that ambition, she delivers a remarkably poignant, emotionally overflowing Joan in Fleming’s production. Bergman was nominated for “Best Actress” for her performance.

#22. Stockard Channing in “Grease”

In 1977, at the age of 33, Channing was cast for the role of high school teenager Betty Rizzo in the hit musical Grease. The film was released in 1978 and her performance earned her the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture Supporting Actress. For most of us, “Grease” stands in our memory as an iconic movie musical, one that’s launched a million karaoke singalongs of “Summer Lovin”.

Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

She’s only seen the movie twice, once at the premiere and once at a 20th-anniversary screening. For her, it has nowhere near the prominence in her own life as if probably does in the hearts of many musical lovers. “It was a summer job”, she said. “I needed the gig”.

#21. Diana Ross in “The Wiz”

The Wiz reinvented Dorothy from a Kansas teen to a twenty-something kindergarten teacher, but even still, Ross had ten years on the character. The songstress was 34 when she took the pivotal role. The film starts out on a snowy evening in Harlem. Dorothy, a twenty-four-year-old kindergarten teacher who “has never been south of 125th street”, attends Thanksgiving with her family. Despite having many family members Dorothy has no friends, children and is very shy and humble. Dorothy’s only friend is her pet dog Toto.

Photo: Courtesy of MJ Vibe

Ray Bolger, one of the two main cast member from The Wizard of Oz to survive into the 1980s, had a low opinion of the filmclaiming it lacked the depth that made his film from thirty-nine years earlier a classic, However, it is still viewed by many movie lovers as a classic. It is also considered a cult classic among the African-American community and is one of the most famous all African-American family films ever made.

#20. Wood Harris in “Remember the Titans”

Remember the Titans, the high school football movie about a revolutionary integrated team, featured a team mostly made up of fully grown men. The eldest, team defensive end Julius Campbell, was played by 31-year-old Harris. The story of the football season amid the city’s racial tensions inspired the film. In the cinematic depiction, Campbell, played by Wood Harris, befriends white linebacker Gerry Bertier and the pair’s bond becomes part of the team’s success.

Photo: Courtesy of Buzzfeed

In the movie Remember the Titans, we see Coach Yoast (Will Patton) confront a crooked referee, telling him to call the game fairly or else he’ll expose the whole plot to make the Titans lose the game, resulting in the firing of Coach Boone. Coach Yoast also tells the ref that he’ll personally see to it that the ref never works again. This incident never really happened.

#19. Tom Wellington in “Smallville”

Calling the show Smallville wasn’t enough to distract viewers from the fully grown man assuming the role of a 14-year-old. Wellington had the strapping good looks of a young Clark Kent but was about ten years more mature.

Photo: Courtesy of Bustle

Tom Welling turned out to be the quintessential Clark Kent for a new generation of Superman fans to enjoy on Smallville, but the showrunners nearly made another young actor the future Man of Steel. Jensen Ackles, who later appeared on the show as Lana Lang’s boyfriend Jason Teague, in season four, was the second choice for young CK.

#18. Marisa Tomei in “Spider-man: Homecoming”

The most recent iteration of the superhero’s story, Spider-Man: Homecoming, came closest to the comics by casting Tom Holland at 20 years old. But casting chose 53-year-old Hollywood veteran Marisa Tomei to play 70-year-old Aunt May.

Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

Hollywood is famously ageist—and the casting plight of actresses any age, especially over 40, is notoriously difficult. So you can’t fault Tomei for jumping at the opportunity without launching a cursory Google Image search to check out the character’s backstory or brittle bones—a decidedly different iteration of Aunt May than Tomei turned in.

#17. Andrew Garfield in “The Amazing Spider-man”

Perhaps it was because they wanted to do Spidey justice a second time around that they rebooted the film with a new leading man. Too bad he was older than the first! Andrew Garfield was a 28-year-old teen slinging webs around the city as our neighbor-friendly superhero. His performance of accurate portrayal of Desmond Doss in the movie “Hacksaw Ridge” moved Desmond T. Doss’s son Desmond Jr, who was in tears when he attended the screening.

Photo: Courtesy of EW

Andrew Russell Garfield, a British American actor, who became world renowned with his portrayal of Eduardo Saverin in the movie “The Social Network,” later went on to become “The Amazing Spider-Man,” has a BAFTA TV award, a Saturn Award, a AACTA award, with 3 BAFTA nominations, 2 Golden Globe nominations and a Oscar nomination to his name.

#16. Tobey Maguire in “Spider-man”

Peter Parker is supposed to be just 15 years old, so why studio executives kept casting actors inching towards 30 is the real mystery. Maguire landed the part of Spider-Man when he was 27 and then carried the role across three films. Tobias Vincent “Tobey” Maguire, the world-renowned actor, a fan-favorite Spider-Man, has two Saturn Awards to his name, along with a number of nominations for the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe Awards.

Photo: Courtesy of Metro

Even before the screen test for the role of Spider-Man, Maguire went through training for a short while, resulting in him bulking up for the test. It was after he got the role, that he underwent a strict exercise regimen. During the mid-1990s, though working steadily, he became involved in the hard-partying lifestyle of some of his fellow actors. In the year 1995, he sought help for a drinking problem from Alcoholics Anonymous; he has been sober ever since.

#15. Ian Ziering in “Beverly Hills 90210”

There must have been a shortage of teens in LA when they cast Beverly Hills 90210 because the part of Steve Sanders went to 26-year-old Ziering. Granted, he wasn’t the eldest on set, but he played the spoiled youth for a full ten seasons. The show brought instant fame to the cast, and Ziering was suddenly a heartthrob. In 1997, Ziering married Playboy Playmate Nikki Schieler, but the pair divorced five years later.

Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

Once 90210 came to an end in 2000, Ziering made appearances on other shows and did voice-over work for animated series. In 2008, Ziering signed on to the fourth season of TV’s Dancing with the Stars, eventually making it to the semifinal round.

#14. Gabrielle Carteris in “Beverly Hills 90210”

Andrea from Beverly Hills 90210 stood out as more intelligent than her high school counterparts. But maybe that’s because she had a few more years of wisdom: Cast at age 29, she played a teen well into her thirties. Making matters worse, Carteris got pregnant in the show’s fifth season, forcing the reluctant writers to create a story in which Andrea gets pregnant. After that season, her character was written off.

Photo: Courtesy of Reddit

The actress revealed to Access Hollywood that showrunners did not know that she was 29 years old. She stated that “I actually talked to a lawyer about how could I sign these contracts and lie about my age and still be able to do the show”.

#13. Jason Earle in “Hannah Montana”

Hannah Montana’s goofball brother Jackson was the older sibling, but his silly antics would make you think otherwise. Starring opposite a 14-year-old Miley Cyrus, Earle played the teen believably, considering he was 29 years old when the show began!

Photo: Courtesy of Business Insider

In a recent interview, he revealed that’s he’s all for continuing the storyline. “If Disney was like, ‘Hey, let’s do a brand new show, let’s do four more years of this’ or ‘Hey, we’re going to do a special six-episode Hannah Montana reunion’, I would do any of that stuff because that place is like family to me”.

#12. Stacey Dash in “Clueless”

With loads of sass and style, Clueless won the hearts of a generation and became one of the most beloved coming-of-age comedies of all time. Stacey portrayed the perfect valley girl sidekick as Dion in Clueless, so it’s hard to believe she hadn’t been in high school for over ten years. When she appeared in the hit film, she was 29 years old!

Photo: Courtesy of Tumblr

Clueless star/former Fox News commentator Stacey Dash made an official running campaign for Congress in 2016. Nonetheless, and according to an email statement to CNN, “after much prayer, introspection and discussions with my family, I am withdrawing my candidacy for California’s 44th Congressional District”. However, Dash added, “At this point, I believe that the overall bitterness surrounding our political process, participating in the rigors of campaigning, and holding elected office would be detrimental to the health and wellbeing of my family”.

#11. Winona Ryder in “Girl, Interrupted”

Harkening back to Heathers, Ryder aged herself down from 28 to 18 for her role as Susanna in Girl, Interrupted. She slipped into the role of a troubled high school senior seamlessly, even after being ten years removed. Set in the 1960s, Girl, Interrupted, is the true story of Susanna Kaysen, a young woman who finds herself at the renowned psychiatric hospital for troubled young women, after suffering a botched suicide attempt.

Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

During her stay at Claymoore, she is diagnosed with the mental health condition; Borderline Personality Disorder. Among those on the ward, Susanna befriends Polly, a child-like schizophrenic who had once set herself on fire in order to keep her pet dog; Georgina, a pathological liar, who had convinced herself that her father works for the CIA; and Daisy, a self-harming sex abuse victim, with OCD, who also suffers with a complex eating disorder.

#10. Alan Ruck in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

We hate to burst the bubble of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but the angsty teen Cameron, afraid to confront his domineering father, wasn’t so young and helpless after all. Ruck was 30 years old while portraying a young teen.

Photo: Courtesy of Reddit

Broderick, Ruck, and Sara saw the movie a few months before its scheduled premiere and didn’t laugh once; they left thinking they had made a bad movie. Paramount executives were similarly unimpressed and concerned when they saw an early cut. Hughes and editor Paul Hirsch then spent two weeks cutting and pasting it into the movie we know (and love) today.

#9. Jim Parsons in “The Big Bang Theory”

The lovable, sarcastic, whip-smart Sheldon graces our screens on The Big Bang Theory. But who is the man behind the genius? That’s James “Jim” Joseph Parsons. Sheldon’s cool, without a doubt. But Jim Parsons is pretty amazing himself.  Chuck Lorre, producer and writer of The Big Bang Theory, was so impressed by Jim Parson’s audition for the part of Sheldon that he thought it was a fluke. He invited Jim back for a second audition to see if he could replicate his performance.

Photo: Courtesy of IMDB

Jim Parsons has hypothesized about why a little show about “nerds” is such a huge hit. “There’s not anything to keep up with… You can enjoy our show without a weekly appointment”. The fact that anyone can begin watching The Big Bang Theory at any point in the series might just be the magic.

#8. Shirley Henderson in “Harry Potter”

Henderson started her career as the lead role in Shadow of the Stone on ITV which was a children’s drama. She then appeared in another series Wish Me Luck after which she got her first movie breakthrough Rob Roy in 1995. The Harry Potter franchise scored big with Henderson as Moaning Myrtle, the broody 14-year-old ghost. Pigtails automatically knock five years off your appearance, but they shaved 22 of this 36-year-old actress.

Photo: Courtesy of Pinterest

Shirley Henderson was nominated for a BAFTA TV Award for the Channel 4 miniseries Southcliffe in 2014. She has performed in several movies includingTrainspotting in 1996, as Jude in Bridget Jones’s Diary in 2001, Topsy-Turvy in 1999, Frozen in 2005, Anna Karenina in 2012, etc. Her most recent performance was in the BBC drama Happy Valley in 2016.

#7. Matt Damon in “Behind the Candelabra”

One of the biggest age gap goofs went barely noticed. Damon scored positive reviews as the impressionable lover of Liberace, 18-year-old Scott Thorson. However, no makeup could conceivably hide that Matt Damon was 43 years old.

Photo: Courtesy of USB Data

Matt Damon’s Behind the Candelabra transformation took many impressive turns. First, Damon had to channel his 42-year-old self into a 17-year-old character. Then, in chronicling the arc of their five-year relationship, Damon had to amp up the hair, wardrobe, and soon a paunch, then get prosthetics to simulate Thorson’s look-alike plastic surgery.

#6. Bianca Lawson in “Pretty Little Liars”

There is one ageless enigma that flutters through teenage roles like an immortal butterfly. 34-year-old actress Bianca Lawson has played a teenager for close to two decades. Her first credited role was in the 1994 pilot of My So-Called Life, where she played “Third Bathroom Girl”. For over 20 years Lawson scooped up high school roles, including a stint as a juvenile on Pretty Little Liars until the age of 34.

Photo: Courtesy of Pinterest

Thankfully, Bianca Lawson is finally growing up —her role on Teen Wolf has her playing a guidance counselor at a high school rather than a high school junior. That said, we’re not totally convinced that Lawson won’t be playing another high school student in the future. She could totally pull it off.

#5. Emilia Clarke in “Game of Thrones”

As we all know,  age is just a number, and the Game of Thrones casting director agreed. Daenerys Targaryen starts the series at age 16, but Clarke snagged the role at age 28. It’s easy to overlook age when there are bigger suspensions of disbelief, like, um, dragons. This British actress has done everything from action to romance, on both television and film, and she’s poised to take over the world.

Photo: Courtesy of Pinterest

The Game of Thrones actress has admitted that if the whole acting thing didn’t work out, she would’ve wanted to be a singer, an architect, or possibly a graphic designer. True to her alternative ambitions, Clarke is very good at singing alto and is a master at ballads, blues, and cabaret and jazz singing.

#4. Henry Winkler in “Happy Days”

The most famous teen in television also holds the role of the coolest of cool: The Fonz. Winkler held court as the infamous bad boy from age 29 until he was, yep, 40 years old. Happy Days ran from 1974 until 1984 and was a massive prime-time hit with Ron Howard, Marion Ross and Tom Bosley in lead roles. One of the main characters was The Fonz, who was a streetwise lady killer known for his black leather motorcycle jacket and slicked-back hair.

Photo: Courtesy of The Jewish News of Northern California

During the series, Winkler often performed a quick dance that involved a lot of fancy footwork. Incredibly, 45 years after the show ended, Henry can still skillfully pull off the dance moves like kicks and jumps. The Tonight Show played the song Hava Nagila, an Israeli folk song traditionally sung at Jewish celebrations, as soon as Henry arrived for his chat.

#3. Leonardo DiCaprio in “Catch Me if You Can”

One of Steven Spielberg’s funniest, breeziest movies is the one about a teenage con artist who pretends to be a pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer. That must be fun! Ok, he also steals more than $2 million—but at least nobody gets hurt. In Catch Me If You Can, DiCaprio played a master con “teen”, Frank Abagnale Jr., a 17-year-old daylighting as a 27-year-old professional. To further complicate the puzzle, Leo was actually 28 during filming.

Photo: Courtesy of Cheat Sheet

Catch Me If You Can was Spielberg’s first collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio, his fourth with Tom Hanks, and the first time those two mega-stars worked together. The result? A hit with critics and audiences alike, with a 96 percent Rotten Tomatoes score and a worldwide box office haul of $352 million

#2. Barbara Streisand in “Yentl”

Streisand wielded her well-deserved power to play a teen. In her directorial debut of Yentl, Streisand put her skincare routine to the test, starring as a teen at 41 years old. If anyone could freeze the aging clock, it’s Babs.

Photo: Courtesy of IMDB

The starlet has 10 Grammy Awards, two Academy Awards, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, five Emmy Awards, a special Tony Award, a  Kennedy Center Honors Prize, four Peabody Awards, 11 Golden Globes, and an American Film Institute Award. Streisand received an award for the best original song for “Evergreen”, which was the love theme from the film A Star Is Born. She was the first woman to be honored in this way, and she won the award in 1977.

#1. Emma Thompson in “Sense and Sensibility”

Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility, which premiered in the U.K. 20 years ago, is best known for its dazzling direction and for Emma Thompson’s Oscar-winning screenplay. Less remembered is the radical way the film elevated its two male characters: Colonel Brandon (played by the late Alan Rickman) and Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant) beyond their source material.

Photo: Courtesy of Movie Mans Guide

If you’re heavily involved in the making of the project, you get to call the shots. So, when 35-year-old Thompson penned the script for Sense and Sensibility, she wound up with the part of the 19-year-old lead. Sense and Sensibility set out to do something different: It made male receptiveness to female needs and desires and a commitment to proto-gender equality seem both incredibly attractive and historically inevitable.

  • About Author

    Luke H.

    Certified Translator recently graduated at the Universidad de Buenos Aires.
    Gamer. Bookworm.

    What we do in life echoes in eternity.

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