Movie ageing, or at least how we're presented with movie ageing, can often be a clumsy process involving heaps of makeup in a bid to add serious mileage to an actor’s face.
The drawback of this, of course, is that it not only limits the physical side of a performance but also the audience’s belief in that role, too. Let's face it, Elderly Biff in Back To The Future Part II was never exactly going to bag an Oscar, was he?
Which is why, time and time again, we’re presented with two different characters playing the young and old roles. Some uncanny, some barely passable, and some to suffer the shame of being included in this list….
Frank Whaley/Burt Lancaster – Field Of Dreams
Whether you can recall him or not, Frank Whaley has sprung up in a bevy of successful Hollywood films over the years (guy shot in the apartment by a furious Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction? Him), including Field Of Dreams as a young Archibald ‘Moonlight’ Graham; his baby-face and waiflike physique uncanny to the real-life slugger's. Which is all a far cry from Burt Lancaster’s older incarnation. Forget the wrinkles, we need only remember Lancaster’s younger days to know those rock-chinned, classic leading man features could never have fit on Graham’s slender shoulders.
Hayden Christensen/ Sebastian Shaw – Star Wars
Had George Lucas not scarred our childhoods like he did Darth Vader’s head in the final unmasking scene of Return Of The Jedi, the geek emperor might have been okay to cast Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in his later big budget prequels. As it was, that gruesome shot of Sebastian Shaw’s Vader, looking like a melted Dr Evil, was still fresh in most memories as Christensen started faffing around with a lightsaber, just making the later saga more of farce than it already was. Conversely, bonus points to Ewan McGregor, as master Obi-Wan Kenobi, who looks every inch the young Alec Guinness.
Ewan McGregor/Albert Finney - Big Fish
The force wasn't nearly as strong with Ewan in this 2003 fantasy drama, mind. He was given some big shoes to fill as Albert Finney’s sprightlier self, as the dying man tells his son some very enchanting myths about his life. The effects were wonderful, so too the acting, but believing Ewan and Albert to be the same person when the pair would doubtless struggle to pass for estranged cousins in their pomp? The tallest tale here was clearly told by the casting director.
Jessica Chastain/Helen Mirren – The Debt
The timeworn problem with having a young actor play someone in their twenties and then another for their much older selves is that the audience already have a black-and-white picture of what respective genetic traits the pair share. No offence to Jessica Chastain for this Nazi-hunting spy thriller, she’s very good, but so identifiable in her own regard that she was never going to bear a real resemblance to Helen Mirren, who, it has to be said, would’ve done a more convincing job playing both roles.
Zac Efron/Matthew Perry – 17 Again
Trips to rehab and an itching desire to distance themselves from the franchises which made them are about where the similarities begin and end for Matthew Perry and Zac Efron. Not that producers took any notice of this whatsoever when plucking Efron to play Perry’s younger self, magically given another chance to repeat high school. The part where his wife Leslie Mann grabs his cheeks like an over-eager aunt to say, “you look just like my husband”, try as it might, doesn't help the cause.
Shia Labeouf/ Robert Downey Jr – A Guide To Recognising Your Saints
A guide to recognising your actors here, with Shia LaBeouf and Robert Downey Jr fooling nobody as the young and old versions of Dito Montiel in this 2006 autobiographical drama, respectively. It was left to raw emotion from Shia’s surly teen and controlled restraint of Downey Jr’s grown-up success story to ensure audiences had few real qualms about their lack of similarity. And before you tell us, yes of course we know they both measure 1.76m, but that's not the point.
Joseph-Gordon Levitt/Bruce Willis – Looper
Credit where it’s due: the makers of otherwise brilliant time travel thriller Looper at least attempted to make Joseph-Gordon Levitt look like Bruce Willis, giving him a cleft-chin in the hope he would better resemble Willis’s younger self. Only it didn’t – in fact, the transformation didn’t just take JLG further away from looking like Willis, he barely resembles a human, what with his creepily shiny skin and dearth of facial movement. Maybe he should’ve gone back in time and stopped that one.
Brad Renfro / Brad Pitt – Sleepers
Looking like two-time Sexiest Man Of The Year Brad Pitt is never an easy task, even at a pre-pubescent age it would seem. The late Renfro's performance in Sleepers, as the young offender locked up and abused by a sadistic corrections officer, still holds up as a truly amazing performance, and certainly one of his finest before tragically overdosing in 2008, but he really did look more like a young John Cusack. And if we're really being pedantic, the ears don't quite match up.