29 January 2016

eight actors who've improved with age*

Image result for michael caine in youthMichael Caine's performance in this week's Youth - Paolo Sorrentino's portrait of a venerable maestro dragged out of retirement to put on a gala concert for the Queen - is a reminder of what reserves of talent still endure for artists in later life.

There are other stars whose hot streaks past middle age have been even more pronounced - either because they achieved fame a lot later, or simply took some time to discover their signature roles.

1 Michael Caine (82): His early career as a huge British star in the Sixties and Seventies was certainly nothing to sniff at.  he has sustained longevity by mellowing and taking a back seat in franchise pictures, not by outdoing himself in acting terms, except on rare occasions like The Quiet American (2002).  
He won the first of two Best Supporting Actor Oscars at 54, for Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), and his second at 67, for The Cider House Rules (1999).
Yet there's a generation that knows Caine entirely now for the wheezing authority with which he intones, 'Master Bruce ....'

2 Tommy Lee Jones (69) is a classic maturer - barely famous until his late forties, when a pivotal role in JFK (1991), his Oscar for The Fugitive (1993) and archetypal deadpan star wattage in Men in Black (1997) finally made him a household name.  
Image result for tommy lee jonesHis cantankerous charm was always going to improve the craggier and crankier his face got, but there's been a tangible deepening in his work as well: his soulful bystander in No country for Old Men (1007) and devastated father in the same year's In the Valley of Elah are top achievements.

Image result for judi dench3 Judi Dench (81) mastered the stage long before TV, and the small screen long before the big: she may be the most respected film star ever to be practically unknown in Hollywood until the age of 63.  
A pair of queens - Victoria in Mrs Brown (1997) and Elizabeth 1 in Shakespeare in Love (1998) - were the foundation of her prolific career since earning her a further five Oscar nominations.  
She has a gift for self-reinvention, and goes for testing lead roles where many grandes dames would just be doing bits of Lady Bracknell scene-stealing.

Image result for annette bening movies 20104 Annette Bening (57) has had a surprising, durable career where many of her contemporaries have backed away from the limelight.  
She was a star early, but she's a better actress now than ever, especially excelling with the range of mothers she's played, from American Beauty's cleanliness freak (1999) to The Kids Are All Right's caustic martyr (2010), with a bipolar character in Running with Scissors (2006) and a sad, thwarted one in Mother and Child (2009) between them.  
Here's hoping she gets some Streep-like opportunities in her sixties.

Image result for bill nighy in pride film5 Bill Nighy (66) is sometimes accused of only tending to play himself, but his wonderful role in Pride (2014), as a retired, quietly closeted Welsh miner, gave the lie to this.  
It wasn't really until his washed-up rockers in Still Crazy (1999) and Love Actually (2003) that everyone cottoned on to what a comic force of nature he's able to be: so much so that his dramatic roles in the likes of Enduring Love (2004) and Notes on a Scandal (2006) lend eccentricity to the material.
That genteel voice and sweep of hair make him a natural for playing politicians of a certain age.

6 Gemma Jones (73), best-known as Bridget Jones' mother, Pamela, she is one of the unsung heroes of English character acting, who just goes from strength to strength.
Image result for gemma jones sense and sensibilityShe was the anxious ma in Sense and Sensibility (1995), a secret weapon in David's Mamet's film of Rattigan's The Winslow Boy (1999), and the standout in Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010).
The role of her career, though is in Tom Browne's Radiator (2014) as an exhausted mother tending to the demands of her bed-ridden, abusive husband (Richard Johnson).

Image result for morgan freeman bruce almighty
7 Morgan Freeman (78), remember young Morgan Freeman? Few do- even his breakout role as a dangerous hustler in Street Smart (1987) came at the age of 50.  With that rumbling velvety baritone, his is one of the great second-half movie careers, after a long apprenticeship building respect.
Freeman never seemed to tire of that trademark sagacity - it wss only a matter of time before he played God (in 2003's in Bruce Almighty and sequel).

Image result for patricia clarkson 20158 Patricia Clarkson (56), it's easy to forget that she played Kevin Costner's wife in The Untouchables (1987), because her hot streak was a way off.  It was not really until her inspired turn in High Art (1998), and the seemingly doting friend who turns on Julianne Moore in Far From Heaven (2002), that we got to see her at full tilt.  
Excelling at a certain fatigued glamour, it was a sure thing she'd play Blanche DuBois at some point (Washington, 2004).  But as a trusted supporting player, she also guarantees some sly mischief.

*From an article in the Times by Tim Robey (28/1/2016)

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