Reprint: A Good Year for Elder Actors

Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes

[This post originally appeared at Time Goes By, written by Ronni Bennett. Thanks to Ronni for allowing me to reprint it here.]

Not infrequently, I grumble out loud around here about how few roles, especially major roles, there are in film for elder actors. Our generation doesn’t get much representation on what in our youth was called the silver screen.

But not so in 2015. As the year-end round-ups of the arts are being published, it is gratifying to see how many of our contemporaries have been not only getting work but in some cases being nominated for awards.

This is a list of some of the biggest names and the movies they have starred in this year. It is in no way meant to be comprehensive, and I arbitrarily chose 65 to be the low-end age cutoff. Maybe you have seen some of these. (A few random trailers included)


Starring Charlotte Rampling (age 69) and Tom Courtenay (78) as a married couple whose 45th wedding anniversary is complicated when the body of Courtenay’s first love is discovered.

Rampling has already won best actress at the European Film Awards and both stars won for best performance at the Berlin Film Festival.


Sylvester Stallone (69) stars in his seventh outing as Rocky Balboa, this time as trainer to the son of his old rival, Apollo Creed. Stallone has received a Golden Globe nomination as best supporting actor.


Al Pacino (75) as a washed-up 1970’s rock star whose life is changed when he finds a letter sent to him decades earlier by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Pacino is nominated for best performance in a musical or comedy Golden Globe. The ceremony takes place on 10 January 2016.


Lily Tomlin (76) stars as a lesbian poet, Elle, who embarks on a road trip with her 18-year-old granddaughter seeking an abortion. Sam Elliott (71) plays Elle’s former boyfriend.


Among an all-star cast, Samuel L. Jackson (66) plays a bounty hunter in Civil War era Wyoming in this western directed by Quentin Tarantino.


After her dog dies, long-time widow Blythe Danner (72) discovers that life goes on as she reconnects with her daughter and pursues a romance with Bill played by Sam Elliott (72).


When life gets too boring for retired executive Ben Whitaker played by Robert DeNiro (72), he joins an internship program for seniors where he becomes a father figure to younger employees while developing a romance with the company’s massage therapist.


This is the true story of Mary Shepherd, played by Maggie Smith (80) who, for 14 years, lived in a broken-down van she parked in the London driveway of playwright Alan Bennett (who wrote this screenplay).

Smith had already played Shepherd in the stage play (also by Bennett) and in the BBC Radio 4 production. She has been nominated for a Golden Globe award for best performance in a musical or comedy.



Ian McKellen (76) plays an ageing Sherlock Holmes who, as his mind deteriorates, struggles to recall his last case. This story was adapted from Mitch Cullen’s novel, A Slight Trick of the Mind which I thoroughly enjoyed.


I’m pretty sure I don’t need to tell you about this seventh outing of the Star Wars saga that opened this past weekend. Harrison Ford (73) reprises his role as Han Solo.


Helen Mirren (70) plays an ageing Jewish woman, Maria Altmann who, having fled Vienna decades earlier, attempts to reclaim family possessions that were seized by the Nazis. Mirren also starred in the biography film, Trumbo, this year as the gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.


This film features Michael Caine (82) as a retired orchestra conductor vacationing in the Swiss Alps with his best friend, played by Harvey Keitel (76) along with Jane Fonda (77) as they contemplate the struggle of age and youth, life and death and much that goes with those eternal questions.

It has already won Best Picture at The European Film Awards where Caine won for Best Actor and Paolo Sorrentino (not an elder) won Best Director. Jane Fonda has been nominated for a best actress Golden Globe award for the film.


This is an extra, the television series that ran on Netflix this year starring Jane Fonda (77) and Lily Tomlin (76) as two sort-of friends whose lives are turned upside down when their law partner husbands announce they are in love with each other and intend to divorce their wives.

The husbands are played by Sam Waterston (75) and Martin Sheen (75).

Tomlin won an Emmy for best actress and is nominated in that category for Satellite and Golden Globe awards. Production for season two has wrapped; it will be broadcast in 2016 and Netflix has already announced there will be a season three.

Are there any of these you particularly liked or are looking forward to?

– Ronni Bennett, Time Goes By

2 thoughts on “Reprint: A Good Year for Elder Actors”

  1. I really appreciate this. Thank you Virginia and Ronnie, for bringing me this list, readily available at my fingertips! I will bookmark it and refer to it whenever I want to see a good ole movie about my good ole generation!

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