You know actors are versatile in their craft if they’re able to portray a role that’s far removed from their actual personality and physical appearance. We’ve seen straight actors believably play homosexual roles, such as Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal’s portrayals of lovers in the film Brokeback Mountain. Then there are those who drastically altered their physical appearances to fit into their role: Charlize Theron had to gain weight and hide her beauty behind hideous make-up for the film Monster; the usually svelte Renee Zellweger had to gain a large amount of weight for her role in all three of the Bridget Jones’ Diary movies; and Jennifer Aniston had to look haggard and old in the film Cake.
It’s quite the different story when you have actors tapped to play characters much younger or much older than their actual age without bothering to alter their appearance. It’s sometimes ridiculous to see some of them who are well into their late twenties or thirties being chosen to play teenage roles because though some have naturally boyish or girlish features, most looked too mature to pass for a teenager.
15. Rachel McAdams, 27
With her expressive eyes and lovely smile, Rachel McAdams is one of Hollywood’s sweethearts and she has certainly come a long way from when she first started. The Canadian-born actress made her Hollywood debut in 2002 in the comedy film The Hot Chick, in which she caught the attention of the public. This led to more successful films, like Mean Girls and The Notebook, which established her as a Hollywood leading lady and she was subsequently dubbed the new “it girl.” She went on to play more serious roles that displayed her acting chops, such as in the HBO crime drama True Detective and in the drama film Spotlight, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. Not many may know this, but she was already 27 years old by the time Mean Girls was released, though she was able to pull off playing 16-year-old queen bee Regina George quite believably.
14. Andrew Garfield, 28
Every comic book fan, especially those who favor Marvel, know that Peter Parker, also known as Spiderman, is a young teenager. But until recently, none of the actors who have played him have ever been teenagers. Tobey Maguire was already in his mid-20s when he took on the role in the early-2000s and when it was decided that a reboot was in order in 2012, producers did their best to look for a younger-looking replacement for Maguire. But the role was still given to someone who was well past his teens. Andrew Garfield’s lanky frame and boyish features made him seem younger than his 28 years, but the fact of the matter is, he was still playing a character more than 10 years younger than his actual age. Producers eventually found someone close enough to Spidey’s age in the form of Tom Holland, who turned 19 when he was filming Captain America: Civil War.
13. Henry Winkler, 29
Today’s younger folk would probably know Henry Winkler for his roles in Adam Sandler films such as The Waterboy, Little Nicky, and Click. On television, he was a series regular in the shows Royal Pains, where he starred as Eddie R. Lawson; and Parks and Recreation. But the older generation would know him for the role he played for ten years: as Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli or “Fonzie” in the TV sitcom Happy Days, which ran from 1974 to 1984. The series presented an idealized vision of life from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s in America. For his role as the suave ladies’ man Fonzie, Winkler won two Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor in a Television Series, Musical, or Comedy. When he took on the role of the teenage Fonzie, Winkler was already 29 years old. By the time he left the show 10 years later, he was a 39-year-old playing a teenager.
12. Gabrielle Carteris, 29
Those who were adolescents or preteens in the ‘90s would remember the hit teen TV show Beverly Hills 90210, starring Jason Priestley and Shannen Doherty as twins Brandon and Brenda Walsh. The show followed the lives of a bunch of high school kids in the rich neighborhood of Beverly Hills and among the group of students was Andrea Zuckerman, played by Gabrielle Carteris. At 29 years old, she was the oldest cast member to play a character that was only 15 years old. After Carteris graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, she was cast in several teenage roles before landing the role of Andrea, the nerdy school newspaper editor in Beverly Hills 90210. By the time she left the series in 1995 after five seasons, she was 34 years old.
11. Alan Ruck, 30
He may be known to Gen X-ers and millennials for his roles in the TV show Spin City and in the 1990s blockbuster hit films Speed and Twister. Alan Ruck made his film debut in the 1983 film Bad Boys, where he played Carl Brennan, the friend of Sean Penn’s character. He also appeared in films like The Three Fugitives and Young Guns II. These days, he co-stars with Geena Davis in an updated Fox TV adaptation of the best-selling novel The Exorcist. But the older generation knows him best for his role as Cameron Frye, Ferris Bueller’s hypochondriac best friend and sidekick in the 1986 John Hughes film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. At the time the film was released, Ruck was already 30 years old. But to be fair, he didn’t look it and was easily able to pass for a teenager.
10. Olivia Newton-John, 30
In terms of profession, Olivia Newton-John is a singer and songwriter above anything else. The 68-year-old is a four-time Grammy winner and has sold an estimated 100 million records throughout her prolific music career. In terms of her film career, she is hands-down most known for her portrayal of Sandy Olsson in the film adaptation of the Broadway hit musical Grease. She was offered the lead role by producer Allen Carr, but Newton-John was understandably concerned about the age gap. Sandy was supposed to be a 17 or 18-year-old high school student and the actress would be 29 by the time filming would start. She requested for a screen test with John Travolta, who was already cast for the role of Danny Zuko and the rest is history. She was 30 years old by the time the film premiered in 1978.
9. Sean Patrick Thomas, 30
American actor Sean Patrick Thomas is one of a handful of Hollywood celebrities that achieved higher learning. The Washington DC-born son of immigrants from Guyana attended the University of Virginia, where he originally intended to pursue studies in law. But the acting bug bit him after he successfully auditioned for a role in the film A Raisin in the Sun, so he chose to pursue studies in acting instead. He decided to enroll in New York University’s prestigious Graduate Acting Program at the Tisch School of the Arts. He is best known for co-starring with Julia Stiles in the 2001 film Save The Last Dance, in which he portrayed Derek, a high school student who aspires to get into Georgetown Medical School. His character was the love interest of Julia Stiles’ character and though it may not have been obvious, Thomas was actually 30 when he filmed the movie.
8. Felicity Jones, 30
Felicity Jones proved her mettle as a critically-acclaimed actress with her performances in the 2011 film Like Crazy and her role as Jane Hawkins in the 2014 film The Theory of Everything, which garnered her Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. This paved the way for her being cast in the major blockbuster hit Rogue One from the Star Wars film franchise. The British actress started in the industry at the tender age of 12 and went on to have a fruitful career in Britain. In the same year she played Jane Hawkins opposite Eddie Redmayne, she did a romantic drama called Breathe In, in which she portrayed an 18-year-old exchange student who has an affair with a high school music teacher. By the time the film was released at the Sundance Festival in January 2013, Jones would have been turning 30 that year.
7. Bianca Lawson, 31
Bianca Lawson firmly established her career in television, being first cast in the teen TV series Saved By The Bell: The New Class as series regular Megan Jones. This was in 1993 when she was 14, which was just about the same age as her character. That was more than 20 years ago and though she is already in her late thirties, she has never quite shaken off getting boxed into teenage roles. She appeared in multiple episodes in the TV shows Sister, Sister and The Steve Harvey Show. And she also played high school student roles in long-running TV shows, such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Dawson’s Creek, American Horror Story, and Teen Wolf. In 2010, she took on the recurring role of Maya St. Germain in the first season of yet another high school-based show, Pretty Little Liars. She was 31 at that time.
6. Trevor Donovan, 31
Beverly Hills 90210 was one of the biggest hit teen shows in the 1990s and due to its popularity, the CW decided to do a remake of the show in 2008, entitling it simply 90210. The teen drama series ran for five seasons and like the show it was based on, followed the lives of a group of wealthy students attending West Beverly Hills High School. One of the characters was Teddy Montgomery, the rich playboy who had commitment issues and later came out as gay, played by American model and actor Trevor Donovan. At the time he joined the show on its second season in 2009, Donovan was 31 years old, but he was easily believable as a high school student, thanks to his youthful looks and demeanor. After the show ended, he had a small part in the 2012 film Savages and he also had a recurring role in the TV show Melissa and Joey.
5. Audrey Hepburn, 32
She’s considered one of the greatest female screen legends in Golden Age Hollywood, which was the era when her career was in full swing. Aside from her acting prowess, Audrey Hepburn is also widely regarded as a fashion icon, looking chic and classy in the simplest of outfits. The British actress became a household name when she starred opposite Gregory Peck in the 1953 film Roman Holiday, for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress. She appeared in a string of successful movies, such as Sabrina, The Nun’s Story, Charade, My Fair Lady, and Wait Until Dark. But perhaps her most iconic role is that of Holly Golightly, the 18 or 19-year-old socialite in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Her black dress and pearls in the opening scene, as well as her rendition of the song Moon River, are the most memorable parts of the classic film. Hepburn was 32 at the time the film was released.
4. Ingrid Bergman, 33
Not many actresses in the history of Hollywood are as distinguished and decorated as Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman, who had her heyday in the 1940s and the 1950s. She is best known for her role as Ilsa Lund in the 1942 drama Casablanca, which is today considered one of the greatest films of all time. She has under her belt three Academy Awards for her performances in the films Gaslight, Anastasia, and Murder on the Orient Express; as well as two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, and a Tony Award. Bergman lobbied to play the titular character for the film Joan of Arc, despite the fact that she was to play a character almost 20 years younger than her 33 years. Joan of Arc was but a 14-year-old teenager, which Bergman certainly did not pass for in terms of physical appearance. Yes, the role earned her an Academy Award nomination, but the film received mixed reviews and did not perform well at the box office.
3. Gary Busey, 34
In the later years of his career, Gary Busey would display strange and erratic behavior, which was a result from a 1988 motorcycle accident, in which he wasn’t wearing a helmet. His skull was fractured and a certain form of brain damage was the result, weakening his mental “filters” and causing him to speak and act impulsively. But during his prime, Busey was a prolific character actor, appearing in over 150 films, like Lethal Weapon, Predator 2, Point Break, Under Siege, and The Firm, among others. Perhaps his biggest accomplishment career-wise was portraying Buddy Holly in the 1978 film The Buddy Holly Story, for which he was nominated for the Oscar Best Actor Award. The film was a tribute to the legacy and talent of Holly, who was supposed to be 19 years old at the beginning of the film. Busey was 34 years old at the time the film was released.
2. Stockard Channing, 34
She’s quite the accomplished actress, having played many roles and won several awards in her five decades in the business. Stockard Channing, who’s now 73, started her career in Hollywood in the mid-1970s, when she appeared in small roles before co-starring with Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson in the 1975 film The Fortune. She has been nominated 13 times for a Primetime Emmy Award, having won three times, twice for her role as First Lady Abbey Bartlet on the TV series The West Wing; and she is also a seven-time Tony Award nominee, winning once. In 1977, she was cast as 18-year-old Betty Rizzo in the highly successful movie musical Grease, a role which won her the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture Supporting Actress. When Grease was released to the public a year after it was filmed, Channing was 34 years old.
1. Shirley Henderson, 37
She may not be as Hollywood-famous as some of her co-stars like Emma Watson or Renee Zellweger, but Shirley Henderson has a list of film credits that include a good number of blockbuster hits. The Scottish actress appeared in the films Trainspotting, Bridget Jones’ Diary and its sequel, and Anna Karenina. Many may not know this, but she appeared in two of the films in the Harry Potter film franchise, namely Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. During filming of Chamber of Secrets, she was 37 years old but no, she didn’t play an adult in the film. She played the long-suffering student ghost, Moaning Myrtle, who was a young teenager! By the time Goblet of Fire was released, Henderson was 39 years old and still playing the forever-young ghost!
Sources: radiotimes.com, screenrant.com, clipd.com