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There's a common trope in Hollywood where teenagers are played by adult actors. But which TV show or movie set the absolute record in terms of the age difference between the role and the actor? To clarify:

  • The character played must be a teenager, so younger than 20 years old
  • The portrayal is done in a serious manner - not as a parody, or a "what if" clip, or a dream, etc
  • It must be a live action film or a TV show
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    Too lazy to look it up, but Alan Ruck was ancient when he played Ferris Beuller's friend Cameron in Ferris Beuller's Day Off. Probably was pushing 30 at that point. – Joe Jun 29 '17 at 23:20
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    Not sure about it, but I think there is a difference between casting an older actor to only play a teenager (which the trope is mostly about) and casting him to play a role at multiple ages (including the age of the actor). Answers here include examples for both. First case: Moaning Myrtle and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, second case: Dangal and The Natural – Raidri supports Monica Jun 30 '17 at 9:53
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    "How do you do, fellow kids?" :) – problemofficer Jun 30 '17 at 13:32
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    Think this gets much worse if you have a movie where there are multiple sequels with very little time passing in the movies, but a lot of time passing for the actors playing them. – PoloHoleSet Jun 30 '17 at 14:50
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    wet hot american summer: first day of camp might be up there – Apologize and reinstate Monica Jun 30 '17 at 18:17

12 Answers 12

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+100

Aamir Khan was 51 when he played the role of a 19 year old boy in Dangal.

From Bollywood Life article

So Aamir Khan has done it again what he does the best. The PK actor has gone through a drastic makeover for his upcoming film, Dangal, in which he will be seen going through three different stages for he will play the role of a 19-year-old, 29-year-old and 55-year-old.

Below is the image of him as 19 years old.

enter image description here

Another example, Amitabh Bachchan was 67 years old when he played the role of a 12 year old boy suffering from a rare genetic disorder called progeria in Paa.

From Wikipedia plot summary,

Auro (Amitabh Bachchan) is an intelligent and witty 12-year-old boy with an extremely rare genetic disorder called progeria. Mentally he is twelve and very normal, but physically he looks five times older.

Though, in this case, the character he played was supposed to look like an old man.

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    Fun fact: his star son Abhishek Bachchan played the role of Auro's father. – Jesvin Jose Jun 30 '17 at 6:26
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    The Amitabh Bachchan example doesn’t seem in the spirit of the question, since the child there is supposed to look like an old man, not a child. But the Aamir Khan example seems perfect. – Peter LeFanu Lumsdaine Jun 30 '17 at 9:08
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    @PeterLeFanuLumsdaine That's why I kept both. – A J Jun 30 '17 at 9:10
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    I looked just like that when I was 19. Except for all the muscles. And the tan. And the movie-star good looks. I had acne and a mullet ... I looked nothing like that. – BrettFromLA Jul 3 '17 at 3:39
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    Worth noting: Aamir Khan played mostly the latter two ages in the film; his screen time as a 19-year old is, as far as I can tell, less than a minute. (Perhaps also worth noting? Dangal's surprising performance in China has made it the highest-grossing Indian film so far, and it is currently available on Netflix at least in the US.) – ShreevatsaR Jul 4 '17 at 2:30
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Shirley Henderson was around 37 when she played Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter movies. Born 1965, appeared in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets which came out in 2002 and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire which came out in 2005.

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    Might be worth noting that Moaning Myrtle's (corporeal) age is 14 (while the sum of her corporeal and ghost age is around 63) – Ghoti and Chips Jun 30 '17 at 14:22
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    @GhotiandChips and the average of her corporeal and total (including ghost) age is around 37. – Yakk Jun 30 '17 at 15:39
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Stockard Channing (born 1944) played teenager Rizzo in Grease (1978) at the age of 34.

enter image description here

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    That is significantly younger than the existing answers. – Gallifreyan Jun 30 '17 at 13:18
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    @Gallifreyan I don't agree that some of the existing answers are valid - some involve heavy makeup and are stories that cover large time frames so the actor plays a range of ages. I also think that roles where the teenager has a disease shouldn't count. – Mr_Thyroid Jun 30 '17 at 13:26
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    Yes and that's not all. Grease had a ridiculous amount of people in their 30s and late 20s playing teenagers, and it showed. Olivia Newton-John (1948), Michael Tucci (1946), Jamie Donnelly (1947), Dennis Steward (1947) and probably many more. Were teenagers forbidden in films back then? – mattboy Jun 30 '17 at 15:09
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    @mattboy, back in those days there was a lot less industry around acting to support and train young actors and actresses. So there were a lot fewer GOOD teen actors working. – Wildcard Jul 1 '17 at 0:19
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    @Wildcard Not to mention that it was a musical - they needed good actors who were also great singers. Olivia herself was "concerned that she was too old to play a high school senior", and I suspect a lot of the other actors had similar feelings about themselves. Nowadays, teens played by actual teens look weird :D – Luaan Jul 4 '17 at 8:47
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Robert Redford was 48 when The Natural was released. Granted he played a 35 y/o for most of the movie, but he plays a 19 y/o pitcher on a way to a tryout in the prologue.

23

Ferris Bueller's sidekick Cameron was played by 29-year-old Alan Ruck in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Alan Ruck was born in 1956, and appeared as Ferris Bueller's trusty high-school friend Cameron in the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Mr. Ruck was probably not 30 during filming, since movies are always shot months or even years before they are released.

*Thanks to Joe for the comment on the original question that led to this answer.

(Fun fact: I've bumped into Alan Ruck twice in my grocery store in Studio City, CA. He even said "hi" once because he could see how star-struck I was.)

enter image description here

14

There is a very popular Mexican comedy TV show named "El Chavo del Ocho" (1972-1979), in which all the characters are played by adults even when they are playing children's roles.

I understand that some people may consider it a parody, but truly it is not. It may be actors portraying children, but they are not parodying them: within the El Chavo's universe they are not pretending to be children, they are children.

enter image description here

Roberto Gómez Bolaños (aka Chespirito) was the creator/writer/producer/director of the show, and he also played El Chavo, an 8-year-old boy who escaped from an orphanage and lives in the apartment #8.

Chespirito was born in 1929, and the show concluded in 1979. So in the last season, he was an 50-year-old man portraying an 8-year-old boy (42 years difference).

enter image description here

  • actually he lived in a barrel under the appartment 8, but I think you are in the spirit of the question. – Juan Carlos Oropeza Jul 3 '17 at 12:32
  • kind off true until the serie was moved to another Mexican tv channel..., I remember many episodes where la Chilindrina was about to tell where El Chavo lives, but she was always interrupted by Kiko LOL – ΦXocę 웃 Пepeúpa ツ Jul 4 '17 at 11:12
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    I want to add my two cents about this. This show is golden, and I regularly watch it. Let me tell you, with this actors, you forget that they're adults playing children. You can really think they're children. It's amazing. It's a shame there aren't much episodes subtitled in English. – sanfilippopablo Jul 4 '17 at 19:52
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    I would definitely argue that casting obvious adults as children counts as parody. The genre of the SHOW may not be parody, but the nature of the casting IS. I don't care how good the acting is... nobody is going to take Morgan Freeman playing a 12-year-old seriously. – Omegacron Jul 6 '17 at 6:31
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Here's one from Japan: The lead role in My Love Story!, a major production from a major studio, was played by Ryohei Suzuki. The character is 15 years old throughout (no flashbacks or early life scene setting), but at that time Suzuki was 32 years old, so a 17 year difference.

(I've also just thought - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Brad Pitt was 44 when he played BB at 12 years old - I can't remember if he appeared at an earlier age, though)

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    Pitt was one of my first thoughts, too. Although 12 is not a teenager :) – rybo111 Jul 2 '17 at 13:15
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Wet, Hot American Summer (the Netflix show not the film) had multiple actors in their 40's and early 50's portraying teenage and early 20's characters.

Granted this was part of the joke, but for your question this should work (unless you would qualify this as parody).

For example, Michael Showalter was 45 when the series was filmed. And he has confirmed they are indeed teens here:

"We thought it was funny that in the original we played a bunch of thirty year olds playing teenagers. Now we're in our forties and our characters are even younger," Showalter said in a statement.

If not the show, then the movie, which was not done to the absurd level as the show would still count.

  • Blue Remembered Hills is a similar case, in that the children being played by adults was for effect and the oldest of the actors was 45 at the time. I don't know if the character he played had reached the age of 13 yet though. – Jon Hanna Jun 30 '17 at 10:00
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    That's the very definition of parody: exaggerated imitation. – tylerwal Jul 3 '17 at 12:15
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This example will be very hard to beat for anyone who cares about historical accuracy.

In the 10 May 1980 episode of Fantasy Island My Fair Pharaoh/The Power the "My Fair Pharaoh" part had the protagonist going back in time to meet her hero Queen of Kings Cleopatra VII Philopator. Cleopatra's brother and enemy King Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator (62/61 BC to 47 BC) was portrayed by Michael Ansara (born 15 April 1922, died 31 July 2013) who was thus aged 58 years and 25 days when the episode aired and was probably 43 or 44 years older than Ptolemy and 3.8 to 4.07 times as old as Ptolemy when filming his scenes.

This is an example of a middle aged man portraying a character arbitrarily depicted as an adult despite being one of the most famous child rulers in history!

So this could be the extreme example depending on whether you go by Ptolemy's historical age or his unspecified adult fictional age in the episode.

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    So, was he portraying Ptolemy XIII as he was before he died? I forget how Fantasy Island worked. Ptolemy died at 15 years of age, so was the portrayal of Ptolemy before or up to that age? – steelersquirrel Jun 30 '17 at 5:11
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    Is this account also yours? Refer here to merge them and have a better control on all your posts. – A J Jun 30 '17 at 7:11
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    This answer is confusing. I think you're saying that the adult actor was playing a character who was, in the film universe, an adult—but the character was a historical figure who was, in actual history at the time in which the film was set, a teenager. But that's not in the spirit of the question at all. – Wildcard Jul 1 '17 at 0:18
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Although he is not the oldest in these answers, he is playing a fairly younger role in Hannah Montana. Jason Earles plays his role as a 15 years old kid, and can you believe he was on his 30s?

enter image description here

  • Random down votes? – LeonX Jul 5 '17 at 12:49
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Though he also appears as an elderly version of the character in the framing story at the beginning and end of the film, (then) 40-year-old Martin Short played a 10-year-old in Clifford. The film was a comedy, and the casting of an adult actor in the role of a young child was surely intended to be humorous, but it's never specifically highlighted as a joke in the film--it's played more or less straight.

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If we take the premise of the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, then Brad Pitt born 1963 played a teenager in 2008 at some point or another in that movie.

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