Why are Tom Cruise’s love interests in The Mummy 20 years younger than him?

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Tom Cruise’s love interests, Annabelle Wallis, 32, and Sofia Boutella, 35, in his latest film The Mummy are 22 and 19 years his junior respectively.

While, at 54, Hollywood’s leading man might not look a day over 45 and can still hold his own in a highly-charged fight scene, why not cast an actress closer to his age?


The Mummy: A Cruise and Crowe collaboration

Hollywood A-lister Tom Cruise and Australian actor Russell Crowe have attended the premiere of their new film The Mummy at Sydney’s State Theatre.

Fairfax Media asked this of The Mummy’s director Alex Kurtzman at the Australian premiere of the film at Sydney’s State Theatre on Monday evening. He explained his casting decisions are based on talent and “spirit”, and not on how many years a person has graced the earth.

“I never really think in terms [of age] when I’m casting,” Kurtzman started out.

“I always think what feels right in the part and who walks in the door. Sometimes when I’m auditioning somebody it is less about how they read the lines and more about what they are saying between the lines – I am looking for the spirit of the actor.”

He said when he first met Wallis and Boutella he knew they both were “the one”.

“I could feel they would bring themselves to the parts and hopefully the audience feels as special as I feel for them,” he added.

When it came to casting Cruise, it was a no-brainer, according to Kurtzman: “Everyone wanted Tom, he was everyone’s first choice.”

Without a doubt Wallis as Cruise’s co-lead, archaeologist Jenny Halsey, and Boutella as the ancient, evil Egyptian princess Ahmanet are talented actresses and well deserved of any blockbuster film role. 

But it begs the question: if Cruise, as a middle-aged man, can still play the role of lead action hero, why can’t an actress of similar age play alongside him? Think: Renee Zellweger, Demi Moore, Michelle Yeoh, Laura Linney, Julianne Moore or Sharon Stone.

It’s been often touted that Cruise plays a heavy hand in the selection of his co-stars, often choosing younger actresses of non-American backgrounds, who are less well-known to US audiences – Penelope Cruz in Vanilla Sky, Olga Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough in Oblivion, Miranda Otto in War of the Worlds, Malin Akerman in Rock of Ages, Koyuki Kato in The Last Samurai and Carice Van Houten in Valkyrie.

Might well-known, established actresses de-empahisise Cruise as a leading man? After all, Tom Cruise blockbusters have always been Tom Cruise movies, first and foremost.

Casting a leading man alongside a leading woman who is a few decades younger is common in Hollywood.

In 2014, Emily Blunt, then 31, was cast alongside Cruise, then 51, in Edge of Tomorrow. In 2001, Winona Ryder, then 29, starred alongside a then-51-year-old Richard Gere in Autumn in New York. In 1999, Catherine Zeta-Jones, then 30, was 39 years younger than Sean Connery, then 69, in Entrapment.

A survey of 2000 movies by Polygraph last year found that women between the ages of 22 and 31 spoke 38 per cent of all female dialogue. The figure fell to 31 per cent for actors aged 32 to 41, and 20 per cent for those aged 42 to 65. By contrast, male actors got more lines the older they became, right up to the age of 65.

The prevailing theme of the survey: white men dominate movie roles.

Maggie Gyllenhaal experienced age-related sexism firsthand. At 37 she was told she was “too old” to play a 55-year-old’s love interest.

“There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time,” she told The Wrap in 2015. “I’m 37 and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad, and then it made me feel angry, and then it made me laugh.”

Even in 2017 it seems Hollywood cares not for numbers, but “spirit”.

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