Did you notice something funny about the winners of the acting Oscars? Not that they were all white — we’ve been over that. There was something else. Leonardo DiCaprio and supporting actor winner Mark Rylance were much older than Brie Larson and Alicia Vikander, who by comparison looked like they’d only recently finished grade school.
This wasn’t some trick of make-up or Botox magic. Larson is 26 and Vikander is 27. DiCaprio, meanwhile, is 41 and Rylance, 56.
We hear a lot about how leading men can sustain their careers well into their AARP years, while actresses don’t have that good fortune. And the winners from last night appeared to strengthen that argument. When it came to female nominees, the ingenues beat out the likes of Charlotte Rampling (70) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (54).
But at least Rampling and Leigh were nominated. After all, in the best actress race, three of the five nominees were in their 20s — Larson, Jennifer Lawrence (25) and Saoirse Ronan (21). In the best actor race, the youngest nominee was 34-year-old Eddie Redmayne.
Is all this as bad as it looks?
We looked at history of Oscar winners in acting categories and actually the news isn’t entirely awful. Yes, in both lead and supporting roles, female winners tend to skew younger than male ones. The average age of best actor winners was 44, compared to the best actress average of 36. The average best supporting actor is 50, while the average best supporting actress is 40.
But, in the last decade, thanks to wins by Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Helen Mirren, the average of best actress winners has been 41, while the decade prior (with wins for Gwyneth Paltrow, Charlize Theron and Hilary Swank), the average was 31.
Then again, best actor ages are also on the rise. The average of 47 in the decade since 2007 was buoyed by Daniel Day-Lewis, Jeff Bridges, Colin Firth and Sean Penn.
The gap in the supporting field gets even larger when you look at the last decade, with the mean of female winners at 37 and men averaging 53. That being said, Christopher Plummer — 82 when he won for “Beginners” — was a significant outlier, which throws off the numbers. Even so, as you can see, the best supporting actor category has historically singled out older men.
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