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How Old is Too Old to Kick Some Movie Butt?

The news that Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed up for a new action movie after completing a role in the second Expendables brings one very obvious question to the fore: When does someone get too old to be an action-movie star?

Schwarzenegger’s signed on for Black Sands, a movie in which he plays a loner (of course) who makes a stand against a “ruthless weapons manufacturer,” according to Deadline Hollywood (I’d ask if there is any other kind of weapons manufacturer, but then I remember that there is, but they all become Iron Man in the end), which will begin shooting in April next year – at which point, he’ll be 64 years old. Of course, he’s not alone in this: Sylvester Stallone is 65, and he managed to sell his role in the original Expendables without too much trouble.

(Bruce Willis has also signed on for another Die Hard, but he’s a baby compared with these two, at 56 years old. He’s got at least another eight or nine years of wondering how the same [expletive deleted] can happen to the same guy five, six or seven times depending on how successful the next movie is.)

Even so, there’s something slightly worrying about the idea of men at the age of retirement being the ones saving the world from corrupt businessmen, crime lords and whatever other dangers populate the underworld these days; I’ll be the first to admit that either Stallone or Schwarzenegger could crush me without breaking a sweat – possibly without even noticing, for that matter; I know how small and breakable I am – but still… Shouldn’t they be at the very most making the cameo appearances to get the fanboys all excited while other, younger people do most of the heavy lifting?

I admit, I kind of thought that was the point of the original Expendables; have Stallone be there, but give the majority of the action to Jason Statham, Jet Li, Steve Austen et al in some kind of subtle passing of the torch moment. But seeing Arnold take the lead in this new movie just seems… depressing, almost, in all manner of ways. I get that he wants to keep making movies, but is there really no other kind of movie he could go for at his age? No-one wants to see Twins 2: Quadruplets? No Kindergarten Cop 2: College Days? I know that action movies aren’t the most logical of beasts in the first place, but it’ll really seem ridiculous to see a man in his mid-60s continually get the better of guys half his age with the only reason seemingly “being evil makes you slower and weaker.”

Not only that, but Schwarzenegger and Stallone doing these movies – and even the younger-but-not-that-much-younger Willis, for that matter – just feels cruel to the Stathams or Vin Diesels of the world; it’s as if it’s a reminder that, even twenty years on, cinema hasn’t managed to produce any bigger action stars, and so these guys just have to come back to save the day. It’s unfair, considering that the focus of action movies has shifted from the personality to the gimmick, the stunt or the catchy tagline; Arnold, Sly and the like may still seem bigger today, but it’s because, when they were around, the movies were just so much smaller around them and they had to shoulder more of the weight.

Maybe I’m alone in this; perhaps everyone else in the world wants to see men in their mid-60s shoot everything that moves, kick butt and grimace in between delivering one-liners carefully designed for maximum repetition by fans for years afterwards, as if that somehow makes everyone watching feel more secure in their own aging and less worried about their own mortality. But, for me, it just seems… undignified, perhaps? Or perhaps just kind of sad. I understand that not everyone is built to grow old gracefully, but I find myself wishing that some people could at least do it a little less explosively.


  • Asif

    Stallone looked incredibly bloated in The Expendables – that was all steroids not gym; very depressing.
    I agree the handing on of the action torch just hasn’t occurred for this generation. Eastwood and others handed off to the Stallone and others OK.
    I think the problem is that the previous generation was very talented at this kind of film. Stallone was a decent scriptwriter and OK director – & Rockie has stood the test of time. Same for Willis, Die Hard – that too is still a very good piece of cinema. Arnie managed to get to work with some great directors who made ionic movies – Terminators series, Total Recall & Predator.
    Unfortunately the current crop of action stars in the modern CGI era of superheroes and incredible stunts, no longer rule. 
    It’s only if they get onto a good franchise do they prosper.Fast & Furious 5 did OK US business ($200M) but better worldwide whereas US take has to be much bigger to be considered a true blockbuster. 

  • Ed Gauthier

    Eastwood hung in far longer than most, and would have done more thrillers if he hadn’t gotten so inviolved with his passion for directing. And fans followed Bronson and his Death Wish/Family Of Cops stuff to the very end. Thing is, we haven’t had this happen much before in Hollywood history – tough guy stars have usually croaked at an early age from accident, heart attack or cigarette cancer. These later crops of stars eating healthier and avoiding smoking has thrown everything out of whack.

  • snappy

    Quit your ageism. This is a highly offensive bigoted “article” and should be removed from this site.

  • Brett Spears

    Eh, whatever. Even after all these years I’m still 10x more likely to watch an Arnold movie than a Jason Statham or Vin Diesel movie.

  • Matthew Clement

    You failed to mention two great action movies starring older people, Taken and RED. Both were well acted, good stories and great action. There’s something…funny? about seeing these older people kicking ass. RED just had news regarding a sequel, and I for one like it. Now those movies at least jest about the age of their characters, having not seen Expendables, I can’t really comment on the seriousness of Stallone’s role.

  • Whoiseyevan

    John Wayne was 69 when he did Shootist. Clint Eastwood was 78 when he did Torino. Schwarzenegger and Stallone are whipper snappers compared to these guys. I say let them keep fighting the good fight. Statham and Vin Diesel will face the same thing when they get older, and someone writes a similar future article about Shia Labeouf and Liam Hemsworth.

  • Moondog_33

    The problem is actors today worry about being “typecast” as action stars. The Rock could be a great action star but he wants to make kids movies to prove he can act.

  • nik

    The problem I have with modern day action movies and modern day action stars is that it’s all talky and no shooty.  Even the actors want to “act” instead of just blow shit up for an hour and a half.  Predator isn’t remembered for it’s character backstory, it’s remembered for “if it bleeds, we can kill it”.  And Predator will live on loooooong after The Mechanic.

  • Guest

    It’s Austin, not Austen.

  • Monty

    The only technology that moves faster than special effects in Hollywood is plastic surgery. Arnold will have a personal trainer, steroids, and about $75,000 dollars of body sculpting. Then, I’m sure he’ll be ready to go.

  • Thegentlemanrogue

    I think I prefer it when the action star is a little bit older and “over the hill.” The characters are written as essentially invisible but when they are portrayed by older actors it at least gives the sense that they are the underdog and in over their head.

  • Mason

    I was hoping Arnold would do more dramas from now on and stop pigeonholing himself as just an action star. This was a second chance for him and it is so disappointing to see from these projects that he is choosing that he doesn’t want to reach his full potential as an actor.

  • Antibigotxx2

    I find this article really stupidly offensive.
    So you don’t like old people kicking ass. Not our problem.
    Bigoted idiot.

  • Supermancho

    I’m quite happy seeing this actors giving me action flicks. There’s nothing like old school action.
    I’m eagerly waiting my next Die Hard :)

  • Jonathan Nathan

    Terrible actors like Schwarzenegger and Stallone can still make big-time paydays as they approach and surpass retirement age, but genuinely talented female actors can’t get a job when they turn 40. This country…

  • John

    Ageism?  That’s a new one!  You must be one of those Potical Correct pussys.  Get over it, and grow-up…

  • Sdfern

    You seriously need a better writer. One who actually is in touch with what audiences actually like

  • Jay

    In a world of cgi effects why not, I’d still pay to see these dudes.

  • DavidIsDumb

    erm, you’ve never heard of the term ageism?  Get educated and grow-up…

  • Omegasaga

    Love Sly but without the roids- hes going to deflate like Arnold has. 

    Arnold looks like a senior citezen that ANYONE could kick his ass now.

    Bruce still has a few yrs of butt kicking to go.

  • Dan Tyson

    It doesn’t matter how old the star is, just as it doesn’t matter what skin color or gender they happen to be, either. It’s good or it’s bad and that’s about it.

    A pretty retarded article, coming from a site focusing on movies…seriously, try a little harder.

  • Dan Tyson

    ..and now I’m all paranoid about using the term ‘retarded’.

  • Drithien

    Personally, I do not agree with the sentiment that age dictates what an actor should do.

    If an actor can play a part in an action movie and looks good enough doing it, then by all means he/she should play the part! What is more, with the availability of multiple takes and special effects, quite a few things can be repeated until done right or touched up to look better respectively. The age of someone as a number has no real relevance to the matter. The actor’s current state and abilities do. A number is just a number. If Sylvester Stalone can look the part in an action movie, and do what is required of him why should I care how old he is?

    The above example is one of my actual concerns. I thoroughly enjoyed the Expendables. It is, in my opinion, a fun action movie done right. It has action. A loooot of action. Action that walks, succesfully for the most part, a fine line, between realistic intelligence, and action movie “poetic” lisence. Finally people getting shot actually bleed accordingly, the good guys have to take cover when fired upon, killing even a handful of villains is not as easy as breathing, and even the protagonist can get his ass handed to him. At the same time a handful of people take out an army. The movie, as far as action is concerned, moves brilliantly between an intelligent ala Michael Mann’s Heat approach and the camp “blow everything up” vibe of a classic 80’s action movie. But. Sylvester Stallone looked crap. It was not the acting or the stunts. It was his actual appearance. He looked so bloated I was afraid he was going to have a heart attack on-screen. That or blow up like a monster in a horror movie. I don’t know if he took anythign special to get back in shape. And internet anonymity or not I am not in the habit of speculating on such serious matters. But, to me he didn’t look healthy, but mutated. So, there is a line between “being able to still do it” and “really pushing things in an unhealthy way”.

    My second concern is the matter of the heirs ot actors like Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis on the action movie star throne. there seems to be next to none. There are some people that do somewhat good movies but that’s it. And “that” is not enough to be considered a star. Most modern action movies have protagonists that just don’t give the feeling of a classic action movie actor. There is Jason Statham and Vin Diesel, that do okish for the most part, and then, a blur of either “pretty boys” trying to pose as menacing, or professional martial artists with the charisma of a brick wall.  Expendables, and the latest Rambo before it, are some of the very few action movies that really offered some tension and excitement in the recent years to me. And both were the “children” of an action movie star of years gone by. That’s the problem. There is next to no gut-wrenching action anymore most of the time. Other than a few gems that pop up here and there at times, like the recent Drive by Nicolas Winding Refn. It’s becoming kind of a lost art. The same thing that happened to good car-chase films. Ohh well. The lack of the latter prompted Quentin Tarantino to create Death Proof. Maybe he will give wide-screen action movies a shot next.

  • Mr_Wayne

    If you can’t lock The Rock and Diesel then what are you doing?

  • Frank

    There’s one thing I have to really disagree with that you said. You said that this crop of action stars has “avoiding smoking has thrown everything out of whack.” But both Arnold and Sly are some of the most vocal of cigar smokers in the entertainment industry.

  • Rick

    Vin Diesel and the Rock (Dwayne Johnson) aren’t exactly teenagers.  They are closer to 40 than thirty, and maybe over 40 (actors lie about age.)  Shia Lebouf is young, 20 something. At least for now, but he’ll hopefully have his time.  He might not last as long as most of the actors mentioned, so Arnie, Bruce, and Sly, keep it up.

  • Stewman

    Yeah a long as they wanna make ‘em, I’ll be there to watch em. Why is age an issue? Screw gracefu.

  • Jeff Frost

    Seeing as how I’ve never been a fan of action flicks, I couldn’t care less about Ah-nuld or Sly’s newest roles. The only one of these dullards I give a toss about is Statham, as the man can perform as well in a drama (see: London) as he can in a full-throttle actioner. That being said, the problem is that new audiences are not as satisfied with mindless bam-pow as they were in decades past. Sure, Expendables did relatively well, but that’s due to the gimmick level. You have the same problem the comics industry has: old fans want the same shit they loved when they were kids, and the younger generation either doesn’t care or has no point of reference. A corny one-liner pun following a baddie’s demise receives groans instead of cheers nowadays, whereas a 3-D CGI FX mindscrew becomes the highest grosser of the year.

    I guarantee you, the commenters rallying around their bloated heroes while crying for the article author’s head are in the overall minority.

    I can’t F-ing believe I’m agreeing with and defending McMillan.

  • MegaGearMax

    I think that was when he was married. Now that he’s single, he’s back to being an action movie star. A lot of his recent roles are action movie fare: G.I. Joe 2, Fast 5 and some other movie that escapes me.

  • MegaGearMax

    I hear you. The old guys have more charisma than the new crowd.

  • Mark Anderson

    Sean Connery just passed whatever the line was a few years ago.

  • Living Silver

    I’ve never seen Arnold’s movie Last Action Hero, but after reading this article, I am wondering if there was some meta-message in the title…?