I have recently been working my way through all ten seasons of Beverly Hills, 90210. I spent the entire decade of the ’90s glued to my television set, emotionally invested in the gang at West Beverly. I wondered if Donna Martin was going to get to graduate, and if Brandon Walsh would ever dance in public. But what I never wondered, at least not at the time, was how on earth the casting directors took one look at Gabrielle Carteris and thought, “Now here’s a 29-year-old actress who can easily pass for a high school sophomore!”
Now, it’s all I can see. No one is buying that Andrea Zuckerman is in high school.
And it’s not just Andrea either. You only need to take one look at Steve’s plug-filled hairline and Dylan’s forehead wrinkles to know that those boys were nowhere near the ages of the teenagers they were portraying. But, you know, sometimes all it takes is a casting director who digs a good pair of sideburns—it worked for Luke Perry and Henry Winkler.
I understand why this is done so often—what with child labor laws and intense shooting schedules and script difficulties—but I don’t understand why there have to be such age-gap extremes. If it’s too difficult to hire an actor who is actually in high school to play a high-school sophomore, couldn’t they look at someone who is eighteen or nineteen instead of in their late twenties?
Sometimes it totally works. Rachel McAdams was 25 when she played 16-year-old Regina George in Mean Girls, and maybe it was all of those Kalteen bars she was eating, but I barely noticed that she wasn’t really a teenager. And then there’s Taylor Kitsch playing a ten-years-his-junior Tim Riggins on Friday Night Lights – you could tell me that he was 45 years old and I literally would not even care because he’s Tim Riggins.
But then there are those times when I can’t seem to focus on anything else other than the geriatric tendencies of the actors playing teenagers. I worry about their circulation and their crow’s feet, frankly.
Here are the top 5 most age-inappropriate casting decisions ever — the worst offenders of what I like to call Hollywood’s Andrea Zuckerman Phenomenon:
1. Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid III. 27, playing 18.
See, the thing about The Karate Kid is that in the first one, Ralph Macchio was mostly passable as a 23-year-old high school student. By the third movie, Ralph Macchio was approaching thirty. He was no longer the Karate Kid—he was the Karate Man. No amount of crane kicks could age him in reverse. (See also: Michael J. Fox in Back To The Future III)
2. Jennifer Grey as Baby in Dirty Dancing. 27, playing 17.
The producers made the classic blunder of hiring a short girl to play a young girl. They are not the same thing. Baby always looked older than her older sister Lisa, and it only made it worse that her name was BABY. The irony is not lost on us, I assure you.
3. Stockard Channing as Betty Rizzo in Grease. 34, playing 18.
Truth be told, the entire cast of Grease should get some sort of award for having the most elderly cast of a high school movie. What were they serving in those Rydell High school lunches anyway? The Pink Ladies and the T-Birds look like they could actually be the parents of the cast of High School Musical. (See also: The cast of Glee)
4. Alan Ruck as Cameron Frye in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. 30, playing 18.
Alan Ruck was fooling exactly nobody with this role. He was trying to pull of teenage angst—but he just came across as middle-aged curmudgeon with a kindergartener’s hairstyle. (See also: Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club)
5. Tom Welling as Clark Kent in Smallville. 24, playing 14.
This one was just ridiculous because even though Tom Welling sure does seem to have a baby face—and 24 isn’t exactly old—he was 6″3, and looked pretty darn, well, old trying to pass as a high school freshman.
Who’d I miss? Who on TV or in movies is just way too old to be playing a teenager?