In real life, when your mom or dad looks young enough to be your sibling, you’ve got powerful genes to thank. In the realm of film and TV, when an onscreen parent looks close in age to their “child,” it’s because they actually are.
Casting directors follow their own set of guidelines that often have little consideration for logic. That’s the only possible explanation for why these actors and actresses playing parents could get away with being ten years older, the same age, or even younger than their make-believe children!
1.”I’m not a regular mom…” She’s a very, very, young mom. Amy Poehler was born to don a pink velour tracksuit as the proud mother of Regina George in Mean Girls. However, Rachel McAdams is just 7 years her junior.
2. A main plot of The Golden Girls was Estelle Getty’s Rose vacating her burned-down nursing home to move in with her daughter Dorothy, played by Bea Arthur. Don’t let her snow-white hair and oversized spectacles fool you: Estelle was a year younger than her onscreen daughter!
3. Glasses are a go-to aging trick in the movie biz. That’s pretty much all they used to make Sean Connery passable for Harrison Ford’s father in the third Indiana Jones installment despite their 12-year age gap.
4. Now, the casting fiasco in Alexander was downright impossible. The film receives its fair share of grief for being a stinker, and the worst offense had to be casting Angelina Jolie as Colin Farrel’s mother when she’s a year older.
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5. Hollywood notoriously clumps women of a certain age into the general category of old, and Scarface is a prime example. Miriam Colon clearly was too young to believably be the mother of Al Pacino, since she was only 4 years older.
6. This glaringly miscast mother shows the discrepancy towards older women in show business. The X-Files preferred an actress 1 year older than David Duchovny to fill the role of his mother when they hired Rebecca Toolan.
7. Community had to be cracking wise when they cast Larry Cedar as the father of Chevy Chase’s character, Pierce. Yes, Chevy was playing a college student, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that he’s 12 years older than the actor playing his dad.
8. Time jumping movies, such as Riding in Cars With Boys, get a pass on oddball castings. A coming-of-age story, Drew Barrymore’s character gives birth to a son at age 15. Later, the grown-up version of her son, Adam Garcia, is Drew’s elder by two years.
9. If Laurence Fishburne and Jenifer Lewis had a child the same as age their onscreen son, played by Anthony Anderson, on Blackish, it’d be super weird. Lewis and Fishburne were 14 and 9 years old respectively when their fictional son was born.
10. Acting the elder is old news to Laurence, who had a similar experience when he starred in Boyz n the Hood. His sage fatherly wisdom has less punch when you realize he’s only 29, and his ‘son’ Cuba Gooding Jr. was 23.
11. Short-lived sitcom Kath and Kim, which starred Molly Shannon and Selma Blair, was a one-season wonder based on an Australian series of the same name. In this case, the bizarre age casting was on purpose; the actresses were 8 years apart.
12. SNL alums Andy Samberg and Adam Sandler are scarily alike, in humor and looks, so they had to play father and son eventually. In That’s My Boy, Adam becomes a teen father to Andy, but the 12-year age difference really stretches that plot point.
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13. Mama always said a lot of things, but “Guess what, I’m only ten years older than you, Forrest!” sadly wasn’t one of them. Filmmakers hoped the audience forgot that Tom Hanks had the hots for Sally Field in their film Punchline five years previously.
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14. In her show Jane the Virgin, Gina Rodriguez’s character was determined not to repeat the path of her teenaged parents and fall pregnant. The casting department took that a bit too seriously. Jaime Camil, who plays Jane’s father, is 12 years Gina’s senior.
15. That’s not the biggest age flub on Jane the Virgin. In fact, there is only a ten-year gap between the actresses playing the titular character and her mother Xo. In the show’s defense, Gina Rodriguez aged down around 5 years for her part.
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16. Her performance in The Fighter won Melissa Leo an Oscar for her portrayal of a rough-and-tumble mom-ager of her boxer sons. Interestingly, Melissa had 11 and 14 years of seniority on her co-stars.
17. Clair Huxtable is debatably the most iconic mother in television history. Yet, Phylicia Rashad was born ten years before her character’s eldest daughter, Sondra.
18. JK Simmons exudes fatherly qualities; he just can’t help it. When paired with Paul Rudd, a man who has to be loitering near the fountain of youth, you barely notice there are only 11 years between them in their movie I Love You Man.
19. Mary Steenburgen and Will Ferrell had practice in sharing maternal and childlike roles after making Elf. In Step Brothers, they doubled down. Their 14-year age gap was the least absurd aspect of the film.
20. As far as the resemblance goes, Rizzoli and Isles nailed it with Sharon Lawrence and Sasha Alexander. But sisters or cousins would’ve been more accurate relations, rather than mother-daughter, since the actresses are 12 years apart.
21. There is no doubt Stifler’s mom has got it going on, and that is exactly what American Pie wanted you to think. Jennifer Coolidge would’ve been a 15-year-old mother if Sean William Scott was her son in reality.
22. Why cast age-appropriate actresses when wigs can be worn? The movie Tammy had a complex, triple-age blunder: Allison Janney acted as the mom to Melissa McCarthy (11 years between them), and Susan Sarandon, the head matriarch, had a 24-year age gap to her granddaughter.
23. Similar kindred smolders almost made Supernatural fans look the other way regarding Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s fatherly role. The 12-year age gap with actor Jensen Ackles makes them better suited as brothers.
24. The movie The Good Shepherd is loosely based on real events, but they fudged the numbers when casting Eddie Redmayne as Matt Damon’s son with their 11-year age gap.
Clearly, the rulebook says age is just a number in the movie industry, and Matt Damon is just one actor using that to his advantage. See, sometimes actors daylight as too-young parents; other times, they play way-too-young teenagers.
1. Matt Damon: One of the biggest age gap goofs went barely noticed. Damon scored positive reviews as the impressionable lover of Liberace, 18-year-old Scott Thorson. However, no makeup could conceivably hide that Matt Damon was 43 years old.
2. Emma Thompson: A show biz secret: if you’re heavily involved in the making of the project, you get to call the shots. So, when 35-year-old Thompson penned the script for Sense and Sensibility, she wound up with the part of the 19-year-old lead.
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3. Barbara Streisand: Just like Thompson, Streisand wielded her well-deserved power to play a teen. In her directorial debut of Yentl, Streisand put her skincare routine to the test, starring as a teen at 41 years old. If anyone could freeze the aging clock, it’s Babs.
4. Leo DiCaprio: In Catch Me If You Can, DiCaprio played a master con “teen,” Frank Abagnale Jr., a 17 year old daylighting as a 27-year-old professional. To further complicate the puzzle, Leo was actually 28 during filming.
5. Henry Winkler: The most famous teen in television also holds the role of the coolest of cool: The Fonz. Winkler held court as the infamous bad boy from age 29 until he was, yep, 40 years old!
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6. Emilia Clarke: Age is just a number, and the Game of Thrones casting director agreed. Daenerys Targaryen starts the series at age 16, but Clarke snagged the role at age 28. It’s easy to overlook age when there are bigger suspensions of disbelief, like, um, the dragons.
7. Bianca Lawson: There is one ageless enigma that flutters through teenage roles like an immortal butterfly. For over 20 years Lawson scooped up high school roles, including a stint as a juvenile on Pretty Little Liars until the age of 34.
8. Shirley Henderson: The Harry Potter franchise scored big with Henderson as Moaning Myrtle, the broody 14-year-old ghost. Pigtails automatically knock five years off your appearance, but they shaved 22 of this 36-year-old actress.
9. Stockard Channing: Rizzo in Grease faced a teen pregnancy scare, but Channing could have feasibly been old enough to be her character’s mother. Nevertheless, everyone’s favorite pink lady was embodied perfectly by the 34-year-old actress.
10. Alan Ruck: We hate to burst the bubble of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but the angsty teen Cameron, afraid to confront his domineering father, wasn’t so young and helpless after all. Ruck was 30 years old.
11. Winona Ryder: Harkening back to Heathers, Ryder aged herself down from 28 to 18 for her role as Susanna in Girl, Interrupted. She slipped into the role of a troubled high school senior seamlessly, even after being ten years removed.
12. Stacey Dash: She portrayed the perfect valley girl sidekick as Dion in Clueless, so it’s hard to believe she hadn’t been in high school for over ten years. When she appeared in the hit film, she was 29 years old!
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13. Jason Earle: Hannah Montana’s goofball brother Jackson was the older sibling, but his silly antics would make you think otherwise. Starring opposite a 14-year-old Miley Cyrus, Earle played the teen believably, considering he was 29 years old when the show began!
14. Gabrielle Cateris: Andrea from Beverly Hills 90210 stood out as more intelligent than her high school counterparts. But maybe that’s because she had a few more years of wisdom: Cast at age 29, she played a teen well into her thirties.
15. Ian Ziering: There must have been a shortage of teens in LA when they cast Beverly Hills 90210 because the part of Steve Sanders went to 26-year-old Ziering. Granted, he wasn’t the eldest on set, but he played the spoiled youth for a full ten seasons.
16. Tobey Maguire: Peter Parker is supposed to be just 15 years old, so why studio executives kept casting actors inching towards 30 is the real mystery. Maguire landed the part of Spider-Man when he was 27 and then carried the role across three films.
17. Andrew Garfield: Perhaps it was because they wanted to do Spidey justice a second time around that they rebooted the film with a new leading man. Too bad he was older than the first! Andrew Garfield was a 28-year-old teen slinging webs around the city.
18. Marisa Tomei: The most recent iteration of the superhero’s story, Spider-Man: Homecoming, came closest to the comics by casting Tom Holland at 20 years old. But casting chose 53-year-old Hollywood veteran Marisa Tomei to play 70-year-old Aunt May.
19. Tom Wellington: Calling the show Smallville wasn’t enough to distract viewers from the fully grown man assuming the role of a 14-year-old. Wellington had the strapping good looks of a young Clark Kent but was about ten years more mature.
20. The Titans: Remember the Titans, the high school football movie about a revolutionary integrated team, featured a team mostly made up of fully grown men. The eldest, team defensive end Julius Campbell, was played by 31-year-old Harris.
21. Diana Ross: The Wiz reinvented Dorothy from a Kansas teen to a twenty-something kindergarten teacher, but even still, Ross had ten years on the character. The songstress was 34 when she took the pivotal role.
22. If they ever decide to make a movie about Diana Ross, they have a ready-made younger actress that looks a heck of a lot like her to fill that role — Tracee Ellis Ross.
In fact, it was her resemblance to her mom that first got Tracee noticed, and she’s not the only one. These teens and kids are managing to find work by playing the younger versions of adult characters…
1. Jamie Lynn Spears and Britney Spears as “Lucy” in Crossroads: It feels a little bit like cheating—after all, these two are sisters in real life! That said, if you want someone who looks like a young version Spears, clearly you need another Spears.
2. Tina Fey and Alice Richmond as “Liz Lemon” in 30 Rock: One of the perks of having your mom create, write, and star in her own TV show? You get the opportunity to play the young version of her in flashbacks!
3. Rachel McAdams and Gena Rowlands as “Allie Calhoun” in The Notebook: This casting is just perfect, and it almost didn’t happen! McAdams didn’t receive the script for the movie until the night before her audition and nearly panicked herself out of the role!
4. Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones as “Agent K” in Men In Black 3: It’s hard to deny that Brolin did a brilliant job imitating Jones, but the guy was pretty tough on himself. Rumor has it that he tried to quit during the shoot, saying he wasn’t accurately capturing Jones.
5. Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor as “Obi-Wan Kenobi” in Star Wars: While these two might not look exactly alike, McGregor worked hard to match Guinness’s posh British accent for the film. In the end, it was solid casting.
6. Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm as “The Doctor” in A Young Doctor’s Notebook: Unlike the previous actors in this list, this one is widely considered a casting fail. While both Radcliffe and Hamm are attractive men in their own rights, the only thing they have in common is their gender.
7. Atandwa Kani and John Kani as “King T’Chaka” in Black Panther: If you were left marveling at the similarities between these two actors, that happened for a very good reason—they’re actually father and son!
8. Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney as “Ed Bloom” in Big Fish: Want to give yourself some serious chills? Go ahead and Google photos of a young Albert Finney. You’ll be hard-pressed to distinguish him from McGregor.
9. Robert De Niro and Marlon Brando as “Don Vito Corleone” in The Godfather: It’s hard to capture the masterful jowls and familiar voice of Brando as Corleone… so Robert De Niro didn’t even try, and it definitely worked out. Both men won Oscars for their portrayals.
10. River Phoenix and Harrison Ford as “Indiana Jones” in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade: To perfectly capture Ford’s portrayal of the iconic treasure-hunting archaeologist, Phoenix apparently focused on imitating Ford himself rather than the character he portrayed.
11. Thomas Brodie-Sangster and James Franco as “Tristan” in Tristan and Isolde: There is a very good reason that Brodie-Sangster is more well-known for his role as “that kid” from Love Actually—and that is because this casting was a serious stretch.
12. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis as “Joe” in Looper: Gordon-Levitt pulled out all of the stops when it came to playing Willis—including colored contact lenses and facial prosthetics! The result is downright uncanny.
13. Kate Winslet and Gloria Stuart as “Rose” in Titanic: It’s tough to tell if Winslet will end up looking like Stuart—we’ve got to wait and see. What’s certain is that both performances were considered successes, with both women receiving Oscar nods.
14. Camilla Belle and Sandra Bullock as “Sally Owens” in Practical Magic: Belle did such a good job impersonating Bullock that she was nominated for several awards for her portrayal. It’s easy even from this picture to see why!
15. Hal Holbrook and Robert Pattinson as “Jacob” in Water For Elephants: When Holbrook was introduced to Pattinson, he couldn’t get over how much the younger actor looked like him in his prime. Guess it must have been some good casting!
16. Elizabeth McGovern and Jennifer Connelly as “Deborah” in Once Upon A Time In America: Not only was this brilliant casting, but it also introduced the world to Jennifer Connelly in her very first appearance on the big screen.
17. Zac Efron and Matthew Perry as “Mike O’Donnell” in 17 Again: According to Efron, these two spent time together to perfect their performances. “We rehearsed a lot together, and Matthew was always available to hang out and work with me on my part.” Still, do you think the casting was on point?
18. Ryan Gosling and James Garner as “Noah” in The Notebook: Gosling really went the extra mile to try and capture the looks of a youthful version of Garner. He even wore brown-colored contacts to complete the effect.
19. AnnaSophia Robb and Sarah Jessica Parker as “Carrie Bradshaw” in Sex And The City and The Carrie Diaries: When Robb and Parker finally met in 2013, the two couldn’t get enough of each other. Besides the curly mane of hair, we’d have to say these two look nothing alike…
20. Elle Fanning and Dakota Fanning as “Lucy” in I Am Sam: Before she blossomed into a successful actress in her own right, it wasn’t uncommon to find Elle Fanning stepping in to play the younger version of her big sister.