Clint, Diane, Dustin, Jack, Meryl and Robert.

My mom and I recently had a discussion about actors who are past their prime (or at least perceived to be) and still have successful careers. Actors who are baby boomers and above are every bit as talented as they were as a 20-something, if not more. Unfortunately, it seems that writers have stopped crafting roles for them anymore. Our talk all started with a recent appearance of Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro on the Late Show with David Letterman. They were together to promote their franchise piece out this season: Little Fockers. Hoffman as a Letterman guest is funny and tells good stories about his early acting days and classic films such as Tootsie and The Graduate. According to Letterman, De Niro has never been on his show, so he should have something to talk about. Nope. He was Mr. Sour Grapes the whole time. Letterman took the opportunity of having both actors on his set to discuss their lengthy film retrospectives. In addition to Hoffman’s above films, he tops the charts in Kramer vs. Kramer and All the President’s Men. De Niro has Taxi Driver, Casino, and Goodfellas, to name a few. Letterman’s list didn’t spur any conversation at all. Hoffman seemed to try but maybe he was as off put by De Niro’s behavior as Letterman was. Did De Niro REALLY want to talk about Little Fockers more than all the classic films he has had the opportunity to be in and is known for? Does he want Little Fockers to be his legacy? I checked his in production queue on http://www.imdb.com/ and he’s got five or six projects in the works ranging from rom-coms to action films.
What I am looking for is actors in De Niro’s generation who consistently choose “good” projects without mixing in the unnecessary fluff. I can’t imagine it’s about filling up their pocketbook more, but who knows.
Maybe if they don’t keep their name out there on a regular basis it gets harder to have more scripts to choose from.
Jack Nicholson is another example. He went from Something’s Gotta Give to The Departed (amazing) to The Bucket List. To me there is no point to any of those but The Departed. Nicholson followed The Bucket List with How Do You Know, which I do plan to see. The preview looks like his father-figure character may be a step down from more complex roles like Melvin in As Good As It Gets but a step up from Anger Management. Looking at his film list, there are just a few blips on the radar. Nicholson is also rumored to be the lead in Americana with Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Keep it up Jack.
Nicholson, De Niro, and Hoffman have the same talent they did 20 to 30 years ago so Hollywood screenwriters should keep writing roles for their generation. Maybe they prefer the slightly younger Jeff Bridges and George Clooney, which is not a bad thing, but let the people who laid the path keep it up. There is still an audience for their work, trust me.
As my mom and I talked, she named one actor who has kept a consistent route both in front of and behind the camera: Clint Eastwood. Through his transition from acting to directing with Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino, he’s got the best of both worlds.
As far as female actors of the same generation go, I’ve heard it’s even more difficult for them to find roles worthy of their time in competition with young starlets.
Meryl Streep has kept it going somehow. Diane Keaton is still acting, but fell into the typecast pool, unfortunately. She starred with Nicholson in Something’s Gotta Give and hasn’t really stepped above that mark yet. Are she and others are just taking what they can get at this point? Is Diane Keaton turning down other roles for Morning Glory and the upcoming Darling Companion, about a woman who loves her dog more than her husband? If it weren’t for the cast of Kevin Kline, Dianne Wiest, Richard Jenkins and Sam Shepard I’d stay that is definitely the case.
As I researched each of these actors’ upcoming projects they all have some in the works. It’s promising that at least a few gems will come out of their careers just yet.
Coming up, Dustin Hoffman has a voice in Kung Fu Panda 2 and acts in The Song of Names with Anthony Hopkins. There is one other franchise that could keep his options for scripts open, according to my mom.
He was in Star Wars, right? I’ll bet you a dinner on that one.

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