Kate Winslet has expressed surprise at the publicity surrounding the enjoy scenes amongst her and co-star Liam Hemsworth in The Dressmaker. Photograph: Allstar/Universal Images
In interviews this week, Kate Winslet, 40, expressed surprise at the publicity becoming given to the age of her on-screen lover in her most recent film, The Dressmaker, which characteristics a still rare pairing: an older woman and a considerably younger man. Her 25-year-old co-star, Liam Hemsworth, may possibly not have helped, nevertheless, by admitting that he initially worried about whether their scenes together may possibly appear weird.
In contrast, Hollywood top males are commonly cast in co-star combinations in which, if the ages of the performers at the time were represented as American football scores, it would be a wonderful evening for residence fans: 62-38 in between Robert Redford and Kristin Scott Thomas in The Horse Whisperer, and 62-34 for Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt in As Good as it Gets, even though Clint Eastwood had a 63-39 benefit over Rene Russo in In the Line of Fire, and Bill Murray bested Scarlett Johansson 53-19 in Lost in Translation.
Clint Eastwood and Rene Russo in In the Line of Fire. Their 24-year age discrepancy is not that unusual in Hollywood films. Photograph: Bruce McBrooom/Channel 5
The prevalance of such discrepancies, says Prof Linda Ruth Williams of Southampton University, has resulted “in a cultural revulsion against May possibly-to-December onscreen relationships in which the woman could only be May whilst the man could be any month up to and like December”.
Growing sensitivity to the notion of the dirty old man was probably the cause that, in Lost in Translation, the connection among Murray and Johansson remained at the level of ambiguous flirtation, and it could also be important that the director was a lady, Sofia Coppola. It was also a female film-maker, Jocelyn Moorhouse, who allowed Winslet her 40-25 margin in The Dressmaker.
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A complication in these circumstances is that there is frequently a contradiction amongst the chronological and character ages of an actor. The septuagenerian Harrison Ford nonetheless plays guys in a vague late middle age, and the age gap among Winslet’s and Hemsworth’s characters in the script of The Dressmaker is supposed to be far much less than in the actors’ passports. In basic, though, the age of an older man is ignored by the story whilst female seniority tends to be a plot point.
But Winslet, regardless of whether by accident or design, has turn out to be something of a poster lady for female-male age disparity in cinema. In the German wartime story The Reader (2008), she played adore scenes with David Kross, an actor who was also a decade and a half younger, a fact that was central to the narrative.
The fact that Kross was playing a teenager led to accusations of paedophilia, with Winslet’s character receiving as a lot flak from some for getting an alleged youngster abuser as for her character’s previous as a Nazi concentration camp guard. Similarly, in The Piano Teacher (2001), the middle-aged actor Isabelle Huppert’s onscreen partnership with a 17-year-old boy, even though just about legal, is sado-masochistic.
Kate Winslet and David Kross have been onscreen lovers in The Reader, which also starred Ralph Fiennes. Photograph: Image Best/Rex Features
These films contrast starkly with Summer of ’42, a common 1971 film in which an American teenager is sexually initiated throughout the second globe war by an older lady. Coming 4 years soon after The Graduate, in which the fortysomething Anne Bancroft showed a good time to a 21-year-old Dustin Hoffman, that film was one particular of a quantity of what may possibly be referred to as post-Graduate films that dramatised the schoolboy fantasy of seduction by a mature lover. Late examples are Tadpole (2002), and Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001), which claimed higher sexual leeway by being set in Mexico.
In the US and Britain, improved legal and social respect for the age of consent have lowered the reputation of this genre. Surely, it is hard to picture the generating these days of Homework (1982), a comedy in which Joan Collins plays a teacher who sets out to “make a man” of a teenage pupil. The trope of becoming shown the ropes by an skilled female nonetheless exists but the ladies involved are reduced to ridicule in gross-out comedies such as Cougars Inc, Cougar Club and Milf.
Even in serious dramas, the older female lover, although not laughed at, is regularly at risk of death or social exclusion. In Unfaithful (2002) and In the Bedroom (2001), Diane Lane and Marisa Tomei unleash events that lead to murder by taking boyish lovers. Just this year, in The Boy Subsequent Door, Jennifer Lopez puts herself in terrible danger by hitting on the young hunk in the next apartment.
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Among the very handful of examples of consensual romances in which the lady is old enough to be the man’s mother are the Catherine Zeta-Jones romcom The Rebound (2009) and, most notably, The Mother (2003), in which the female lead, Anne Reid, was old adequate to be the lover’s grandmother.
The film’s director, Roger Michell, remembers there was stress from potential financiers to cast a performer with a history of sexual allure, such as Julie Christie or Charlotte Rampling, but he held out for Reid.
“Anne is quite eye-catching,” he stresses. “But the point of the film is that it is a sort of sexual Pygmalion, in which the character starts off invisible and becomes radiant. If the audience currently had a memory of lusting right after that actress in film sex scenes, it is a cop-out.”
The Mother is almost exclusive in treating a mature woman’s passion for a young man as passion rather than perversion. It is a film, Michell says, about a grandmother “who wants to have sex with James Bond”. Which, as Reid’s lover was played by Daniel Craig, she did.
“What is so great about Reid’s performance in The Mother,” says Williams, “is that it gestures to an apparently infinite road ahead. It’s a new type of coming-of-age story. At the finish, Could is seen packing her bag and passport and basically disappearing down her suburban road. She may well be simply going to the shops. But she’s slipping off the edge of the types of films girls of her age utilized to feature in.”
Anne Reid and Daniel Craig in The Mother. Photograph: Everett/Rex Shutterstock
In a further try at balance, Michell and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi went on to make Venus (2006), in which a partnership in between an octogenarian man played by Peter O’Toole and a lady virtually six decades his junior outcomes, really unusually in movies, in rejection and humiliation for him.
Michell and Kureishi also collaborated on Le Week