Gary Oldman’s casting in Mank sparks accusations of sexism and ageism

Gary Oldman’s casting in Mank sparks accusations of sexism and ageism
FREDERIC J. BROWN / Getty Images

The age gap between the two lead actors in Netflix’s Mank has sparked a debate about sexism and double standards when it comes to age in the film industry.

It all began when writer Emily Nunn pointed out that Gary Oldman, who plays Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, is 62 years old, while Tuppence Middleton, who plays his wife Sara, is 33.

In reality, both people were the same age.

The film hops forwards and back between 1930 to 1942, during which time both Herman and Sara Mankiewicz went from being 33 to 45 years old.

Some people felt it was unlikely that a woman would be cast as someone almost 20 years their junior, and accused the filmmakers of double standards.

This is a common frustration when it comes to Hollywood, which frequently casts men in leading roles well into middle age, while women seem to have a much shorter career span to play a love interest in a typical mainstream movie.

In Mank, none of the women in the core cast are played by women over the age of 35.

Actress Marion Davies, who in reality was born in the same year as both Herman and Sara Mankiewicz, is played by the 35 year-old Amanda Seyfried.

The 39 year age gap between Seyfried and actor Charles Dance is even greater than that of the age gap between Davies and her partner William Randolph Hearst, whom Dance plays.

Some people defended the casting decisions, arguing that Oldman should be able to play someone younger than him, particularly as Mankiewicz famously looked older than he was.

But ultimately, it remains true that women are more likely to be phased out of acting roles as they age than men.

Ageism and sexism were rife in Old Hollywood, where Mank is set. There’s no reason to carry forward that tradition now.

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