Maggie Gyllenhaal isnâ€™t alone.
In the wake of Gyllenhaalâ€™s revelation that at 37 years old sheâ€™d been told she was too old to play the love interest of a 55-year-old man, Vocativ analyzed blockbuster films of the past five years and found a clear pattern: Hollywood insists on casting much younger women as the love interests of older leading men.
Vocativ looked at the top 25 grossing films between 2010 and 2014 in which the leading man had a clear love interest and found a distinct pattern. Younger actors are cast with women around their own ageâ€”and sometimes olderâ€”but as the leading man grows older, the age gap increases.
So Shailene Woodley can be 22, two years older than Ansel Elgort, who played her love interest in The Fault In Our Stars, when that movie was released. And because Chris Hemsworth was only 27 when Thor came out in theaters, the studios were fine with him being cast against Natalie Portman, two years his senior. But when Tom Cruise starred in Edge of Tomorrow at 51, he did so with then-31-year-old Emily Blunt, and when Denzel Washington did Book of Eli at 55, it was with Mila Kunis, who was 26.
The data does not show a blanket ban on women Gyllenhaalâ€™s age playing the love interests of men in their 50s, however. Kelly Reilly was 35 to Washingtonâ€™s 57 in Flight, and Mary-Louise Parker was 46 with the 55-year-old Bruce Willis in RED. But the age gap still persisted, with exceptions made for only the biggest female stars, like Oprah Winfrey, Sally Field, and Bette Midler.