It takes courage to play one’s age or near about on the big screen, especially for a global superstar. Clint Eastwood does it with élan, in ‘The Line of Fire’. He was 60+ when the movie was made and he plays a 50ish character in the film.
There are two ways to play an ageing hero, either ignore the age completely and do one’s regular gig (shoot to kill, song ‘n’ dance if you are an Indian star etc) or completely surrender to the typicality of the age in question to bring in the believability. Clint Eastwood takes the middle path. He brings to the fore the struggles of the age and the overcoming of it in the character of Frank Horrigan, while still displaying the heroics required. This allows him to be a human, and blend those aspects into storytelling.
Mind you, his age always hovers around him, when he is out of breath during the chases, or when he is hesitant about his chances of winning the heart of his fellow officer, but it is the effort that his character puts in and emerging as a winner that makes him a hero eventually. It’s a slow and steady path, much like his career graph over the years. In short he takes the ‘lambi race ka ghoda’ approach and not the effortless gunslinger we are so used to seeing him in the westerns and cop movies. But he still delivers his goods in the end.
This movie also servers a pointer to our Indian superstars who so easily get carried away by Sylvester Stallone kind of Expendables, aka Wild Dogs that allows little variety in storytelling. Instead they should look at Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford and Paul Newman to pick the characters that allow some backstory and sub-plot/s, which creates opportunities for drama, comedy etc, or display the strengths/features the audience associate them with. More like a diversification showcasing their original traits in a sublime manner or as a theme and weaving the so called ‘new’ around it. Otherwise why should a famous star do it, instead of the part going to a newcomer?
Both ‘In the Line of Fire’ and ‘Wild Dog’ are streaming on Netflix.
Tail Piece 1: My father used say a middle aged actor would look very handsome as an old person, like Sanjeev Kumar in Aandhi etc. The reverse if often very difficult.
Tail Piece 2: The best way to show an old actor in flashback is not to show him at all. Like Sean Connery in ‘The Indiana Jones and the last Crusade’ where he chides the young Jones to speak in Latin.