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Live From Hollywood: An Age Glossary


  • Hollywood has its own idiosyncratic, insular vocabulary — especially when it comes to describing actors and actresses of various ages. When does a starlet become a star? Can you be “hot” in your 50s? 60s? 70s? What exactly is an ingenue? Here at #DisruptAging, we’d like to explore this oft-contradictory terminology — and provide you with a handy Age Glossary to enhance your movie viewing pleasure. Now, on with the show… —Mike Marsland/Getty Images

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  • Legend

    A legend is just that — legendary. Larger than life. Formidable. He or she requires a big swelling orchestra and scene-chewing drama. A legend could be alive and well or grandly deceased. Hence, “living legend” (hello again, Meryl!). Legend status requires an epic, all-in commitment to craft and glamour, as well as mind-blowing longevity. As such, a legend must be over 50. A legend does not touch a lip-plumping kit or frequent the Glendale Barry’s Bootcamp. A legend absolutely owns his or her age — and the awards stage. Sidney Poitier — Getty Images

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  • Starlet

    Largely a product of marketing, the starlet is an emerging actress, roughly age 18-22, who comes on the scene in a maelstrom of buzz as “the next big thing.” Sometimes the starlet develops into a star (Emma Stone, Natalie Portman, Lupita Nyong’o), other times she shoots straight to rehab. There is no male equivalent for “starlet” — perhaps because “starguy” sounds like a second-rate Marvel character. Ann Margaret — Getty Images

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  • Star

    A “star” is less about age than about impact. Julia Roberts became a star the second she gorgeously galumphed down Hollywood Boulevard in Pretty Woman at age 22. Brad Pitt hitchhiked his way to stardom in Thelma and Louise at 27. Leo was anointed to the Hollywood firmament at 23 when the ship went down. George Clooney became a full-blown star later in life — he got his first Oscar nomination in his 40s. So stardom can be blissfully ageless. A child star, however, is an entirely different category, of which the less said the better. Brad Pitt — Alamy 

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  • Hunk

    While charmingly outdated, “hunk” has a rich history in Hollywood-speak. Every extraordinarily attractive man with chiseled abs, from Rock Hudson to the Rock, has earned this moniker. A hunk’s hours logged on the bench press don’t necessarily fine-tune his acting chops, but every once in a while a hunk will surprise you with a nuanced, Oscar-worthy performance (e.g., Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher). Hunkiness has a nicely inclusive age range, from Liam Hemsworth (27) to Harrison Ford (74). Rock Hudson — Getty Images

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  • Ingenue

    Demure. Wide-eyed. Sweet. Aspiring. Innocent. The ingenue takes its name from stock characters in opera. But can a man be an ingenue? The answer is, sort of. New York magazine recently described an early-aughts Jude Law as an ingenue with “leading man good looks.” It is generally assumed that once you hit 21, your ingenue days are over. Elle Fanning — Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

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  • Leading Man

    According to a survey in the Washington Post, the average age of a best actor winner is 44. And that is indeed the bull’s-eye for a “leading man.” Mid-forties for the win! Old enough to have well-earned swagger and sex appeal, young enough to not appear creepy when paired with Emma Watson in a love scene.  George Clooney — James Devaney/Getty Images

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  • Femme Fatale

    A femme fatale is an actress known for playing dark, vengeful roles. She hovers in her 20s to late 30s, biding her time in the shadows. Post-40, she tends to transition into a Cruella de Villain, an unhinged psycho or an Evil Stepmother. Kim Basinger — Getty Images

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  • Hot

    “Hot” is really in the eye of the beholder. Helen Mirren is hot. Justin Bieber is hot. Fab! The important thing about “hot” is that it needs no qualifier. Nobody is “hot for their age.” You’re hot or you’re not, regardless of your date of birth. There’s something quite liberating about this. Mahershala Ali — Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

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  • Handsome

    An actor becomes handsome with time. How much time? Roughly the time it takes to become Daniel Craig. Or Michael Fassbender. Is Ryan Gosling hot or handsome? The answer is both. He is both! A Canadian anomaly, a statistical outlier — but what a hottie. Ryan Gosling — Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

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  • Icon

    Let’s wrap up with a bang — the icon. Icons possess a deeply dramatic persona, a solid LGBTQ following and an inimitable, status quo­–shattering style. An icon redefines the pop cultural landscape and does so without fear. Cher is an icon. Angelina is an icon. Robert De Niro is an icon. Marilyn Monroe, the original icon. An icon doesn’t age — he or she just keeps getting more iconic.  Marilyn Monroe — Bettmann/Getty Images

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