Top 5 actors over 70

Top 5 actors over 70

Actors don’t retire – they keep on working until the roles dry up.

It’s rare for an actor to officially quit the scene – the great Gene Hackman and Sean Connery are two recent exceptions. And many actors continue to produce fine work in their golden years.

Here’s a salute to five such actors, professionals who not only keep getting gigs but retain the greatness of their youth.

To qualify, the actors must still be actively seeking parts (so Clint Eastwood who is coy about his acting future, doesn’t qualify) and still occasionally giving performances reminiscent of their younger selves.

Note: the list includes only one actress … to me, a reminder that male actors are allowed to age on screen without the stigma actresses often endure.

  1. Michael Caine – (77) Nobody does it better, or make it look so darn effortless. Caine is working furiously again, like he did back in the 1980s. And with wonderful performances in films like “Is Anybody There?,” “Flawless” and, presumably, “Harry Brown,” Caine’s weathered visage cannot hide his extreme talent.
  2. Jack Nicholson – (72) Jack remains Jack, a remarkable feat given his body of work. He hasn’t been on the big screen since the mediocre “Bucket List” from 2007, but his acting chops – and presence – endure. He’s set to re-team with James. L. Brooks later this year, a combination which should yield some vintage moments.
  3. Dustin Hoffman (72) – The erstwhile “Tootsie” is a tough choice here, in part because he hasn’t had many great roles in recent years. But he was terrific in “Last Chance Harvey,” an overlooked gem which showed him, once more, at the peak of his powers.
  4. Dame Judi Dench (75) – Very few actors could steal scenes from 007, but Dench makes it look like child’s play. Her complex turn in “Notes on a Scandal” showed she could still set off cinematic sparks with a well turned phrase or arched brow.
  5. Morgan Freeman (72) – This actor got a late start in Hollywood, and he’s still making up for lost time. His recent Oscar nomination for “Invictus” is the latest sign of an actor getting better with age.

(Photo: Sir Michael Caine remains at the top of his profession.)

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

kbielNo Gravatar April 1, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Your list is not bad, but surely Robert Duvall should displace Hoffman or Nicholson.

cftotoNo Gravatar April 1, 2010 at 3:09 pm

I love Duvall … but I feel like he’s been phoning it in too often lately. He still works a ton, and I think appearing in mediocre films like “Four Christmases” hurts his screen persona.

I met him a few years back in his sprawling home in Northern Va. – a warm memory, indeed.

kbielNo Gravatar April 1, 2010 at 3:26 pm

I’ll give you “Four Christmases” although I think he portrayed the only sympathetic character (or was the only one to be able to portray their character sympathetically) in that movie.

On the other hand, in 2003 Duvall was in three great movies and in 2005 he was in “Thank You for Smoking”. According to IMDB he is slated to co-star in Terry Gilliam’s next production.

ErinNo Gravatar April 1, 2010 at 5:39 pm

I’m not sure Jack Nicholson really belongs on this list. You said yourself he hasn’t appeared on the big screen since 2007 (although it appears he has something in the works), whereas Clint Eastwood’s ‘Gran Torino’ came out more recently, and it appears he ALSO has something in the works right now (according to imdb).

Also, I can think of several women who have continued to work past 70 in both dramatic and comedic roles: Sophia Loren might not be the busiest woman in Hollywood, but she still works regularly here AND abroad. Ellen Burstyn has worked on no less than 25 projects in both film and television since her 70th birthday. Gena Rowlands is still doing her thing and she’s 80! Betty White is enjoying a pretty fantastic “come back” at the moment, and Cloris Leachman has several irons in the fire too.

And how could you not put Shirley MacLaine on this list!? For shame! She may not be turning in Oscar-worthy dramatic performances, but she works hard and often.

And finally, I think we’ve made a TON of progress in recent years in terms of not only seeing women turn in amazing performances even as they age, but in allowing them to BE SEXY. Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep are both in their 60s, looking fabulous, and have starred in romantic comedies in recent years. Glenn Close looks better now than she did 30 years ago, and show me one man who wouldn’t give Helen Mirren a go, or one woman who wouldn’t punch a puppy to look as good as her in a bikini. I think all four of these women will continue to work well into their 70s.

PaulaNo Gravatar April 1, 2010 at 8:06 pm

How about Christopher Lee? He’s close to 90 and still going strong, lucky for us.

cftotoNo Gravatar April 1, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Erin -

Nicholson was outstanding in “About Schmidt,” and the fact that he can still convey the twinkle, the irreverence of his younger days is reason enough to include him here.

MacLaine hasn’t turned in a great, meaty role in some time. Loren, and White and Rowlands are not getting leading roles these days. White appears as quirky comic relief … Loren spiced up “Nine” but from what I understand it wasn’t a major role (I haven’t seen it yet)

I did consider Burstyn, but she didn’t beat out the others on this list.

Paula -
I did think about Christopher Lee, but he’s often in supporting roles or genre films which don’t require major acting chops. Not that he couldn’t deliver, but being a Jedi hunter is not the role of a lifetime.

JimmyCNo Gravatar April 1, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Ugh, Betty White. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to see an actress her age getting steady work, but she only seems to get more annoying with each passing year.

Michael Caine is 77?! Wow. As someone who just watched the trailer for Harry Brown, I wish I had Caine’s liveliness NOW, not to mention when I’m 77.

I would add Peter O’Toole, who at 78 has recently done memorable work in Stardust, Ratatouille, Venus, and Troy.

Tink in CaliNo Gravatar April 3, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Great list! I am quite shocked that Dame Judi is 75. She is fabulous. Gene Hackman was working quite a bit for awhile but I think you reported that he retired. What about Sean Connery or Anthony Hopkins? Any good roles were too long ago? Anything new coming from them?

JimmyCNo Gravatar April 3, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Tink, Hackman and Connery have both been retired for years, but Hopkins is still going strong. Still, his recent work in movies like The Wolfman haven’t exactly been the high point of his career.

JimInNashvilleNo Gravatar April 30, 2010 at 12:33 am

Bruce Dern. Harry Dean Stanton.

georg fiscusNo Gravatar August 10, 2011 at 6:54 am

eli wallach…… ben gazarra……

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