Stephanie Smith: Mind the age gap? Why Hollywood men prefer a decade or two

It's astonishing the lengths some Hollywood stars will go to in their quest to hold back the years.

The age gap between Donald Trump and his wife Melania is the same as that between French President-elect Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte (AP Photo/Alex Brandon).

Surgery, of course, skin plumping and ironing, resurfacing and freezing, coupled with punishing exercise routines, vile juices and no carbs after dawn – these are the only-to-be-expected aspects of the post-35 actor’s life, male and female. It can’t be much fun.

However, some Hollywood actors seem to believe that they have found a far easier way to maintain the allure of youth, by making sure that their co-stars – especially those cast as their spouses – are much, much younger than they are.

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And, guess what? It seems to be male actors who are the most keen to have on-screen younger partners. Whaddayaknow?

Orange Is the New Black star Jamie Denbo took to Twitter last week to rail against the practice, and expose its ongoing prevalence, by relating what had happened to her at a recent casting call for a new TV show.

“I was just told that at the age of 43 I am TOO OLD to play the wife of a 57-year-old!’ she Tweeted, clearly het up. She added: “Oh, the characters also have an 18-year-old daughter. I am TOO OLD to be the mother of an 18-year-old.”

Who had decided that she was too old? Well, she suggested it was the show’s male star who “wants to be TV married to a 38-year-old -TOPS”. Even though his real wife is “EASILY AT LEAST 50”, according to Denbo.

We know ageism and sexism in Hollywood are not a new phenomenon. Famously, in The Graduate, Mrs Robinson tells Benjamin she is twice his age, but Anne Bancroft was 35 to Dustin Hoffman’s 29. Maggie Gyllenhaal at 37 was told she was too old to be a 55-year-old’s wife. For Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts was 22, while Richard Gere was 40. Scarlett Johansson, 32, has frequently been paired with much older co-stars, notably Bill Murray, who was 52 to her 18 in Lost in Translation.

Cate Blanchett once noted that “actress years are like dog years”, but maybe, just maybe, there are signs that the age gap is closing. In La La Land, Ryan Gosling is only eight years older than Emma Stone. Practically the same age, then?

Statistics for the US and the UK show that men do, on average, marry younger women, but the age gap is around two years, not 20.

Many will argue that it’s love that matters, not age, and of course that is often true.

But consider this. Donald Trump is 24 years older than Melania and no one thinks much of it. French President-elect Emmanuel Macron’s wife, Brigitte, is 25 years older than he is, and no one will ever forget it.