Maggie Gyllenhaal in Her 30s Was ‘Too Old’ to Play a 55-Year-Old Man’s Love Interest

Maggie Gyllenhaal has been as prolific as any actor in Hollywood. Her quirky blend of beauty and sass has made her a popular pick for a variety of movies, ranging from cult classics to blockbusters. She’s even been nominated for an Oscar. But there’s one role she didn’t get, and she wasn’t impressed with the reason. 

We don’t know what the film was 

Maggie Gyllenhaal
Maggie Gyllenhaal arrives at the premiere of “Crazy Heart” in 2009. | GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images

You may know Gyllenhaal as rebel-baker Ana Pascal, opposite Will Ferrell in Stranger Than Fiction; desperate assistant Lee Holloway from Secretary; or love interest Rachel Dawes from Batman: The Dark Knight. What you won’t know her as is a woman who stays silent. Gyllenhaal spoke about the intersection of ageism and sexism in Hollywood in a 2015 interview with The Wrap. While she didn’t disclose what the film was or who was involved, the gist is that she was rejected for a role. At nearly two decades younger than the lead male actor (he was 55, she was 37), she was labelled “too old.”

She was astonished by the decision

Gyllenhaal expressed continual dismay at the way things often go for women in Hollywood. “There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time,” Gyllenhaal told The Wrap six years ago. “I’m 37 and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad, and then it made me feel angry, and then it made me laugh.”

Gyllenhaal is a highly acclaimed actor. Besides being a longtime critical darling, she’s also received an Academy nod for 2010’s Crazy Heart, a Golden Globe win for The Honourable Woman, an Independent Spirit Award nod for Happy Endings, and a plethora of the industry’s most prestigious nominations. Because she’s such a highly praised actor, it seems unthinkable that she’d be passed over for a role in which she absolutely would have been significantly younger than her co-star. 

Age issues continue to be pervasive for Hollywood women

Maggie & Jake Gyllenhaal
Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jake Gyllenhaal attend Netflix Special Screening Of “The Kindergarten Teacher” at Crosby Street Hotel. | Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

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Gyllenhaal wasn’t crying “wolf.” Insider reported that same year that her story was right in line with statistics compiled Vocativ. The chart itself isn’t comforting to anyone hoping for more realistic age gaps between men and women in movies. 

The problem has been around for a long time, and there are reasons beyond the general discrimination it inflicts on women that it’s a disturbing trend.  Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick’s HBO documentary Allen v Farrow, released earlier this year, included segments on Allen’s preoccupation with casting much younger love interests. Allen married the daughter of his longtime partner Mia Farrow, then-21-year-old Soon-Yi Previn, after carrying out one of Hollywood’s most taboo romances in the 90s. At the time, he was 56. The disparity in what Hollywood deems appropriate in an age gap between women and men clearly spills over into some real-life relationships, as well. 

And so, although it seems Gyllenhaal wrongfully missed out on a lead role, Gyllenhaal says she has hope for the future. And by speaking out, she certainly cast light on a chronic problem. 

“A lot of actresses are doing incredible work right now, playing real women, complicated women,” Gyllenhaal told The Wrap. “I don’t feel despairing at all. And I’m more looking with hope for something fascinating.”