Hollywood is not a young man’s game these days.
Stars like Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Travolta, and Nicolas Cage dominated the Cannes Film Festival this month, showing no signs of career slowdown.
Even after decades in the industry, with its ups and downs, these stars remain household names and top box office draws.
“These stars still appeal for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that Hollywood has largely moved on from the shirtless stud who defies the odds, saves the girl and wins the day,” Doug Eldridge of Achilles PR said.
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“There has been a softening of the hero blueprint and a general vilification of what was traditionally considered American masculinity … [and] Americans still enjoy this hero archetype.”
Eric Schiffer, chairman of Reputation Management Consultants, credits their broad appeal across generations.
“They can pull audiences as archetypes of today’s Alpha from Silent to Boomers, Gen X to Gen Z because they’re authentic off cam with a thirst for adventure who don’t care if they’re liked while mixing toughness with a soft side,” Schiffer said.
“These actors have a star power that transcends time,” agrees Kathy Fielder of Thrive by Kathy Fielder. “They draw you in and make you feel happy and engaged. True star power transcends the screen and walks into your living room, and they have that.”
Here are some older generation stars still landing major roles, making successful films and headlining at the box office.
Sylvester Stallone has been a household name since he ran up the steps in Philadelphia in “Rocky,” the breakout film that he not only starred in but wrote, earning him Oscar nominations in both categories and ultimately winning best picture in 1977.
Since then, he’s starred in action franchises like “Rambo” and “The Expendables” and showcased his dramatic skills in films like “Cop Land.”
The 76-year-old actor looks to continue drawing in audiences with the potential sale of his “Cliffhanger” sequel at Cannes.
The original “Cliffhanger” premiered in 1993 and helped boost Stallone back to being a box office king after some less successful films in the late 1980s.
Beyond “Cliffhanger,” Stallone has earned praise for his recent role in the Paramount+ series “Tulsa King” and has also made appearances in two different superhero movies, “The Suicide Squad” and this year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.”
According to IMDb, Stallone has five projects in the works, including a fourth “Expendables” film, the “Cliffhanger” sequel and an action thriller, “Never Too Old to Die.”
Stallone is also sharing his softer side on television, with his new reality series, “The Family Stallone,” on Paramount+ starring Stallone, his wife Jennifer Flavin and daughters Sophia, Sistine and Scarlet.
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In a recent interview with Fox News Digital, Stallone said, “I [wanted] to do a movie about our family ourselves. I go, ‘OK, rather than write a pseudo one, why not jump into the world of reality?’
“God knows I know enough about it because being around these young ladies, I’ve seen every show there is,” he continued, gesturing to his daughters. “And I thought, this is an interesting time because it’s not like the career is on the wane and I need a job. This is a peak time for me because they’re not married, thank God.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger broke onto the scene as “Conan the Barbarian” in the 1982 film, before winning over audiences as the terrifying cyborg in “The Terminator.”
Schwarzenegger continued a steady career as an action star with films like “Predator,” “The Running Man” and “Total Recall.”
The Austrian-born actor has also dabbled in comedy, with films like “Kindergarten Cop” and “Twins.”
He served as governor of California from 2003-2011, taking a break from acting before returning in “The Expendables 2” alongside Stallone.
The 75-year-old’s last major box office movie was “Terminator: Dark Fate,” which earned a total of $261 million worldwide, according to IMDb’s Box Office Mojo, an indicator that Schwarzenegger still has plenty of audience appeal.
The new action film being shopped at Cannes, “Breakout,” comes from the director of “Expendables 4” (also starring Stallone).
Schwarzenegger is also starring in an upcoming Netflix series, “FUBAR,” which he’s also executive producing, as well as a three-part documentary, titled “Arnold” for the streaming service.
The action star addressed his longevity in a recent interview with Fox News Digital, jokingly saying, “Older people don’t retire, they just reload.”
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Harrison Ford became an icon with not one but two influential franchises, “Star Wars” and the “Indiana Jones” film series, dominating the 1980s film landscape.
His streak continued into the 90s with hits like “The Fugitive” and “Air Force One,” and Ford never really stepped back from Hollywood.
Over the past decade, Ford has appeared in the most recent “Star Wars” trilogy, the sequel to his cult classic “Blade Runner,” “Blade Runner 2049,” and the third “Expendables” sequel.
The 80-year-old is busier than ever now, with television series “1923” on Paramount+ and “Shrinking” on AppleTV+.
He also premiered his fifth and final appearance as Indiana Jones in “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” at Cannes, where he also received an honorary Palme d’Or.
“I’m very moved by this,” Ford said, according to Variety. “They say when you’re about to die, you see your life flash before your eyes, and I just saw my life flash before my eyes. A great part of my life, but not all of my life. My life has been enabled by my lovely wife, who has supported my passion and my dreams, and I’m grateful.”
But Ford still isn’t done. He’ll next appear in “Captain America: New World Order” and “Thunderbolts” for Marvel, playing Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross.
In a recent interview with “Today,” Ford summed up his busy schedule.
“The idea of not working doesn’t make much sense to me,” he said. “It’s really where I feel most alive.”
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John Travolta danced his way into icon status with “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease” in the late 1970s.
He had a major career resurgence in 1994 with a role in “Pulp Fiction” and had a similar boost in the big screen adaptation of “Hairspray” in 2007.
Travolta has several upcoming projects listed on his IMDb page, including “That’s Amore,” a rom-com that’s being shopped for sale at Cannes.
The 69-year-old also has another film announced for Cannes, “Assassination,” starring Al Pacino, Viggo Mortensen, Shia LaBeouf and Courtney Love. According to Deadline, the film is about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy from the mob’s point of view, retelling the events as a mob hit ordered by the Chicago mafia as payback for his attempts to undermine the mob after they allegedly helped him get elected.
He also has “American Metal,” an action thriller due this year.
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Nicolas Cage has had his share of career ups and downs, beginning with a breakout role in “Moonstruck” in the late 1980s, leading to his critically acclaimed and Oscar-winning performance in “Leaving Las Vegas.”
Cage also made himself an action star with roles in “Con Air,” “The Rock” and “Face/Off” (alongside Travolta) in the 1990s before scoring a franchise hit with the “National Treasure” movies.
The 59-year-old’s career slowed slightly in terms of hits, but he continued working steadily in lower budget or indie projects throughout the 2010s.
Last year saw a major boost for Cage with “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” playing a variation of himself and poking fun at his eccentric persona.
At Cannes, Cage is seeing a sequel to his 2005 film “Lord of War,” being shopped around. The sequel, titled “Lords of War,” will also star Bill Skarsgard as the son of Cage’s character.
When it comes to sequels for films like Cage’s, Stallone’s and Ford’s, they keep these stars in the Hollywood mix with a blend of audience appeal and studio safe bets.
“Studios are unquestionably the most risk averse variable in the entertainment marketing equation. In today’s increasingly sensitive landscape, studios must worry about offending viewers, isolating sponsors and running afoul of key markets, such as China,” Eldridge told Fox News Digital.
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“Studios hate risk as much as they hate losing money,” echoed Schiff. “They see most projects as riddled with defects and having a snowball-to-hell chance of survival.”
Johnny Depp was a heartthrob in the 80s and 90s with series like “21 Jump Street” and movies like “Edward Scissorhands.”
But it wasn’t until 2003 when he landed the role of Captain Jack Sparrow in “The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” that Depp became not just a household name but a moneymaking one as well.
Collectively, the five “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies have earned $4.5 billion dollars at the box office, and Depp appeared in the original and all four sequels.
Depp also starred in other franchise movies like “Alice in Wonderland” and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”
The 59-year-old actor’s career cooled slightly as he dealt with a messy legal battle with ex-wife Amber Heard, which concluded in December 2022.
His newest film, “Jeanne du Barry,” marks his return to headlining films, with the movie premiering at Cannes this month, where it received a more than five-minute standing ovation, according to Variety.
The outlet also reported that, at a press conference for the film, Depp said, “I don’t feel boycotted by Hollywood because I don’t think about Hollywood.”
Whether or not “Jeanne du Barry” is any kind of success remains to be seen, but Eldridge thinks Depp has a chance to appeal to audiences again.
“Johnny Depp was vilified but later vindicated — in the largest way possible — and is beloved once again —perhaps now, more than ever,” Eldridge said.
Fielder noted, “Fans love Johnny Depp because of the roles he plays. It intertwines him with those characters where fans don’t separate the actor from the character. As fans, they are able to excuse a lot of it because they want to like him.
“That’s what all of these men have in common, you as a fan want to like them.”
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Matthew McConaughey has had different evolutions in his career, with a slow beginning in the 1990s until his breakout role in “A Time to Kill” in 1996.
Not long after that, the Texas-born star dominated in romantic comedies with “The Wedding Planner” and “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.”
McConaughey’s career took off to another level when he won the Oscar for best actor in 2014 for “Dallas Buyers Club.” He also starred in the critically acclaimed HBO series “True Detective,” earning him an Emmy nomination for best actor.
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He continued his streak with hits like “Interstellar” and a voice role in the animated movie “Sing.”
The 53-year-old is poised for more critical and potentially financial success with two upcoming projects.
The first is his upcoming “Yellowstone” spinoff on Paramount+, which was announced just before the news the original series starring Kevin Costner will conclude this year.
The second is his film being shopped for distribution at Cannes, “The Rivals of Amziah King,” a crime drama set in Oklahoma.
While these stars are still dominating Hollywood, what about the younger generation that includes Chris Hemsworth, Michael B. Jordan or Jason Momoa?
“In today’s world of instant gratification and five minutes of fame, it’s harder to find these mega talented and relevant stars,” Fielder said. “So much content is constantly being put out across streaming services, it’s hard for younger actors to have the draw that these older ones did and do.
“People would anticipate older stars’ movies and had fewer choices when it came to what was being put into the world. Fans would anticipate these box office movies and then see them numerous times … making them instant classics that we just don’t see today.”
There’s also the nostalgia factor.
“The relationship with a star over time matters because it transcends our personal journey — the memories and emotions we had through the decades — and helps us remember who we were and who we’ve become,” said Schiffer.
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