But that tide may be turning. A Tinseltown survey reveals the most popular and widely recognised female stars are Meryl Streep, 63; Sandra Bullock, 48; Halle Berry, 46; Julia Roberts, 45; and Cameron Diaz, 40. And they’re earning the big bucks too. Nine of the top-10 biggest earning actresses last year were 37 or older.
Gwyneth Paltrow, 40, is the female lead in Iron Man 3 — the highest- earning film of 2013 so far.
Up until now, it seemed that men may be from Mars but in Hollywood women were from a planet where they aged far more rapidly than their male counterparts.
Angelina Jolie is only one year older than her onscreen son, Colin Farrell in Alexander.
Dustin Hoffman was a whole five years younger than Anne Bancroft who was his mature seductress in The Graduate.
Lea Thompson, who played middle-aged mum to Michael J Fox’s Marty McFly in Back to the Future in 1985 is now aged 52 — as is Fox himself. And don’t forget Sally Field’s infamous casting, at 47, as Tom Hanks’ mother in Forrest Gump when he was 37.
Meryl Streep once complained that, in Hollywood, “once women pass childbearing age they are seen as grotesque”.
The 63-year-old Oscar winner described how, as she approached her middle years, she received a string of offers to play witches. One reason for this new ‘older actress’ phenomenon could be that franchise fever in Hollywood means movie executives are failing to build up another generation.
And fortysomethings also just look better these days, explained The Hollywood Reporter.
Cameron Diaz of the Shrek franchise was 28 when she first was the voice of Princess Fiona. Now, aged 40, she is regarded as the highest-paid actress among the over-40 set.
However, it’s not that Hollywood has suddenly become socially enlightened. It’s more likely that executives are keenly aware of their audience — 2012 stats in the US reveal that more than one-third of all movie tickets purchased were bought by over-40s.
One studio chief said: “The audience is ageing. It’s no surprise that the stars are as well.”
This over-40s backlash is apparent on TV and closer to home as well.
Gillian Anderson, 44, plays strong, intelligent and sexy police officer, Stella Gibson, in the hit series The Fall — which has been commissioned for a second series.
And what’s Streep up to these days? Her next film role will be an adaptation of Broadway musicalInto the Woods — she’s playing the witch.