Oscar-nominated actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, 37, sounded off on ageism in Hollywood in a recent interview with The Wrap, claiming producers said she was “too old” to play the love interest of a 55-year old male actor in an upcoming film.
The actress, fresh off a Golden Globe win for her role in the Sundance miniseries The Honourable Woman, said that being turned down for the role is just one of the many disappointments that Hollywood actresses of a certain age face.
“There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time,” Gyllenhaal told The Wrap. “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’s comments come as the film industry has drawn increasingly fierce criticism over its employment of women in both behind-the-scenes and acting positions.
Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California announced it would petition the federal government to open an investigation into the “systemic failure” of major film production companies to hire female directors for film and television projects.
In a letter sent to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission this month, the ACLU laid out its grievances about female employment practices in Hollywood. Among them: just 1.9% of directors of the top-grossing films of 2013-2014 were women. Of the 1,300 top-grossing films spanning a 12-year stretch between 2002-2014, the number improves to a dismal 4.1%.
Actresses and women filmmakers have increasingly questioned what they call Hollywood’s implicit sexism.
Last week, actress Melissa McCarthy called sexism in Hollywood an “intense sickness,” while fellow actress Kristen Stewart called the lack of opportunities for women “so offensive it’s crazy.” Reese Witherspoon, Patricia Arquette and Jessica Chastain have all recently spoken out on the issue.
Also this month, Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker) issued a statement of support for the ACLU investigation, writing that “every director should be judged solely by their work, and not by their work based on their gender.”
Despite the ageist snub, Gyllenhaal told The Wrap she remains hopeful both for herself and for women entertainers in general.
“A lot of actresses are doing incredible work right now, playing real women, complicated women,” she said. “I don’t feel despairing at all. And I’m more looking with hope for something fascinating.”