Hollywood's attempt to cast 27-year-old Ben Platt as a 17-year-old teenager in this year's Dear Evan Hansen stretched the bounds of credibility so much that the producers were forced to de-age the actor in post-production to save face and were heavily ridiculed for doing so.
Yet throughout the history of the film industry, casting directors have consistently cast actors who are clearly far too old to be playing high-schoolers to do just that.
Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire from the Spider-Man movies being two prominent examples, and the less said about the cast of Grease the better
Okay but is anyone else unsettled by the DEH trailer??? Not tryna be mean, Ben Platt is gorgeous, but...why does his face look like that?? Did they do some weird cgi or makeup tricks or somethin? Bc he is lowkey not looking human... pic.twitter.com/I0dVVFt4yh
- ree (@mbv429) May 20, 2021
So, why does this keep happening? Well, there's a few reasons - the most prominent of which being labour laws.
Since teenagers are not legally adults, they have limits on how long they're allowed to work in a single day.
In California for example, minors are not allowed to work more than five days in a row, and also have to balance their education with the demands of the film production, which can lead to a clash of schedules.
Likewise, if the part involved requires a lot of stunts or physical work it's often much cheaper to insure an adult actor (not to mention find a stuntman of a similar height and build) than pay a premium on insuring a minor, which means that casting someone slightly older can also potentially keep production costs much lower.
So from a financial point of view, instead of having the authenticity that an actual teenager can bring to a role, most productions would rather take the easy route and cast a slightly older actor so these additional restrictions do not apply.
Aside from that though, there's also the fact that adolescence itself, characterized by rapid and unpredictable changes to the body, is itself an obstacle to directors and set designers who need to maintain a strict on-set continuity between takes.
"The lived reality of puberty does not play well on screen," said Rebecca Feasey, who teaches gender, media, and film studies at Bath Spa University in the U.K.
"This is not about aesthetics, but rather about continuity-continuity which would be challenged by developing bodies and deepening voices."
For proof of this look no further than the Harry Potter franchise, which had all its leads grow up on camera with mixed results.
Speaking in an interview with Teen Vogue, Rupert Grint singled out The Goblet Of Fire as the worst offender.
"We all went through our puberty on camera. You kind of see it all. It is very cringey."
This view was shared by co-star Daniel Radcliffe, who said that he's still 'intensely embarrassed' by some of his early acting in the series.
But the plight of the Harry Potter stars also outlines another key point - if the film is set in a school then all actors involved need to be roughly the same age.
This is both to maintain continuity and make it more believable, as well as avoiding any awkwardness and inappropriateness between cast members as well as ensuring that all potential romances are legal.
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