Oldies capture silver screen

By Hannah Furness in Cannes

Judi Dench and Bill Nighy star in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Photo / Supplied
Judi Dench and Bill Nighy star in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Photo / Supplied

From Hollywood to Cannes, the film industry has often been accused of being obsessed with bright young things.

But the era of youthful actors ruling the big screen may be coming to a dignified end, as canny British filmmakers push pensioners to the fore. The UK entries at the Cannes Film Festival this year show a marked trend towards taking the silver pound into account, after research showed older audiences are on the rise.

Films on offer include Golden Years, a comedy about a group of pensioners looking to top up their pensions by robbing stately homes, a documentary about octogenarian artists, and not one but two films based on the true story of the Hatton Garden diamond heist.

Dame Helen Mirren has been cast alongside Donald Sutherland in a US-made movie about a couple on the run from a care home, while Una Stubbs, Sue Johnston, Simon Callow, Brian Cox, Harvey Keitel and Diane Keaton are stepping up for UK-funded projects.

Industry experts have said that the appetite for films starring young protagonists is waning noticeably, with audiences increasingly unwilling to pay to see them. Research published by the British Film Institute has shown the unmistakable trajectory of over-55s as a proportion of the cinema-going audience, rising steadily from 7.5 per cent in 2009 to 11.5 per cent in 2014.

The change was inspired in part by films including The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and biopics such as Iron Lady.

This year's guide to UK films for sale includes The Blitzkrieg Bop, about two retired brothers swindled out of their life savings; Churchill, starring Brian Cox; Damascus Cover, starring John Hurt, about a veteran spy; Hampstead, about a widow who befriends a tramp on the heath; and Hatton Garden Heist, about the diamond robbery masterminded by pensioners.

Ray Strache, from Fox Searchlight, said: "What is the audience for the films that we're looking for? In the States for us it tends to be older-skewing right now.

"They love period stuff, that sort of flourish. It's easy to digest, it's romantic, it's all those things that especially an older audience like. It's like catnip to those folks."

- Daily Telegraph UK

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