Streep, now 63, enjoyed the biggest hit of her career when Mamma Mia!, the highest-grossing movie musical of all time, took in $609.8 million worldwide. The Devil Wears Prada actress is said to get about $6 million a movie (though she just agreed to a $1.5 million upfront to play the central role of the witch in Rob Marshall's adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Broadway musical Into the Woods).
In 2011, DreamWorks' The Help further underscored the appeal of female-driven ensemble movies, as the modestly budgeted $25 million drama pulled in $211.6 million worldwide. Although it featured relative newcomers such as EmmaStone and Jessica Chastain,it also leaned heavily on the appeal of such veteran performers as Allison Janney,53, Viola Davis (pictured left), 47, and, most especially, Octavia Spencer (right), 43, who would go on to win the best supporting actress Oscar.
Robin Wright, 47, has earned some of the best reviews of the year for the Netflix series House of Cards, playing a modern-day Lady Macbeth to Kevin Spacey's scheming congressman. That move, which at one time might have looked risky, has done nothing to hurt her big-screen opportunities. She stars in a pair of upcoming films: the Anton Corbijn-helmed thriller A Most Wanted Man, opposite Rachel McAdams and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and the sexy drama Adore with Naomi Watts.And she's even grappled with the plight of aging actresses in Ari Folman's animated The Congress, which just debuted at the Cannes Film Festival.
Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock
Melissa McCarthy (pictured left), 42, and Sandra Bullock (right), 48, join forces in this summer's The Heat, where the two women play government agents in pursuit of a drug lord. Industry sources peg Bullock as being in the top tier of actresses over 40 when it comes to salaries -- she earned $10 million for Heat. McCarthy, who earned $2.5 million for the movie, has quickly moved into the $3 million-to-$4 million range -- and could jump sharply again soon.
Photo by: TriStar Pictures
The industry still reacts with surprise whenever a female star demonstrates box-office clout. But on March 15, The Call, an otherwise routine thriller, opened as that weekend's top new wide-release, thanks to the presence of 46-year-old Halle Berry. The TriStar film bowed to $17.1 million, trouncing the heavily promoted Steve Carell-Jim Carrey comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (in which Carell, 50, was paired romantically with Olivia Wilde,29). Female moviegoers made up 56 percent of Call's audience, and 48 percent of the overall audience cited Berry as the reason for turning out.
Photo by: Film Frame
Gwyneth Paltrow, 40, became a key marketing hook for this year's top-performing film to date, Iron Man 3. (It's worth noting that when Marvel and director Jon Favreau were assembling the first Iron Man, they sought Rachel McAdams, then 29, for the role of Pepper Potts, which Paltrow eventually made her own.) "Ever since I've turned 40, I feel younger than ever and more energetic," announced Paltrow at the Iron Man 3 premiere in Hollywood. "I'm ready. I'm ready for action now."
Naomi Watts, 44, was among the most recent crop of best actress Oscar nominees for The Impossible, a sizable indie hit that grossed $172.5 million worldwide.
Photo by: Alex Berliner/BEImages
Julia Roberts (pictured with agent Kevin Huvane,a partner at CAA), 45, along with Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep, are the three film actresses with the highest Q scores -- which measure both how well-known and how well-liked a celebrity is -- with Bullock scoring 89 percent in recognition and getting a 41 Q score. By contrast, though their scores are higher among younger respondents, among all adults over 18, newly minted Oscar winners Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Lawrence garnered Q scores of 20 and 15, respectively, while Twilight'sKristenStewart checked in at just 10.
Photo by: United Artists/courtesy Everett Collection
Woody Allen and Mariel Hemingway
Woody Allen’s 1979 comedy Manhattan might represent a bygone era when a movie could feature a 43-year-old lead (Allen) dating a 17-year-old high school student (Mariel Hemingway) without raising eyebrows. But even in 2013, May-December relationships abound. Tom Cruise is among the male actors frequently paired with significantly younger actresses. For his upcoming film All You Need Is Kill, the 50-year-old stars opposite 30-year-old Emily Blunt. And though Johnny Depp turns 50 on June 9, the ages of his female co-stars typically hover in the 20s and 30s, including Dark Shadows’ Bella Heathcote,26.