EFM's Rising Value of the "Gray Dollar": Aging Stars Driving Hot Projects

Harrison Ford Star Wars Premiere H 2015
Getty Images

Harrison Ford Star Wars Premiere H 2015

Pics starring Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Isabelle Huppert, Willem Dafoe, Nathan Lane and J.K. Simmons are just some of the big-name EFM projects that feature the industry’s "older" talents.

A year on from her Berlinale Silver Bear (and subsequent Oscar nomination) for 45 Years, Charlotte Rampling is experiencing a great deal of good fortune. This week, the actress nabbed the lead in the Jane Austen adaptation Sanditon and a key role alongside Josh Hartnett in the sci-fi fantasy Valley of the Gods.

The dramatic rise of the art-house icon — who celebrated her 70th birthday this month — underlines a growing trend in a market where flashes of gray are becoming increasingly sought after.

Official Secrets, toplined by Harrison Ford, 73, and Anthony Hopkins, 78; Oppenheimer Strategies, starring Richard Gere, 66; The Sleeping Shepherd, with Isabelle Huppert, 62, and Willem Dafoe, 60; and Carrie Pilby, with Nathan Lane, 60, and Gabriel Byrne, 65, are just some of the big-name projects on display at the ongoing European Film Market that feature the industry’s "older" talents. Then there’s J.K. Simmons, 61, whose profile has soared since his Oscar win last year; he has EFM titles The Bachelors, The Runaround and Worlds Apart in the mix.

Tannaz Anisi, president of 13 Films, which is repping the romance Worlds Apart, says the pedigree such names bring supports all level of budgets. "Up-and-comers are more risky, but if a film is packaged with a great balance of proven actors and up-and-comers, you might just have a winning combination," she says.

Buyers are also after projects that appeal to more senior moviegoers, a burgeoning demographic. "Older people are the fastest-growing age group in the West, and they love to go to the cinema — but for intelligent, character-driven stories, not just for visual effects and things blowing up," adds Mimi Steinbauer, CEO of Radiant Films (Carrie Pilby), pointing to the two Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films ($220 million combined), Bridge of Spies ($163 million) and Quartet ($59 million) as recent successes.

The "gray dollar" is also strong in Japan, where 33 percent of the population is older than 60, roughly double the share of the U.S. "Many production companies are shifting toward more dramas, targeting older people," says Miyuki Takamatsu, managing director of sales banner Freestone Productions. Meanwhile, leading studios Toho is developing its first "elder thriller."

Perhaps EFM title Beyond the Sun has trumped them all, landing the services of arguably the most famous older face on the planet: Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 79, aka the Pope.

Patrick Brzeski contributed to this report.