Why Are Tom Cruise's Female Co-Stars Always in Their 30s?

Tom Cruise Oblivion Premiere - P 2013
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Tom Cruise Oblivion Premiere - P 2013

The 50-year-old "Oblivion" star appears next opposite Emily Blunt, 20 years his junior.

This story first appeared in the June 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

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.

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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. Other recent Cruise co-stars include 33-year-old Olga Kurylenko (Oblivion), 34-year-old Rosamund Pike (Jack Reacher) and 35-year-old Malin Akerman (Rock of Ages).

A source close to Cruise says he exerts his clause for co-star approval and is very hands-on in casting decisions. And though Johnny Depp turns 50 on June 9, the ages of his female co-stars typically hover in the 20s and 30s, including Transcendence's Rebecca Hall (31), Dark Shadows' Bella Heathcote (26) and The Tourist's Angelina Jolie (38).

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"There is a clear 'sell-by date' for female characters in film -- around 40 years of age," says Stacy Smith, an associate professor at USC's Annenberg School for Communication who tracks female representation in Hollywood films. "Male characters do not seem to face the same expiration date."

Email: Tatiana.Siegel@THR.com, Twitter: @TatianaSiegel27