Action movies used to be predominantly aimed at young men, but ever since Liam Neeson proved his middle-aged mettle in Taken, it’s suddenly become a hot move for over-the-hill movie stars to reinvent themselves with a gun and a glower. This weekend, 59-year-old Kevin Costner will try his hand at the formula with 3 Days to Kill, and if that doesn’t float your boat, just wait one more week for 61-year-old Neeson to do the job himself in Non-Stop. What other AARP-friendly actors could follow their leads? Here are eight movie stars of a certain age who could be calling their agents soon to get Neeson-ized.
Russell has worked infrequently in recent years — aside from the cheapo football drama Touchback, he hasn’t been seen on the movie screen since 2007’s Death Proof — but he seems willing to get back in the action game, having boarded both the next Fast and Furious movie and the cannibal drama Bone Tomahawk. Now all he needs is a movie where he warns Euro pervs to release his kidnapped daughter (Kate Hudson, obviously) to complete his career comeback.
If Russell is up for it, why not his Tombstone co-star Kilmer, too? Yes, the erstwhile Batman is famously difficult to work with, but he seems to have eased up in recent years, to judge from his endearingly goofy Twitter account. Get him into shape, hand him a good supporting role as Neeson’s foe in Taken 3, then reunite him with Russell for an old-dudes-kick-ass action flick that drafts off The Expendables’ team-up formula.
Tommy Lee Jones
Ask any journalist who’s interviewed him: Tommy Lee Jones may be the most intimidating man in Hollywood. Still, he’s rarely called upon to pick up a gun … well, unless you’re counting that little phaser from the Men in Black movies. It shouldn’t be too hard to find a gritty action vehicle to put Tommy Lee’s glare to good use: All he has to do is call action auteur Luc Besson, who cast Jones in last year’s Robert De Niro vehicle The Family (and really, really owes him a better movie than that).
Banderas is ripe for a renaissance, and he deserves better than supporting parts in Haywire, Machete Kills, and the upcoming The Expendables 3. The El Mariachi star served as an early muse to both Pedro Almodóvar and Robert Rodriguez, and after he reunited with Almodóvar for a terrifically menacing turn in 2011’s The Skin I Live In, isn’t it about time for Rodriguez to give him another lead role?
You’re thinking that Sean Penn would never stoop to selling out like this, but au contraire: After picking up a studio paycheck as the baddie in Gangster Squad, Penn’s next movie is the action thriller The Gunman, helmed by Taken director Pierre Morel. Listen, when you’re 53 and absolutely yoked for no reason, sometimes you want to put it to good (and lucrative) use. Fair enough!
From Schindler’s List to the Harry Potter movies, Ralph Fiennes has made a career out of being awfully terrifying onscreen, so wouldn’t you rather have him on your side? I’m picturing Fiennes as an English sniper with elegantly tattooed forearms who could serve as the thinking man’s Jason Statham. Maybe the next Bond movie can give Fiennes a good action set piece to serve as a dry run.
Samuel L. Jackson
As Nick Fury in all the Marvel movies, Samuel L. Jackson gets to boss around a lot of other action heroes, but rarely gets to jump into the fray himself. Let’s change that up! Marvel could make a mint by yanking Fury out of S.H.I.E.L.D. to go rogue in a series of low-cost, Neeson-esque action pics: He’s already got the leather jacket, the gun, and the bad attitude, which are practically mandatory in this genre.
The thing about Michael Douglas is that he very nearly invented Neeson-ing: Well-respected and Academy venerated, he was never afraid to slum it in studio potboilers like The Sentinel and Don’t Say a Word. So before Douglas gets too old to run around New York with a pistol in hand, searching for his estranged ex-wife’s kidnapper, let’s get him another action movie that he’d be only too happy to take on. The second lead in Marvel’s upcoming Ant-Man, where Douglas will potentially engage in some well-choreographed action scenes under the guidance of director Edgar Wright, is a good start.