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The Oldest Teenagers In Teen Movie History

List RulesVote up the actors who pulled off a teenage character even though they were well past graduation.

There is a long history of older actors being cast to play teenagers in films. For example, Julie Harris was 26 years old when she portrayed a 12-year-old in 1952's Member of the Wedding; James Dean and Sal Mineo were both in their mid-20s when they played high schoolers in 1955's Rebel Without a Cause; Sidney Poitier was 28 when he played a teen in 1955's Blackboard Jungle; and most of the actors portraying students at good ol' Rydell High in Grease were actually in their 20s or 30s. Tobey Maguire (25) and Andrew Garfield (27) were both well past high-school age when they were cast to play the teenaged Peter Parker/Spider-Man character. 

There are a couple of reasons why an actor well past high-school age might be cast as a teenager. One big reason is the California Child Labor Law, which limits the number of hours per day or week that a minor can work. The minor actor's unavailability can have a big impact on a production's budget and schedule. Casting an adult avoids these potential problems.

The other main reason is that the adult actor is simply the better choice, whether because they're a better fit for the character, a star with name recognition, or a better actor than a teenaged candidate might be.

Here are some "old" actors who have played teens in teen movies. Who pulled it off, and who should have acted their age?

  • Character Age: 16

    Actor Age: 27 or 28 (Sources differ as to whether Dash was born in 1966 or 1967.)

    How'd She Do? With her trendy miniskirts, nose ring, youthful face, and teenaged language, Dash looked the part of the spoiled, smart, but shallow rich high schooler. Someone was clearly convinced; she reprised her role as Dionne in the television series version of Clueless.

    Any Other Teen Roles? Yes. Dash was 20 or 21 when she played high school senior Casey Pear in Moving.

    Pulled it off?
  • Character Age:  18

    Actor Age: 29

    How'd He Do? Thomas's character in Save the Last Dance is level-headed, goal-oriented, and more mature than his delinquent best friend, so it makes sense that he seems older than most of the other high schoolers in this film. He certainly looks young enough to be a high school senior.

    Any Other Teen Roles? Yes. At age 26, Thomas played a high school jock in Can't Hardly Wait.

    Pulled it off?
  • Character Age: 16 or 17

    Actor Age: 25

    How'd She Do? McAdams won the MTV Movie Award for "Breakthrough Female Performance" and was nominated in five categories, including "Female Breakout Star" and "Movie Actress: Comedy" at the Teen Choice Awards for her portrayal of the beautiful, spoiled, nasty, popular high schooler.

    Any Other Teen Roles? Yes. McAdams was 23 when she played the teenaged title role in The Hot Chick. She was 24 during the filming of The Notebook; her character is 17 at the beginning of that film.

    Pulled it off?
  • Character Age: 18

    Actor Age: 24

    How'd He Do? Walker got good notices for his role of the best friend who bets Freddie Prinze Jr.'s character that he can't transform Rachael Leigh Cook's character into a prom queen. Although good-looking and popular, the character is revealed to be a real jerk - the closest thing to a villain that this teen romantic comedy has. His youthful, blond good looks do make it plausible that he could be a high school student.

    Any Other Teen Roles? Yes. Walker was 23 during filming of Meet the Deedles, in which he plays an 18-year-old surf bum. At 24, he portrayed the high school boyfriend of Reese Witherspoon's character after she gets sucked into the 1950s sitcom world of Pleasantville, and the injured high school quarterback in Varsity Blues.

    Pulled it off?