In Hollywood, Actors Still Lie About Their Age

One unnamed actress has sued movie database over listing her real age.

October 20, 2011, 11:20 AM

Oct. 20, 2011— -- Keira Knightley might be doing it. Everyone thought Ashton Kutcher did it -- but it turns out he didn't. And it's pretty obvious the singer Nelly really did do it. The thing all three celebrities have been accused of doing is failing to be forthcoming about their real age.

Knightley, of "Pirates of the Caribbean" fame, is listed as being born in 1985 or 1983 depending on which source you use. The singer Nelly was age-outed when Teen People nominated him as one of the Hottest Stars under 25 -- unfortunately he was 28 at the time. Kutcher was born in 1978, although he was accused of shaving four years off his age until a reporter eventually tracked down his birth certificate confirming that he was born in the late -- not early -- 70's.

The issue of celebrity age deception recently made news after an anonymous actress filed suit against the movie database IMDb for posting her real age on her online profile -- a profile that could be regularly accessed by casting directors and the public alike.

According to court documents, the unnamed Texas actress was pushing 40 but looked and represented herself as much younger and posting her real age "would make it nearly impossible for the up-and-coming actress to get work." The suit claims the actress signed up for IMDbpro to get her profile on the site, then IMBb cross-referenced public records using her credit card information to determine her age and posted that info online.

Bradley Jacobs, senior editor for film at US Magazine said while the public perception might be that this kind of lawsuit is about vanity, it's more about money. "For someone who is a struggling actress being known as 39 when she was to be perceived as 34 is crucial to her bottom line," said Jacobs. "The closer you get to 40 the further you are away from being an ingénue. And there just aren't that many roles for women in their 40's. Goldie Hawn once delivered the line there are three roles in Hollywood for women -- ingénue, district attorney and Driving Miss Daisy."

The age issue is crucial not just to actors but writers as well. So much so that the Writers Guild of America, West has "raised concerns with IMDb about its listing of ages" because those ages can so often be used to unfairly categorize all manner of Hollywood workers, said Neal Sacharow, Director of Communications for the industry group. Unfortunately, Sacharow wrote in an email interview, "IMDb refused to do anything to change its policy."

IMDb, owned by Inc., did not respond to ABC's request for comment about its age-listing policy but the website calls itself "the world's most popular and authoritative source for movie, TV and celebrity content" and so accuracy may be its motivating factor.

But a noble quest for accuracy is likely cold comfort to Sandra Bullock, Salma Hayek and Cameron Diaz, actresses who have all been accused of citing less than accurate birthdates at various points in their careers. For the record, according to IMDb Bullock was born in 1964, Hayek in 1966 and Diaz in 1972.

Joan Rivers was once asked if there was anything that made her angry when she read stories about herself and she replied "When they get my age right." And singer Cyndi Lauper has consistently refused to reveal her real age (June 22, 1953 according to IMDb) and telling reporters who asked "What am I, a car?"

Years ago when actors signed contracts to work for a particular studio and the studio system was much more controlled, an actor's age was pretty much whatever the studio boss said it was. Humphrey Bogart's birth date was listed as Dec 25, 1900 even though he was born in 1899. And Katharine Hepburn reportedly avoided questions about her age and was known to deduct two years off her real birth date of May 12, 1907.

But these days, any celebrity or celebrity wannabe interested in age altering has an increasingly tough go of it. Websites like Wikipedia and IMDb post biographical data for the world to see. Public databases do too.

And if everyone from your graduating class in high school is posting pictures from your 10th year reunion on Facebook, it's pretty hard to tell people you're still 18.

"These days you sort of have to seal everything at a young age and change your name if you really wanted to prevent someone from finding out your real age," said Jacobs.

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