His Career Pre-60: Lee Marvin was one of the hardest men in movie history. When you saw his face, it was like climbing the side of a rock crevasse. That personality suited him for supporting roles as heavies, though he would become a star by his own right in films like “The Big Heat,” “The Caine Mutiny,” “The Killers,” “Cat Ballou,” “The Dirty Dozen,” “Emperor Of The North” and “The Big Red One.”
At 60: Marvin only lived to be 63, though when he hit 60 he was seen in the obscure Italian thriller “Dog Day” that captured the star as his most memorably salty. Marvin plays Jimmy Cobb, a bank robber who escapes from a heist and hides out in the farmhouse of a seemingly well-adjusted family, only to find out they have plans of their own. What could have been a simple role-reversal thriller is in fact a layered, complex struggle, a psychological war where the family attempts to emotionally seduce Cobb into parting with his cash.
After 60: Marvin popped up in Chuck Norris’ “The Delta
Force” but that was a smaller role. And he did pay homage to one of his earlier
parts with the TV movie “Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission,” firing away until the
His Career Pre-60: The most colossal movie star in action history, the former Mr. Universe would go on to flex his improbable muscles in genre classics like “The Terminator,” “Conan The Barbarian,” “Predator” and “Commando.” Eventually, he made a move into politics, elected governor of California in 2003 and serving for eight years.
At 60: Schwarzenegger was still in office when he turned 60, so legally, he could not receive payment for film work, resulting in tiny contributions like motion-capture work for “Terminator Salvation” and a speaking cameo in “The Expendables.” At 65, Schwarzenegger left office, and finally joined the gang for “The Expendables 2.” Of course it’s basically a creaky greatest hits package, but the elderly Austrian feels like he absolutely towers over his co-stars. While Bruce Willis acts as if he’s popping in for a quick snack, Schwarzenegger lugs heavy artillery and looks like the action titan he really is in a sea of those who would strive for his throne.
After 60: Only recently returning to action films, Arnold
opted to play up his status as the King Of All Heroes, leading ensembles “The
Last Stand” and Stallone team-up “Escape Plan.” He’s not shying away from his
age, but Schwarzenegger is basically showing up in group films where he is the
elder statesman, as evidenced by the upcoming “Sabotage” and a return to the
“Expendables” series. His shift into a more mature role (catch his awesome
salt-and-pepper look in “Escape Plan”) is similar to Eastwood, and if he keeps
in shape there’s reason to think he’ll remain formidable onscreen for another
His Career Pre-60: Seagal was one of the meanest, leanest action stars in the industry, and his fast hands made him the star of a number of low budget action thrillers like “Above The Law,” “Hard To Kill,” “Marked For Death” and his one A-picture, “Under Siege.” Seagal developed a reputation for being difficult, and when his grosses began shrinking, he became isolated in the world of direct-to-DVD, becoming prolific in that area even as stunt doubles would do most of the work for the out-of-shape actor.
At 60: Seagal’s one effort as a 60 year old was “Maximum Conviction,” a low-fi actioner that teamed him with Steve Austin as a couple of independent operatives tasked with stopping a jailbreak. It’s typical Seagal nonsense, but with a decent budget, and you can see he’s just a bit more committed (maybe due to the beefy co-star). He’s lost weight for this effort, and you can see a stronger focus on the martial arts and hand-to-hand combat, if not exactly on the acting.
After 60: Seagal stayed in the world of direct-to-DVD, but is diversifying: his “Force Of Execution” is a film where he shares the screen with protégé Bren Foster as well as Ving Rhames and Danny Trejo. Seagal plays a crime boss, likely a follow-up to the positive notice he received for playing up the villainy in “Machete,” and he’s relying more on previously-untested acting skills. A return from DVD purgatory could result from a few versatile supporting turns, though he currently has a number of direct-to-DVD action films lined up.
His Career Pre-60: Kitano, a renaissance man who started out in comedy, shifted into filmmaking by accident, serving as a fill-in director for the action picture “Violent Cop.” That film established his aesthetic and on-screen persona, as a stoic badass surrounded by muted hijinks. His acclaimed Yakuza films brought him fame, and led to his two biggest roles: as an instructor in “Battle Royale” and the legendary icon “Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman.”
At 60: Kitano was in the middle of an experimental phase
when he turned 60, directing the avant-garde “Glory To The Filmmaker!” followed
by the melodrama “Achilles And The Tortoise.” But at the age of 63, he had a gun
in his hand once again. With “Outrage,” Kitano again played a Yakuza, this one
dealing with changing attitudes and weakening loyalties in his profession. It
features Kitano at his best, as a still figure in the midst of a tempest of
violence, quietly lethal when you’d least expect.
After 60: Kitano has since followed up “Outrage” with “Beyond Outrage” (or “Outrage Beyond” in some territories), a chilled actioner that follows the events of the first film, but features even more dispassionate, uneasy violence. Both “Outrage” films are strong, forceful efforts that showcase not only a topflight talent, but a guy who will not be supplanted by younger bucks.
Samuel L. Jackson
His Career Pre-60: As the world’s highest-grossing box office star, Jackson has done everything. But, isolated, his action credentials actually stand up to almost any tough guy in his generation. His early career was dotted with sidekicks and background filler, but soon he was elbow-to-elbow with the biggest stars in the world in “Pulp Fiction,” “Die Hard With A Vengeance,” “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” “Jackie Brown” and the “Star Wars” prequels. Few actors can match that level of success, and considering how much Jackson works, it’s possible none ever will.
At 60: Jackson was just as energized in his sixth decade as he ever was. In “Jumper” he starred as Agent Cox, a Paladin determined to stop young teleporters from ruling the Earth, and it’s a surprisingly physically-intensive role: you’d never guess by watching it that Jackson was sixty years old. At the age of 60, Jackson also applied the iconic eye-patch, becoming Nick Fury for a cameo in “Iron Man” that ended up being a lot more than expected.
After 60: Jackson stayed active in a number of action roles, including “The Spirit,” “The Other Guys,” “The Samaritan” and “Django Unchained.” And at the age of 66, he’ll be taking to the streets in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” the sixth time he’s played the role, not including a couple of television appearances.