‘In Time’: Young actors on the secrets to playing old characters

Oct. 21, 2011 | 5:08 p.m.

Matt Bomer at the premiere of "In Time." (Mark Boster / Reuters)

“Gattaca” writer-director Andrew Niccol has taken the next step in genetic engineering. His upcoming sci-fi flick “In Time” depicts a future where the aging gene stops at 25, so the film presents the unusual challenge for young actors to portray characters who are well into their 70s and even 100s.

At the premiere of “In Time,” Niccol told Hero Complex that the actors playing older characters “had to have something ancient about them. I think especially Vincent Kartheiser – there’s something about him that I just go, ‘Wow, yeah, he can play someone who’s 100 years old.’ Not everyone can.”

The concept meant that actors around the same age had to play each other’s parents and children. Olivia Wilde plays Justin Timberlake’s mother even though she’s nearly three years younger than he is. Kartheiser took on the role of 110-year-old father of Amanda Seyfried’s 27-year-old character.

Kartheiser said he didn’t find the experience too difficult to get used to. “As an actor growing up, you oftentimes have to play characters that are way older than you are.”

Niccol found that he easily slipped into believing that the world filled with only the young was real.

“It was very strange, because I would be looking in the lens of the camera, and maybe a crew member who was only 40 would pass in front, and I would go, ‘What is that?’” he said.

Niccol told the L.A. Times earlier this week that his favorite character is 105-year-old Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer) because he especially displays how one’s psychology may not be able to stay as young as one’s biology even if the aging gene is turned off.

“He’s immortal, but he wants to die,” the director explained. “Your mind can be spent even when your body’s not.”

To prepare for depicting that weariness, Bomer said he did some research by visiting “wealthy retirement communities with some centenarians, just hoping by osmosis something would rub off on me. I got some info from those people, just some life experience and stories.”

The film also features Alex Pettyfer playing a 75-year-old criminal and Cillian Murphy as Timekeeper, who’s been in law enforcement for 50 years.

“In Time” opens Friday, Oct. 28.

– Emily Rome

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