It seems that it is not only Hollywood that is obsessed with younger, newer, shinier. The battle against ageism is alive and well in the British film industry, as Julia Sawalha shared on Twitter last weekend.
The actress, 51, will be recast as Ginger in the upcoming Aardman-Netflix Chicken Run sequel because her voice, familiar to 90s kids everywhere thanks to the plucky hen, sounds “too old.”
Plucked, stuffed & roasted
In a statement on Twitter, Julia told fans she had been informed via email (very classy, Aardman) that she will be replaced by a younger actress in the new movie. She revealed that common practice when assessing the suitability of original voice actors in sequels would be to have them perform a voice test – an opportunity not afforded to Julia. Her home voice test was received by the film’s creatives, leading them to agree that her tone and pitch has retained a youthful lilt – but this was not enough for them to reverse the decision.
More barriers to an already-exclusive industry
It is no secret that the arts are in trouble thanks to a consistent lack of funding. The film industry is a huge part of society and in 2017 its direct contribution to UK GDP was £6.1 billion. Despite generating such value, creative arts subjects such as drama are still being cut back in English secondary schools, leading to a severe lack of opportunity for inner-city children in particular.
With mammoth barriers already in place, why would young girls feel inclined to pursue a career in acting when they are tossed aside by the age of 50?
That’s not to say that there is no call for female characters over a certain age. There seems to be two extremes – the pretty young things at the start of their careers, and the reliable veterans who have reached national treasure status. So between the Saoirse Ronans and Jennifer Lawrences, the Judi Denches and the Meryl Streeps, there is a no (wo)man’s land of middle-aged actresses.
Aardman has really missed a trick in not recasting Sawalha as original Ginger. Perhaps the harshest part of this sorry tale is that it would have made the sequel an honourable beacon of nostalgia standing tall among a sea of half-baked remakes.
Words by Tayler Finnegan