IN new film Jurassic World, a giant genetically modified dinosaur manages to make itself invisible, a swarm of pterodactyls attacks a helicopter and people travel around in hovering perspex balls — and people say it’s unrealistic.

But for my money it’s far more realistic than the 1993 original. At least in this one the two romantic leads are the same age.

You may be shocked to know this, but when Laura Dern played the lead role of Dr Ellie Sattler in Jurassic Park, she was 26 years old. Her love interest, Sam Neill, was 46.

By the end of the film Ellie has not only fallen in love with Neill’s Dr Alan Grant, but she’s basically formed a pseudo family with him by becoming mother to two pre-teen children — when she could feasibly be their older sister.

The average age of the cast in Jurassic Park might be 50 million, but when it comes to its female lead it still sticks to the Hollywood formula — keep ‘em young.

Not that it’s an isolated case. If you tried to list all the films in which a pretty young thing goes all doe-eyed over a (comparatively) ageing buzzard, you’d die of old age yourself.

But here are a few examples:

New blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron has 30-year-old Scarlett Johansson falling in love with Mark Ruffalo, 47.

Another recent release, Focus, features Australia’s Margot Robbie, 24, getting jiggy with Will Smith, 22 years her senior at 46.

The original Pirates of the Caribbean featured a 21-year-old Keira Knightley against a 43-year-old Johnny Depp, an equation that gets even more distasteful with the forthcoming Pirates release, currently filming with 23-year-old Kaya Scodelario against a now 52-year-old Depp.

Ancient melodrama Troy starred a 24-year-old Rose Byrne getting hot and sweaty with 40-year-old Brad Pitt, while a 51-year-old Liam Neeson wooed Claudia Schiffer, 33, in Love Actually.

In the original Star Wars Carrie Fisher was 23 to Harrison Ford’s 37, while much-loved classic When Harry Met Sally has 28-year-old Meg Ryan falling head over heels for Billy Crystal, 41.

And let’s not forget 60-year-old Jack Nicholson wooing 34-year-old Helen Hunt in As Good as it Gets. Actually yes, let’s try to forget that.

Recently Maggie Gyllenhaal, 37, admitted she’d been turned down for a role playing the lover of a 55-year-old man because she was too old. Presumably the writers of whatever movie that was live in a fantasy land where 25-year-olds are gagging to jump into bed with near retirement age blokes. Oh wait, they do — it’s called Hollywood.

The practice of casting young women actors against much older men is so endemic in movies, we don’t even notice it any more.

The reason none of it ever seems weird on screen is because we’re all conditioned to the idea that leading men, no matter what their age, are entitled to beautiful young sylphs. Anything else would be jarring to the eye, an insult to masculinity.

And so while male actors are free to go grey, get wrinkles and develop a paunch (it adds character!), women who actually look their age barely get a look in on the big screen.

At 70 Helen Mirren is one of a precious few who do — partly because men still find her sexy.

Speaking at an event in New York this week, Dame Helen described the situation as “ridiculous”, saying: “We all watched James Bond as he got more and more geriatric, and his girlfriends got younger and younger. It’s so annoying.”

Yes, it is.

Wouldn’t it be nice if Hollywood could restrict the unrealistic dinosaurs to the special effects?

First published in The Advertiser, June 20, 2015. Click here to read the original article.
Note: This article has been amended from the original to fix a factual error regarding the characters in Jurassic Park.