Hollywood is an evolving beast but if there’s one thing we can count on, it’s the crazy love lives of the rich and famous.
Unfolding before our very eyes, we devour every aspect of their love and watch on as our favourite celebs fall in and out of love.
But there’s one phenomenon that’s sweeping through Hollywood — celebrities who have found happiness with a partner who is significantly older or younger than them.
We’ve now woken up to the news that former One Direction singer Harry Styles, 26, is dating the newly-single Booksmart director, Olivia Wilde, 36.
According to People, the pair met on the set of Wilde’s new film, Don’t Worry Darling and have been dating for a “few weeks”. While we’re still reeling over her break-up with long-term partner Jason Sudeikis (why, 2020, WHY?) this pairing seems to actually work, even though Styles’ is ten years her junior.
Interestingly, fans of the pair are more than excited to see the two creatives together, however, the same can’t be said for Scrubs star Zach Braff, 46, and his girlfriend, Little Women actor, Florence Pugh, 25.
While his tribute (read it here) on her birthday was simply gorgeous, the pair had a very rocky start to their relationship, thanks to some very mouthy fans.
Hitting back at criticism over their 21-year age gap after posting a picture on his birthday in April 2020, Pugh posted a video saying that within “eight minutes of the photo being posted, I had about 70 per cent of the comments hurling abuse and being horrid, and basically bullying someone on my page,” she said.
“It is the first time in my entire Instagram life that I’ve had to turn off the comments on my page. I have never been an Instagram page that encourages that.
“I want to underline this fact: I don’t need you to tell me who I should and should not love and I would never in my life, ever, ever tell anyone who they can and cannot love. It is not your place, and really, it has nothing to do with you.”
Of course, these two pairings are not the first to boast such lengthy age gaps.
Back in January 2020, multiple reports surfaced that former Friends actor David Schwimmer, 53, had begun dating Katie Markowitz, a woman 24 years his junior. Stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, 45, reportedly only dates women under the age of 25; and Full House actor John Stamos, 54, is married to Caitlin McHugh, 33.
Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds is married to Blake Lively, 11 years younger than him and film legend Al Pacino, 79, is married to 40-year-old Meital Dohan.
But this dating practice is not just reserved for men and their younger female partners.
Leading ladies have also dated and even married men at least a decade their junior.
From Lisa Bonet, 52, and Aquaman’s Jason Momoa, 40, to newlywed’s Priyanka Chopra, 37 and Nick Jonas, 27, many women of Hollywood are looking for love with a younger man.
So, is there any theory behind the age gap?
“The world of Hollywood is obsessed with youth,” Schilling said. “And this is not just about vanity but also economic survival!
“Celebrities have been known to go to extreme lengths to preserve their youth (surgically, for example) and dating a younger person is an extension of this.
“Being ‘seen’ with a younger date on one’s arm sends the message that “I am still young, vital and relevant” and this so important to their longevity in the spotlight.”
The relationship expert also admitted that the age when this can occur is “different for men and women”.
“As women have a biological imperative to find a partner and build a family, the urgency tends to kick in the mid to late 30s,” she said.
“Many women find themselves becoming unsatisfied with single life at around this age and start actively seeking a partner. Men, on the other hand, have more time on their side. It’s more common for men to remain single or step in and out of less serious relationships until later in life.”
When it comes to men like Schwimmer, whose seven-year marriage broke down to Zoe Buckman two years ago, Mel believes the new relationship is part of a “transformational phase” and not a mid-life crisis.
“If a mid-life crisis is defined as a period of questioning and redefining identity, then experimenting with dating people of different ages during this phase makes sense,” she said.
“It doesn’t need to be stigmatised as it is, it really is just another transformational phase, like puberty. Like any transformational phase, people tend to try new things, test their identity in different situations, make mistakes and (hopefully) learn.”
So, what can a younger person give that someone older may not?
“In relationships, ‘life-stage’ is more important than ‘age’. A 50-year-old person could be highly compatible with a 30-year-old if they are both at a similar life stage with similar values, needs, goals and future vision.
“Similarly, two 40-year-olds could be on completely different life pages and not connect at all.
“Generally, a younger person could bring a greater level of energy, a new and younger perspective on life and an introduction to a completely different lifestyle.”