“They would have these huge puffy lips and frozen foreheads,” she said. “You said to yourself, ‘Oh, I can’t use you.’ I don’t mind if they do a tiny bit of something, but it can’t be obvious.”
An actor can even lose a role if a director suspects surgery, whether it was performed or not. John Papsidera, a casting director for the “Batman” movies, said he and a director (he declined to say which one) recently debated whether to hire an actress in her early 20s to play a teenager falling in love. The actress was talented and naturally pretty. But what stopped the director was his suspicion that, at such a young age, she already had breast implants.
“We looked at film where she was topless and it was like, ‘Maybe,’ ” Mr. Papsidera said. It wasn’t a period film, so authenticity was not an issue. Instead, the possibility of implants became “a point of reference,” he said. “It was more of, ‘Where is that person coming from as an actor?’ ” She did not get the part.
To outsiders, such conversations can seem almost cruel. Youthful perfection is prized in Hollywood despite the seeming canonization of older actresses like Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren and Betty White. But a talented 35-plus actress who has had particularly good surgery can still find work. At that age the backlash is not against plastic surgery or Botox itself — everyone seems to be doing it, right? — but its poor execution.
“Behind the scenes, you have so many conversations,” said Mr. Levy, the director, referring to his discussions with studio executives about leading ladies. “Why did she do that to herself? She was beautiful. She was great. But now we can’t cast her.”
Rarely, though, do studio executives share their concerns with actors, he added, citing politeness as a reason.
Perhaps they should discuss it. After all, the executives and producers who criticize others for having too much plastic surgery often feel the same pressure to look young and attractive. Their judgments about others, then, are not only subjective, but deeply personal. (Several studio executives did not return calls or declined to comment on their views on cosmetic procedures.)
Carrie Audino, a casting director on “Mad Men,” said: “I do think there are times when you sit in a casting session and listen to what someone thinks is beautiful or handsome, and there is this very skewed outlook based on their own insecurities. Because they have issues, they have an issue with someone else.”
Still, there is something to suggest that the new attitude is beginning to take hold. Last week Sharon Osbourne told Matt Lauer on the “Today” show that she was going to have her breast implants removed this summer and give them to her husband as paperweights. Lisa Kudrow, in a recent interview with New York magazine, seemed happy to own up to the fact that the face viewers saw on an episode of “Cougar Town” was hers, age lines and all.
“Look, time marches on,” she said. “You still want to look good, but there’s a line between looking like yourself and looking like a character from a Batman movie.”
Of course, there are still times when having cosmetic surgery can pay off. The buzzworthiness of a reality television star seems to soar depending on her cup size or clipped waist. (Think of Jwoww from “Jersey Shore.”)
Last November Ms. Montag, who starred in “The Hills” on MTV, underwent 10 cosmetic procedures including liposuction, buttock and breast augmentation and Botox. Her reward? A torrent of media attention kicked off by a flattering January cover story in People magazine, including before and after photos.
Critics made fun of her, and her own mother was shocked. “She was looking at me almost like I was a zoo animal,” Ms. Montag told People of her first visit home.
But she said in an interview that she is convinced she made the right move. She wants to be a movie actress, and some parts have begun to come in. She recently starred in a video directed by Ron Howard, and she said she was hired for a cameo in an Adam Sandler movie.