There's a saying in Hollywood that goes, when a woman turns 40 her career is over, when a man turns 40 it's just beginning. Sex appeal seems to be the driving force in most stars careers and the perception of most men is that they get sexier with age. Thanks to plastic surgery and changing attitudes women have a fighting chance of keeping their share of the sexy spotlight. But what about the men of Hollywood?

In a not-so-popular film called "I'll Do Anything" Nick Nolte plays an out of work actor who's sleeping with a casting director and lands an audition for a show she's working on. While reviewing the audition tape the producers ask her if she'd sleep with him. Knowing that she did just that the night before she answers in the negative and Nick is passed over for the role for a sexier, hotter actor. It seems men are susceptible to the same test as women in Hollywood. Although there are stars who've hit a stride after hitting 40 there also seems to be some men who have crossed over into the straight to DVD territory. Where does this downward spiral begin? Is 40 dangerous for men?

Take Josh Brolin for example, he had a difficult time creating traction early in his career. The son of James Brolin, better known as Mr. Barbra Streisand, proved to be a detriment starting out. His temper also landed him in trouble over the years including accusations of beating his then girlfriend Minnie Driver. He was arrested for domestic battery of his now wife, Diane Lane, although formal charges have never been brought against him. He had trouble connecting with audiences and finding his place in the pantheon of stars in Hollywood. He was as people are apt to point out in Los Angeles a "wanna-be" before he was "a somebody."

Josh Brolin plays George W. Bush in 'W' which opens this friday October 17

In 1996 he played in a memorable supporting role in "Flirting With Disaster" alongside Ben Stiller. He was the FBI agent Ben caught licking Patricia Arquette's armpit. Then in 2000 he played the good guy in "Hollow Man." Audiences didn't connect with his good guy bit; somehow it rang false. And then it made sense when he starred as Dr. William Block in "Planet Terror," Rodriguez's segment of the "Grindhouse" double feature. Playing an evil, terrorizing, psychotic villain felt right and placed him into the collective awareness of movie-goers. Then "No Country For Old Men" blew the doors off the place. Suddenly Brolin's name was everywhere. This year he turned 40 and stars in "W" which opens this Friday and he has become a household name.

Russell Crowe had the biggest hit of his career when he was 36. "Gladiator" made $188M worldwide in 2000. Then in 2007, at the age of 43 he starred in "American Gangster" which grossed $130M and counting and "3:10 To Yuma" which earned a respectable $53.6M in the same year. Up to that point age hadn't affected his popularity or weakened his box office power. That is until last week when "Body of Lies" opened to a disappointing $12.9M. Was it his age or just a bad story?

Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio in Body of Lies

Some would argue that age doesn't matter for men, that only women have to worry about crows feet and fat bellies. The evidence would point out that even George Clooney turned women off after gaining 30 extra pounds and growing a grey beard for a role of a lifetime in "Syriana." He was still a powerhouse of an actor but did it affect his earning power? At the age of 41 "Ocean's Eleven" earned $183M. In 2004 "Ocean's Twelve" earned $126M. He was 48 when "Ocean's Thirteen" earned $117M in 2007. Apparently it's the movie and not his age that determines his box office success.

George Clooney in Ocean's Thirteen

Robert Downey Jr. has been working since he was a child and although he's been a household name for most of his life he has always worked somewhat under the radar. That is until he turned 40 and starred in "Iron Man." Not only did it earn a whopping $102M it's opening weekend but it's up to a staggering $572M worldwide so far. The BlueRay/DVD came out last Tuesday and sold out its first printing in its first day of release. Ironically this is the same man no one would insure due to his former drug and alcohol problems a scant eight years ago.

Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man

And then there are the not-so-lucky over 40 stars. Al Pacino and Robert De Niro looked like they sold out by staring opposite one another in a sub-par "Righteous Kill." But just when De Niro could be written off as a sell-out or irrelevant he lands a role in an upcoming Scorsese film and redeems his reputation if not his earning capacity. And don't forget that Pacino stared in "Ocean's Thirteen" alongside our dear George Clooney which brought in $117M. Perhaps it was just a simple mis-step in two brilliant careers. Or a greedy mistake made by two formidable actors who were anxious to work together after getting a taste of it in "Heat." Audiences claimed to want more of them in shared scenes but "Kill's" opening weekend take of only $16.3M would say otherwise.

Al Pacino and Robert De Niro Righteous Kill

And then there was Jack. Jack Nicholson seems to defy all odds. At the age of 66 his film "Anger Management" made $134M, in the same year he starred in "Something's Gotta Give" which earned $125M. Then in 2006 at the age of 69 he drove the engine of the film "The Departed" which lead Scorsese to an Oscar win and a sum of $132M. That's three, count them three films to gross over $100M during the fifth decade of his career. His latest film "The Bucket List" grossed $93.5M when Jack was 70 years old.

Jack Nicholson in The Bucket List

Let's not forget about Will Smith. "I Am Legend" made $256M and counting at the box office. And in July of 2008 "Hancock" raked in $62.6M it's opening weekend and has since earned a total cum of $228M. He was 39 at the time. It's only a guess what will happen after hitting the big 4-0 this past September but since his name was the only one above the title of both "I Am Legend" and "Hancock" odds are he'll be just fine.

Story by Erin MacMillan-Ramirez

Starpulse contributing writer