Meryl Streep and Jessica Chastain have taken opposite sides in the Hollywood ageism battle following remarks Russell Crowe made during an Australian magazine interview about movie roles for women.

Crowe stirred up a controversy and raised eyebrows when he dismissed the ageism argument during a recent chat with Women's Weekly, stating, "There are roles for people in all different stages of life".

He added, "I think you'll find that the woman who is saying that (there are no roles for her) is the woman who, at 40, 45, 48, still wants to play the ingenue, and can’t understand why she's not being cast as the 21 year old."

Crowe urged actors and actresses to "live in your own skin", and used Streep to hammer home his argument, adding, "Meryl Streep will give you 10,000 examples and arguments as to why (the ageism reports) are bulls**t, so will Helen Mirren."

The actress was asked to address Crowe's comments at a press conference to promote her new film Into the Woods on on Tuesday (06Jan15), and quickly came to her fellow Oscar winner's defence.

She said, "The Russell Crowe thing... I read what he said - all of what he said... and (his statements) have been misappropriated... He was talking about himself. The journalist asked him, 'Why don’t you do another Gladiator, you know, everybody loved that'. He said, 'I’m too old. I can't be the gladiator anymore. I’m playing parts that are appropriate to my age."

And as for his remarks about mature women auditioning for younger roles onscreen, Streep insisted Crowe was "proving a point" and "talking about himself as most actors do".

She added, "I agree with him. It’s good to live within the place that you are."

But self-confessed feminist Chastain wasn't so taken with Crowe's comments about women in Hollywood.

Asked for her opinion at the National Board of Review awards gala in New York City on Tuesday (06Jan15), she snarled, "I think he's getting his foot stuck in his mouth."