20 Actors Who Started Their Careers Later in Life

Famous people who started late

When you see the annual “30 under 30 lists” or listen to the charts, you may feel that everyone at the top of the entertainment world is getting younger.

But some of the biggest names in the business started much later than you think.

From those who headed to Hollywood in their 30s, to stars who got their big break in their 50s, many actors will have you considering that career change.

Here are 20 actors who started a little later than the teen idols and the drama school kids who star alongside them.

samuel l jackson

samuel l jackson is one of hollywood’s most recognizable stars, but it wasn’t until his mid-forties that he found success.

After a series of minor roles in movies like Come to America and Do the Right Thing, he got his breakthrough in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever (1991) at the age of 42.

Then, she reached an even larger audience at the age of 45 with the role of Jules Winnfield in Quentin Tarantino’s pulp fiction (1994).

He was followed by blockbuster roles in the Star Wars prequels and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

alan rickman

The late great Alan Rickman, a trained stage actor and member of Shakespeare’s Royal Company, landed his first film role in one of the greatest action films ever made, Die Hard, as the villainous Hans Gruber.

He was 42 years old at the time and went on to have roles in the Harry Potter franchise and in movies that include Love Actually.

betty white

Betty White’s career has spanned eight decades, and although she found success in her 30s on the sitcom Life with Elizabeth, her most famous roles came much later.

white was 51 when she began appearing on the mary tyler moore show, 63 when she played rose on golden girls, and 88 when she joined the cast of hot in cleveland.

christoph waltz

waltz was an actor working in europe since he was in his twenties, but it wasn’t until quentin tarantino cast him as colonel hans landa in inglourious bastards that he rose to fame.

He was 53 when he starred in the film, for which he earned an Oscar nomination, and Waltz played Blofeld in the James Bond films.

melissa mccarthy

While McCarthy had a role on the much-loved sitcom Gilmore Girls, it wasn’t until he played one of the main characters on Mike & molly at the age of 40 that her star really began to rise.

then, at the age of 41, she participated in the comedy bridesmaids, which catapulted her to be known as one of the funniest women in hollywood.

Antics have followed on the big screen including spies, the heat, and ghostbusters.

morgan freeman

freeman starred in numerous successful stage productions and children’s television series before his big break came with street smart, for which he earned an academy award nomination for best supporting actor.

He was 50 at the time, and two years later, at 52, he earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for playing Miss Daisy.

freeman starred in big movies like se7en and the dark knight, and has one of the most distinctive voices in hollywood.

gen hackman

hackman and his classmate dustin hoffman were voted “least likely to succeed” by their peers at the pasadena theater. oh, how wrong they were.

Although Hackman began pursuing an acting career in the mid-1950s, it wasn’t until 1967 that he landed his breakout role in Bonnie and Clyde, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. .

hackman was 37 when he landed the part, and his career now spans six decades.

kathy bates

You know if Kathy Bates is on the screen, whatever you’re watching is going to be good, but her Hollywood breakthrough didn’t come until she was 45.

After landing minor roles on stage and television, Bates became successful on stage, earning a Tony Award nomination for his performance in ‘Night, Mother’ when he was 38.

However, it was when she was cast as an author’s crazed fan in the 1990 adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery that Bates hit it big.

Four Oscar nominations and 14 Emmy nominations followed.

viola davis

Davis is now considered one of the best actresses in Hollywood, but her big break into movies came when she was 43, when she was nominated for an Oscar for her role in question.

Before that, he was successful on stage, earning accolades when he was 30 years old.

Since the 1940s, Davis has starred in projects like How To Get Away With Murder, Hurdles, The Help, and Ma Rainey’s Black Butt.

bryan cranston

Before playing teacher turned drug lord Walter White on the critically acclaimed series Breaking Bad, Cranston was known for playing the eccentric Father Hal on the comedy Malcolm in the Middle.

but not even that role came to him until he was 44 years old.

Before Malcolm, he gained attention for playing Dr. tim whatley on seinfeld, a role she got at age 38.

harrison ford

It may seem like Harrison Ford has been around forever thanks to his legendary roles like Han Solo and Indiana Jones, but until the age of 35, Ford worked as a carpenter full-time, after becoming dissatisfied with smaller roles. he was at the beginning of his acting career.

However, in his early 30s, he began landing larger roles, such as in American graffiti, and when he was 35, he landed a role in the Star Wars series.

jon hamm

jon hamm’s path to becoming one of television’s most personable leading men was a rocky one, as he originally struggled to get a job due to appearing older than his age.

After working as an acting teacher for high school students, Hamm was dumped by his agency, and while working as a waiter while auditioning, he set a deadline of his 30th birthday to make his dreams come true.

he told the times: “Either you put up with that and find another agent, or you go home and say you tried, but that’s it. The last thing I wanted to be here was one of those actors who is 45 years old, with dim understanding of their own reality and they don’t really do much work.”

His luck changed, and after a string of roles in movies like Kissing Jessica Stein and The Division Show, he landed the role that would change his life: Don Draper on the hit series Mad Men.

Hamm was 37 years old when he was elected.

john mahoney

You may think you have to be 20 years old to be listed as a “newcomer”, but you’re not.

after working as a medical journal editor for several years, john mahoney won the clarence derwent award for most promising male newcomer in 1986, when he was 46 years old.

Roles in movies like Moonstruck and Say Something… garnered attention, and in 1993, Mahoney landed the role of Martin Crane in Frasier. he was 53 years old at the time.

jane lynch

while jane lynch had a number of bit parts in the 80s and 90s, it was in 2000 when she was cast in christopher guest best in show mockumentary, when she was 40, when her star really began to break out. ascend. .

Roles in a mighty wind and the 40-year-old virgin followed, and Lynch was 49 when she landed her signature role, Sue Sylvester on the Fox series Glee.

kathryn joosten

Joosten is best known for playing the presidency of Dolores Landingham in The West Wing and Karen McCluskey in Desperate Housewives, but she didn’t even start acting until she was 43.

She worked as a psychiatric nurse for years, but after divorcing in 1980 and worrying about regretting not following her dreams, she began acting in community theater.

joosten moved to hollywood at the age of 56 to pursue a television career and, at the age of 60, landed the role of mrs. landingham.

ken jeong

while ken toured the stand-up circuit as a student, until the age of 30, he was better known as dr ken jeong, as he worked as a licensed medical doctor.

After two decades of trying to break into comedy, Jeong landed a role as, well, a doctor who got pregnant when he was 38, and it turned out to be the break he needed.

jeong went on to steal scenes in the community and the hangover trilogy, and is one of the judges for the masked singer.

lucille ball

Lucille Ball had a handful of minor film and stage roles in the ’30s and ’40s, but it wasn’t until she and her husband, Desi Arnaz, that she and her husband, Desi Arnaz, created their sitcom I Love Lucy.


the show, which starred ball as lucy ricardo, became the most watched television show in the united states at the time and catapulted ball to fame, with ball being considered one of the greatest television stars of all time .

steve carell

Carell has been the star of some of the biggest comedy shows and movies of the past two decades, but it wasn’t until his mid-thirties that he began his career.

At the age of 34, he starred in the short-lived series The Dana Carvey Show, before landing the role of correspondent on the daily show two years later.

However, fame really caught up with him at the age of 43, when he starred in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and landed the role of Michael Scott in the American remake of The Office.

ricky gervais

gervais rose to fame creating the original office, in which he played the boss of nightmares, david brent. but the show didn’t air until he was 40 years old.

Before that, Gervais was actually a musician and was one half of the New Wave Seona Dancing duo.

He also worked as a manager for the suede rock group before they made it big.

miguel emerson

Michael Emerson is now an Emmy-winning actor, but he didn’t actually land his first role until he was 43.

He worked as a freelance illustrator before graduating with a master’s degree from the University of Alabama acting program in 1995 when he was 41, nearly 15 years older than many of his fellow graduates.

Two years later, he played Oscar Wilde in the off-Broadway play Gross Indecency: The Three Trial of Oscar Wilde, later landing roles in practice and losing.

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