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GUEST POST BY ALEX SOARE: 13 Actors Who Made It Big Late in Life

March 6, 2015

Please welcome Alex Soare to the blog today!


Alex is an opera singer and the founder of ArtRise, a social network for creative professionals. He’s sharing some wisdom with us today that you may find comforting if you feel like your professional success has an expiration date.


13 Wildly Successful Actors Who Made it Big Late in Life

Hollywood is chock-full of kids fresh out of high school, hoping to make it big in the movies.

Most of them will decide by age 25 whether they can make a living as actors or not.

However, there are many big names in Hollywood who didn’t achieve massive success right away – some toiled away for many years before landing a dream role, while some didn’t start acting until they were in their 30’s.

If you need a little motivation to keep trucking, learning about their unconventional paths to stardom may just do the trick.

  1. Harrison Ford

It’s hard to believe, but Harrison Ford’s career was languishing until he auditioned for the role of Han Solo in Star Wars at the age of 33. The Star Wars trilogy got him into Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones franchise, and Ford has been a bankable star ever since. In fact, ford didn’t even take acting classes until his college years, which he signed up for to help get over his shyness.

  1. Sylvester Stallone

Sure, he’s Hollywood royalty today, but Stallone wasn’t cast in Rocky until he was 30 years old, and up until that time he was so broke, he performed in pornographic movies to pay the rent. Many don’t know that Stallone is partially paralyzed on the left side of his face, which is precisely what gives him such distinctive facial expressions and enunciation – talk about overcoming the odds! 

  1. Gene Hackman

Gene Hackman was 37 years old when he landed his first significant film role in Bonnie and Clyde. Previously, he was a radio operator in the United States Marine Corps. His first acting job was in California’s Pasadena Playhouse, where he tied with his friend Dustin Hoffman for the title of “Least Likely to Succeed”. Guess they both showed them, huh?

  1. Tim Allen

The star of the hit 90’s wildly successful sitcom Home Improvement didn’t reach nation-wide fame until he was 38 and cast as “Tim the Toolman.” Before that, he was a stand-up comedian who sometimes did local television ads. He is perhaps even better known as the voice of Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story films, a role that has given his voice iconic status for life.

  1. Samuel L. Jackson

Jackson was a working actor before he hit it big, but he had only small roles in films until Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction rocketed him to stardom at the ripe age of 45. Jackson had attended Morehouse College intending to study marine biology until a professor offered extra credit to students who participated in a campus acting group, and Jackson decided to pursue acting instead.

  1. Lucille Ball

The legendary Lucille Ball didn’t become famous until she was 40 with the classic sitcom I Love Lucy. That show earned Ball 13 Emmy nominations and 4 Emmy Awards. Ball later became the first female to head a production company and will probably forever be a major inspiration to female comedic actors, who frequently cite her as an important influencer and glass ceiling breaker.

  1. Kathy Bates

Kathy Bates was a working actress whose breakout year came at the age of 42, when she landed the lead role in Stephen King’s Misery, and then won the Oscar for Best Actress to boot! She has since been nominated for 12 Emmy awards and won two.

  1. Morgan Freeman

Freeman started acting at the tender age of 9 and was very active in the theatre for many years, but didn’t make it big until 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy when he was 52. Since that time, he’s become one of the most respected and in-demand actors in Hollywood and has truly perfected the art of playing the wise, father-like character in film.  

  1. James Gandolfini

James Gandolfini splashed into our homes as a mobster seeking counseling in the hit HBO drama The Sopranos at the age of 38, and then graduated to the big screen with projects like Where the Wild Things Are. Gandolfini died unexpectedly in 2014 of a heart condition, but his outrageous talent and his ability to make us truly love such a morally reprehensible character will be remembered for a very long time to come.

  1. Alan Rickman

He may be known to Harry Potter fans as Severus Snape, but his big break came in 1988 as bad guy Hans Gruber in Die Hard, when Rickman was 42. He had an early passion for acting, but decided that it wasn’t the practical choice for a career. “Drama school wasn’t considered the sensible thing to do at 18,” Rickman has said. So he pursued media instead, and owned a successful graphic design firm for a few years. But at age 26, he decided to follow his true calling and went back to school for drama.

  1. Jeremy Renner

If you made it through the nerve-wracking, critically acclaimed film The Hurt Locker, you witnessed Jeremy Renner’s breakout role, which he won at the age of 38. Renner didn’t even consider acting until he was 19 when he took a drama class for college credit at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, California. In the late 90s and early 00s, Renner had minor roles on a variety of TV shows, but up until 2002, he was still working as a makeup artist to pay the bills.

  1. Regis Philbin

It may seem like Regis has been around forever, but Philbin was 57 years old when he began on Live! with Regis and Kathy Lee. Ironically, Philbin holds the Guinness Book of World Records award for the most time spent in front of a television camera, due to the many local talk shows and game shows he hosted before fame arrived with his syndicated show with Kathy Gifford.

  1. Judi Dench 

Dench was a respected figure in the English theatre scene for a long time before she made a splash on the silver screen at 61 years old when she was cast as M in Goldeneye. Since that time, she’s established herself as one of the most revered actresses alive and continues to act in huge films even at age 81. Dame Dench was nominated for her first Oscar when she was 63 and has 6 more nominations to her credit.


As you can see, these actors didn’t have success handed to them as teenagers, but they still managed to make a name for themselves and achieve great things.

So the next time you’re disappointed about not getting the part you wanted, think about these massive talents and remember that they were once exactly where you are today.


Thanks so much for sharing this with us, Alex! Check out ArtRise for social networking opportunities for artists.

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