15 Actors Who Got Their Start Later In Life

Actors like Morgan Freeman and Samuel L. Jackson are so prominent in Hollywood right now, it’s hard to believe that both men were in the 40s when they had their first big break in acting. Not every actor makes it big when they’re young, some stars don’t find success until they’re older. Find out which of the actors on this list had a completely different career before their big break!

Jeremy Renner
'American Hustle' Jeremy Renner Interview
Everyone knows who Jeremy Renner is now, thanks to The Avengers, but after only a little early success, his big acting breakthrough didn't come until 200, when he starred in The Hurt Locker at age 37. That role got him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L Jackson
Splash News
Way before he inspired the makeover of Nick Fury and then became Nick Fury, Samuel L. Jackson had minor roles in films like Coming To America and Do The Right Thing. His big break came when Quentin Tarantino wrote the role of Jules Winnfield with Jackson in mind for his independent film Pulp Fiction, when he was 46. After that, his career launched and nowadays he signs multi-million dollar contracts with Marvel.
Jon Hamm
'Million Dollar Arm' World Premiere and pitching contest
For years, Jon Hamm only had minor roles in film and TV, his first being on Ally McBeal. It wasn't until 2007, when he was cast on Mad Men at the age of 36, that he got his big break and became the successful hunk we all know and love.
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Harrison Ford
'Extraordinary Measures' Movie Stills: Harrison Ford
CBS Flims
Before he was Indiana Jones or Han Solo, Harrison Ford was a carpenter. His career change came when he was doing wood-working at the studio where they were holding auditions for Star Wars. According to George Lucas, he'd met Ford before when he worked on the film American Graffiti, so he decided to ask him to read for Han Solo. Ford was 35-years-old the year the first Star Wars released.
Melissa McCarthy
'Tammy' Interview
If you watched Gilmore Girls, then you've loved Melissa McCarthy ever since she was cast as Sookie St. James on the show. But her critical success, that cornered her as one of the funniest women in comedy, didn't come until almost 11 years later, when she played Megan in Bridesmaids. Since then she's been dominating the comedy scene and was cast to star in the remake of Ghostbusters.
Kathy Bates
Valentine's Day Movie Stills: Kathy Bates
Hollywood.com Staff/Syndicated by: New Line Cinema
After appearing in several minor roles in film and TV during the 1970s/80s, Kathy Bates rose to prominence with her performance in Misery when she was 42-years-old. The role earned her he first Academy Award for Best Actress and a Golden Globe. That launched her career and gave her the chance to play the Unsinkable Molly Brown in Titanic.
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Jessica Chastain
'Interstellar' Premiere
You would think this Zero Dark Thirty star had it easy making it big in Hollywood, but that's not the case. She told The Huffington Post: "Being a redhead and not having very conventionally modern looks, it was confusing for people and they didn't know exactly where to put me." It wasn't until she landed a role in 2011's The Help that Chastain got her career rolling.
Ricky Gervais
Ricky Gervais, Wenn
Ricky Gervais made his commercial acting debut in 1998, when he was 37-years-old. His big success came after he wrote, directed, and starred in the UK show The Office, which he later adapted for the US.
Ken Jeong
Furry Vengeance: Ken Jeong
Summit Entertainment
Until he was 40, Ken Jeong was actually know as Dr. Jeong. He spent almost 20 years trying to break into the business, working in stand-up comedy while also practicing medicine. His critical success came after playing Mr. Chow in 2009's The Hangover.
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Lucille Ball
Kate Durbin (Commentary)/ Hollywood.com/Syndicated by: Special to Hollywood.com
These days, you hear the name "Lucy" and you immediately think of I Love Lucy. But Lucille Ball was not always successful, it wasn't until TV became a bigger medium that she got her big chance, when she worked with then-husband Desi Arnaz, as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. After that, she paved the way for many women in comedy and is credited with creating the modern sitcom format.
Alan Rickman
Little Chaos
Nicole Springer/Everett Collection / Baseline
Alan Rickman is a trained actor, having attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he studied Shakespeare's works. After years of working in smaller roles, it wasn't until director Joel Silver saw Rickman in Les Liasions Dangereuses that he got his big break. Silver cast Rickman as Hans Gruber in Die Hard and that led him onto his successful career. But he'll always be Proferssor Snape to us.
Jason Statham
Jason Statham
Elizabeth Goodenough/Everett Collection / Baseline
Before he became the Bad Ass British Guy in almost every movie ever, Jason Staham was a model for the French Connection. While modelling, he was introduced to director Guy Ritchie, who was casting for the film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. His big success, that solidified him in Hollywood, was when he was cast in The Transporter, when he was 35-years-old.
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Connie Britton
Connie Britton
Dee Cercone/Everett Collection
Connie Britton's career began with stage work and some failed network TV shows, like Lost At Home and The Fighting Fitzgeralds. Her success came when she was cast as Tami Taylor in Friday Night Lights, opposite Kyle Chandler, when she was, when she was 36-years-old.
Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone
Dee Cercone/Everett Collection
Apparently Sylvester Stallone was so low on cash, he wound up selling his wife's jewelry AND his dog in order to pay his bills. He finally managed career and financial success when his script for Rocky was purchased and he starred in the film. He was 30-years-old at the time.
Morgan Freeman
Morgan Freeman
Splash News
Morgan Freeman is one of the most famous actors on this list, and he didn't get his start until he was in his 40s when he was on The Electric Company and Another World. His "big break" happened when he reprised his role from stage as Hoke in Driving Miss Daisy. Since then, he's become the coolest narrator any film can have and was actually God in a movie or two.


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Which of the actors on this surprised you the most? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!