With the plethora of stars who grace the screens in their teens and twenties and magazines that constantly laud a “young Hollywood,” it can seem that in order to become successful, actors have to race against the clock to land that big role early in their life. Fortunately for those who are past their twenties and still hoping to make it big, many celebrities didn’t actually become famous until they were well into their thirties or later, a good reminder for us all that it is never too late to dream of making it big.
The British star who has been known for many critically acclaimed roles throughout the years, from “Die Hard” to “Love Actually” and “Harry Potter,” actually worked as a graphic designer before he decided to make a career change and pursue acting. For a while, Alan Rickman was involved in many British theatre groups, and finally at age 39 was cast in his first breakout role in the show “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” which earned him a Tony Award nomination. Since then, he has enjoyed a tremendous career in Britain and the U.S. in many prestigious film and theatre roles and has a net worth of $16 million.
Harrison Ford was a struggling actor for many years early in life. In order to make ends meet for his wife at the time and their two young sons, Ford worked as a carpenter. He was hired in the 70s to build cabinets for the home of George Lucas, who ended up casting him in a supporting role in the movie “American Graffiti.” However, he didn’t land a starring role until he was 33 and was asked by Lucas to read lines for a role in Star Wars. Lucas cast him as Han Solo, and since then Ford has been a mainstay in many blockbuster films including the “Indiana Jones” series. With a net worth of $200 million, no wonder he no longer needs to work as a carpenter.
Now well known for playing the role of ad exec Don Draper in “Mad Men,” Jon Hamm actually spent most of his twenties and thirties as a struggling actor in Los Angeles, only making minor appearances in some television series. When he finally landed his breakout role as Don Draper in 2007, he was in his mid-thirties. In 2008, he earned a Golden Globe Award for the role and has since received several Emmy nominations.
Jane Lynch didn’t land her first major role until she was 43 in the 2000 mockumetary “Best in Show.” After appearing in many television shows and movies throughout the 2000s, she became well known for her role as the high school gym teacher Sue Sylvester on “Glee,” for which she earned several awards including an Emmy. Now in her 50s, she continues to take on many roles on television, in films and on stage.
Gene Hackman worked as a field radio operator for the U.S. Marines in his 20s. It wasn’t until his late twenties, in 1956, when he decided to start to pursue acting in Los Angeles. He played in many off-Broadway plays for years and landed a few small supporting roles. His breakout role was “Bonnie and Clyde,” when he was 37. He went on to star in many films and has won Oscars and Golden Globe Awards for his work and is now worth $80 million.
Kristin Wiig achieved fame in her 30s after spending years taking odd jobs and occasionally performing comedy on stage while searching for acting work. In 2005, she was cast on SNL and became a full SNL cast member in 2006, earning Emmy award nominations for her work. Thanks to her SNL role, she started appearing in films in her late 30s, including landing a starring role in the 2011 box office hit comedy that she co-wrote, “Bridesmaids,” for which she earned an Academy Award nomination.
Tim Allen spent many years performing as a semi-successful comedian in nightclubs before landing his breakout role on the hit 90s television sitcom “Home Improvement” when he was in his late 30s. Since then, he has starred in several movies and voiced the character Buzz Lightyear in “Toy Story.” He continues to work in television, currently in the lead role on the sitcom “Last Man Standing” and is worth $80 million.
Early in his life, Samuel Jackson was a civil rights movement activist and a social worker. After changing majors several times in college, he finally decided to study drama. Although he had several small roles early in his career, he didn’t land a major role until he was 45 in the movie “Pulp Fiction.” He received an Oscar nomination for the role. Since then, he has consistently been a box office star and has an estimated net worth of $150 million.
Famous for her iconic role in “I Love Lucy,” Lucille Ball actually spent decades as a struggling actress in New York City. She landed a few modeling jobs and small film roles, but never managed to escape the label of being a “B list” actress. Then, in 1951 at the age of 40, she created the classic television series, starring in it as well as becoming the first woman in television to become the head of a production company. She won four Emmy awards during the show’s run.
In her thirties, comedian Melissa McCarthy had a steady supporting role on the television series “Gilmore Girls” and co-starred in the sitcom “Mike and Molly,” but she really hit it big when she was featured in the 2011 movie “Bridesmaids” at the age of 40. Since then, she has had several major feature film roles including “Identity Thief” and “The Heat.”
Tina Fey began her career in the improv comedy group “The Second City” and joined SNL as a writer, then later became head writer and performer on the show when she was in her 30s. Her breakout in Hollywood was as writer and co-star of the movie Mean Girls in 2004, at age 34. Her acting career took off from there: she created and starred in the television series “30 Rock” and has starred in several comedy films including “Baby Mama,” “Date Night,” and more. She’s earned Emmy Awards and Golden Globe Awards for her work.
Amy Poehler is another actress who started out in improv comedy and then was on “Saturday Night Live” for many years in her thirties, from 2001 to 2008. Amy Poehler’s fame on SNL launched her into a successful television acting career with the sitcom “Parks and Recreation,” earning her a Golden Globe Award. Now in her 40s, she continues to be a mainstay on television in the upcoming series “Welcome to Sweden.”
Steve Carell had appeared in a few minor roles on television as well as enjoying longer-running appearances on “The Daily Show with John Stewart” for several years earlier on, but he didn’t land his breakout role in the television series “The Office” until the 2000s when he was in his 40s. The popularity he enjoyed in the role of Michael Scott on “The Office” helped him land lead roles in movies such as “The 40 Year Old Virgin.” He has won a Golden Globe Award for his work.
The British-Australian actress Naomi Watts began her career with small acting roles in Australia, and after moving to the U.S., landed a few small roles in film and television. However, she finally earned attention by critics in Hollywood for her work in “Mulholland Drive” in 2001 when she was in her 30s. Since then, she has been in several other acclaimed roles and has earned Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.