Late Baby Bloomers: Legendary Actors Who Didn’t Get Their Start Until After 40
Hey late bloomers, we see you. In fact, we are you. Even though we secretly fantasize about rising before the sun and getting shit done, there’s nothing more familiar to us than waiting until the last minute to do…well, everything. Go-getters, to-do listers, and all-around overachievers won’t understand. But when your friends, family, angry girlfriend, high school counselor, and therapist start giving you guff about not hitting your life milestones, it can really take a psychological toll. Fret not, friends. These legendary actors waited until much later in life to make their move. We’re talking 40-plus. And look what happened for them. Not that we recommend waiting until middle age to hit the grindstone (it takes 10,000 hours to master something), but hey, it worked for these guys.
Billy Bob Thornton - 41
Thornton was the ripe old age of 41 when he pushed his way into the limelight with his head-turning performance in Sling Blade. Since then, he's starred in numerous blockbusters, critically acclaimed films, a TV show, and a marriage to Angelina Jolie. Damn, that's inspiring as hell.
Alan Rickman - 42
The world tends to think of Alan Rickman as a born actor and one of England's finest. But believe it or not, Rickman spent his life as a graphic designer before landing the role of not-easily-ruffled villain Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Decades later he would one-up this classic baddie with his turn as Severus Snape in the art house film series, Harry Potter.
Bryan Cranston - 42
You may remember him as the racist dentist in a few episodes of Seinfeld, but it wasn't until Malcom in the Middle that Cranston became a household face. When Breaking Bad became the biggest TV show about New Mexican meth-dealers of all time, Cranston finally rose to the ranks of household name and solidified himself as a TV legend.
Larry David - 53
When the name Larry David flashed across TV screens weekly in the '90s as co-creator and writer on NBC's Seinfeld, he was already 42. But it wasn't until he decided to work in front of the camera on Curb Your Enthusiasm that David entered the realm of legendary actor, getting himself into situations that made us laugh, cry, and cringe with delight.
Morgan Freeman - 50
Morgan Freeman cruised into American consciousness when he snagged an Oscar for his role as Hoke in Driving Miss Daisy. Freeman had been working odd jobs up until that point, even once clerking in the transcript office of Los Angeles City College. Now, the man is a national hero and deserves some kind of monument.
Ricky Gervais - 40
Since the groundbreaking success of (the British) The Office, Ricky Gervais has been unstoppable, churning out a slew of idiosyncratic projects, performing sellout comedy shows, and being one of the only people in the world to host a mega awards show, insult the entire audience, and leave with a standing ovation. But before all this, Gervais admittedly "never tried hard at anything," fumbling through a career as an '80s pop idol (for real) and music manager before finally becoming the man with the legendary laugh.
Rodney Dangerfield - 56
Dangerfield sold used cars for a living before dominating the late-night circuit with his arsenal of lightning speed one-liners. After a chance opportunity as a last-minute replacement on The Tonight Show, Dangerfield stole the show, becoming such a favorite guest he made 35 appearances. Eventually he hit it big with the movie Caddy Shack, went on to win a Grammy, and opened one of the best comedy clubs in New York.
Lucille Ball - 40
I Love Lucy completely changed the way television was produced when it aired in 1952, and Lucille Ball, the lady behind the name, quickly rose to become the first female studio head and one of the most famous women in the world. Her production company, Desilu Productions, would go on to make such hallmark TV shows as Star Trek, The Untouchables, and Mission Impossible.
Dennis Farina - 41
If he seems like the genuine article, it's only because Dennis Farina worked as a Chicago Police Officer before being offered his first role by director Michael Mann. Farina had been hired as a police consultant on Mann's 1981 film, Thief, but exuded such a unique persona, Mann had to capture it on film. Since then, Farina's kept busy playing no-nonsense, ball-busting, hard-asses in films and TV shows like Get Shorty, Snatch, Saving Private Ryan, and Law & Order.
Samuel L. Jackson - 46
What were movies before Samuel L. Jackson hit the scene? The man whose flicks have grossed more than $16 billion worldwide, Jackson didn't hit the big time until he was well into his 40s. After being suspended from Morehouse College for holding members of the Board of Trustees hostage during the post-King civil rights movement, Jackson returned to his alma mater a few years later to study marine biology and architecture. He moved to Los Angeles to become a social worker, but fell into heroin and cocaine addiction. That life experience helped him land the role of a crack addict in Jungle Fever, which eventually led to his star turn as Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction. The rest is movie history.