35 Celebrities Who Became Famous Later In Life & Proved Giving Up Wasn't An Option

No one said that acting was easy — least of all these celebrities. While many of today's A-List stars have been in the business since they were fresh-faced teens, or, in the case of Ryan Gosling, since they were children and Mouseketeers, not every actor got their start so early. In fact, some of the biggest names in Hollywood only got to where they are after putting in years and years of struggle. So which celebrities got their taste of fame later in life? Click through to find out.

by Kaitlin Reilly

Jeremy Renner

The Bourne Legacy actor was a bit player for years before breaking out with his Oscar-nominated performance in The Hurt Locker. He was 36.

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Jon Hamm

Hamm was dropped by his agent when he struggled to find a breakout role in his early 20s. Things did a 180 for the then 36-year-old actor when he was cast as Don Draper in AMC’s Mad Men in 2007.

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Jenna Fischer

Fischer was a struggling actress before she landed the role of Pam on The Office at age 31.

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Jane Lynch

Lynch broke out when she was 43-years-old with a part in the mockumentary Best In Show.

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Tina Fey

Fey was a writer on Saturday Night Live at age 27, but didn’t make it as a Weekend Anchor until three years later.

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Alan Rickman

The man who would become Snape didn’t start his film career until age 46, when he was cast as the villain in Die Hard.

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Christoph Waltz

The German actor didn’t become a household name in the United States until he was 53-years-old. Quentin Tarantino’s film Inglorious Basterds scored him his first Academy Award.

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Connie Britton

Though the actress was a regular on Spin City, the world didn’t take notice until she was cast as Tami Taylor on Friday Night Lights when the actress was in her early 40s.

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Joe Manganiello

Though he had a small guest role on One Tree Hill, Manganiello didn’t become a recognizable actor until his early 30s, when he was cast as Alcide on HBO’s True Blood.

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Harrison Ford

Surprised? The actor may be famous for iconic flicks like Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but he was in his early 30s when he was cast as Han Solo in the former.

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Jessica Chastain

The Interstellar star may be one of the most visible actresses in Hollywood, but she received her first IMDb credit at 27 years old.

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Ang Lee

Lee was actually a stay-at-home dad before becoming a full-time director at age 38. He went on to score the Best Director Oscar for Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi.

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Sylvester Stallone

Stallone struggled to make ends meet as an actor, even resorting to shooting porn to scrap by. Then, at age 30, he was cast in Rocky as the titular character. The Academy awarded his struggle with an Oscar nomination.

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Kristen Wiig

The comedian was cast on Saturday Night Live when she was 32 years old.

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Lupita Nyong'o

Best Supporting Actress winner Nyong’o studied her craft before breaking out in Hollywood. She received a Master’s from Yale University in 2012 before going on to nab the Oscar for 12 Years A Slave.

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Steve Carell

Carell was a bit part actor and a corespondent for the Daily Show before he scored the part of Michael Scott on The Office at age 40. Later that year, he starred in the sensational Judd Apatow flick The 40 Year Old Virgin.

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Naomi Watts

Though the actress already had a few films and TV spots under her belt, she hit A-List status when she was cast in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive at 31.

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Christina Hendricks

Hendricks had small parts in television and film prior to her role as Joan on Mad Men, but didn’t truly breakout until she scored the part on the AMC series at age 32.

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Samuel L. Jackson

Believe it or not, Jackson was a social worker before deciding to pursue a career in acting. His breakout role was in Pulp Fiction, which he scored when he was 45 years old.

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Kathy Bates

Bates didn’t become a household name until her creepy performance in the Stephen King adaptation Misery at age 42. She scored the Best Actress Oscar for the role.

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Joy Behar

The standup comedian didn’t become a household name until she became a panelist on The View at age 54.

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Morgan Freeman

Freeman didn’t score his first big role until Driving Miss Daisy — a film that he made when he was 52 years old.

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Melissa McCarthy

Gilmore Girls knew McCarthy as Sookie St. James for years, but the world didn’t truly get to know this funny girl until her hysterical supporting role in Bridesmaids in 2011.

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Bryan Cranston

Sure, he’s iconic for his portrayal of Walter White, but he didn’t even score his role as the dad on Malcolm and the Middle until he was 44.

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James Gandolfini

The Sopranos star landed the iconic role of Tony Soprano at age 38.

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Judi Dench

Dench was famous in the theater world, but didn’t make it into the mainstream cinema until she was cast as M in the 1995 film GoldenEye. She was 61.

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Dustin Hoffman

Hoffman’s first major film role came at age 30 with The Graduate. He was nominated for an Oscar.

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Billy Bob Thornton

Thornton didn’t achieve fame until his film Sling Blade, which he wrote, directed, and starred in at age 39.

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Ricky Gervais

The Invention of Lying star was 40 when he starred on the UK version of The Office.

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Regis Philbin

Philbin holds the record for most time held in front of a television camera, but didn’t land his national talk show Live With Regis and Kathie Lee until he was in his 50s.

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Patrick Stewart

Stewart had a lucrative career on Broadway, but is most famous for his role on Star Trek: The Next Generation, which he didn’t nab until he was in his late 40s.

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Leslie Nielsen

Though the now-deceased actor had bit parts in many films at the start of his career, his breakout role was in the 1980 movie Airplane! when he was 54 years old.

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Kathryn Joosten

The late Joosten didn’t move to Hollywood to pursue acting until she was 56 years old. She went on to star on shows like The West Wing and Desperate Housewives.

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Ken Jeong

Here’s a weird story. The Hangover star was a practicing physician doing standup on the side before scoring roles in films like Knocked Up.

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Gene Hackman

The two-time Oscar winner was a military man, and later small part Broadway actor, before scoring a supporting role in the 1967 flick Bonnie and Clyde.

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