Success Knows No Age: 13 Celebrities Who Found Fame Later in Life

Did you know that some of the biggest names in show business didn’t actually become famous until they were well into their forties or beyond? Here’s a list of 13 famous stars who defied the odds. 

Samuel L. Jackson

Samuel L. Jackson Tinseltown _ Shutterstock.com
Photo Credit: Tinseltown_Shutterstock.com.

As the third highest-grossing actor worldwide, you probably can’t imagine Samuel Jackson as a young man. That’s because he only became well-known on the big screen in his 40s when Quentin Tarantino starred him in Pulp Fiction. He is now on Hollywood’s A-list with over 150 appearances during his career.

Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston Featureflash Photo Agency _ Shutterstock.com
Photo Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency _ Shutterstock.com.

If you’ve ever seen Breaking Bad, you may find it funny that Bryan Cranston became famous at around the same age that Walter White became a drug lord. Even his earlier role as the Malcolm in the Middle dad was when he was 44.

Ken Jeong

Ken Jeong Alex Millauer _ Shutterstock.com
Photo Credit: Alex Millauer _ Shutterstock.com.

Famous for his roles in Knocked Up and The Hangover, Ken Jeong was not always an actor; In fact, he was a Duke-educated practicing physician before he broke onto the movie scene. After pursuing his passion for acting on the side for 20 years, he reached his first acting break at 38 and landed his Hangover role at age 40.

Melissa McCarthy

Melissa McCarthy Kathy Hutchins _ Shutterstock.com
Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins _ Shutterstock.com.

Starting with a supporting role in Gilmore Girls, Melissa McCarthy reached true stardom when she landed a leading character role in Mike and Molly at 40. A year later, she starred in Bridesmaids and has since continued to rise as a comedic star.

Steve Carell

Steve Carell Denis Makarenko _ Shutterstock.com
Photo Credit: Denis Makarenko _ Shutterstock.com.

Well-known from The 40-Year-Old Virgin and The Office, Steve Carrell only secured the latter role at age 42. He received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and was recognized as America’s Funniest Man by Life magazine for the role. He currently has a net worth of $80 million.

Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart lev radin _ Shutterstock.com
Photo Credit: lev radin _ Shutterstock.com.

Entrepreneur, media personality, and chef Martha Stewart joined the culinary world when she was 41. She abandoned her Wall Street career and pursued her passion by publishing her first cookbook in 1982. Known as a self-made, workaholic millionaire, she’s since created a catering empire with businesses, restaurants, cookbooks, and magazines.

Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson CarlaVanWagoner _ Shutterstock.com
Photo Credit: CarlaVanWagoner _ Shutterstock.com.

[Spoiler alert] While he may have found and killed the perpetrators in Taken, Liam didn’t land and kill his first big acting role in Schindler’s List until he was 41. Before then, he worked odd jobs like operating forklifts or driving trucks.

Jane Lynch

Jane Lynch Ovidiu Hrubaru _ Shutterstock.com
Photo Credit: Ovidiu Hrubaru _ Shutterstock.com.

Jane Lynch secured many smaller roles as a young actress, but none that topped the charts. She broke out during Best in Show at age 40 but finally found her spot in the limelight at 49 when she starred in the TV series Glee.

Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman Featureflash Photo Agency _ Shutterstock.com
Photo Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency _ Shutterstock.com.

Morgan Freeman didn’t land a breakout role until the movie Street Smart, at the age of 50! 

His first official time acting was as a 12-year-old in his school’s drama competition – a punishment assigned to him by a teacher after rowdy behavior in class. He has since become one of Hollywood’s most respected stars.

Danny Trejo

Danny Trejo Brandon Nagy _ Shutterstock.com
Photo Credit: Brandon Nagy _ Shutterstock.com.

After struggling in and out of jail for over 11 years, Danny Trejo completed a 12-step rehabilitation program that led him to support a young man who happened to be on the set of Runaway Train

The director noticed Danny’s looks and boxing experience, and he landed a small role as a boxer on the set in 1985. He was 41 years old at the time and is now a well-known face in Hollywood.

Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington Ron Adar _ Shutterstock.com
Photo Credit: Ron Adar _ Shutterstock.com.

Most readers have at least skimmed an article from The Huffington Post in the past. This publication was started by Arianna Huffington when she was 50 years old, after which it was sold to AOL for over $300 million. It continues to receive over 126 million monthly visitors. 

Arianna has since been named in Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people and the Forbes Most Powerful Women list.

Vera Wang

Vera Wang Leonard Zhukovsky _ Shutterstock.com
Photo Credit: Leonard Zhukovsky _ Shutterstock.com.

If you’re into fashion even a little, you’ve probably oohed and awed at Vera Wang’s designs. Shockingly enough, she was a journalist and figure skater in her youth, primarily working at Vogue as an editor and later at Ralph Lauren. She didn’t enter the cloth-and-design fashion industry until age 40 and is now one of the best-known designers in the industry.

Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball Vicki L. Miller _ Shutterstock.com
Photo Credit: Vicki L. Miller _ Shutterstock.com.

You may know her better as the main star in I Love Lucy, a role Lucille Ball created alongside her husband at 40. It soon became the most-watching show in the U.S. and can still be watched today.

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Photo Credit: DFree _ Shutterstock.com.

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Photo Credit: Rena Schild Shutterstock.com.

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Photo Credit: BAKOUNINE _ Shutterstock.com.

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John David Washington and Denzel Washington Andrea Raffin _ Shutterstock.com
Photo Credit: Andrea Raffin _ Shutterstock.com.

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Photo Credit: carrie-nelson _ Shutterstock.com.

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