No one is born a star. In our youth obsessed culture and marketplace, it’s nice to find out many of today’s iconic stars and household names got a late start. For some celebrities, it takes years of hard work, small roles, and persistence to make it in show business. Read on and gain inspiration especially if you are also 40+.
Jane Lynch, 53, had been in Hollywood for decades taking small roles on TV and in films like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Role Models,” but it wasn’t until a role on a Fox show that she hit the big time. In 2009, Lynch joined the cast of “Glee” as the gym teacher everyone loves to hate, Sue Sylvester. This role helped Lynch become famous while also winning her an Emmy at the 62nd Annual Primetime Emmys. The next year, she went on to host the awards for her first time.
Samuel L. Jackson’s first big role was in “Pulp Fiction” at the age 45.
Samuel L. Jackson has starred in hit movies such as “A Time To Kill” and “Snakes on a Plane.” For most of his career, however, he played minor roles in films like “Coming to America” and “Do The Right Thing.” Then, in 1994, Jackson landed the part of Jules Winnfield in a small independent film titled, “Pulp Fiction” (a role which director Quentin Tarantino wrote specifically with Jackson in mind). Jackson’s role in the film became almost immediately iconic, which led to Jackson starring in other popular films like “The Avengers,” and the “Star Wars” prequels giving him one of the coolest careers in Hollywood.
Joosten was a mother and psychiatric nurse for years, but after hearing her mother confess on her deathbed that she “regretted not having pursued her dreams,” Joosten signed up for acting classes at age 42 in order to pursue her own. After more than a decade, she eventually landed the role of lovable secretary Mrs. Landingham on “The West Wing” at age 60. Joosten went on to win an Emmy for “Desperate Housewives” before her death in 2012. No regrets, to be sure. I also LOVE the fact that Kathryn acknowledged participation in one-night seminars/cd workshops as part of the reason she got her “break” as an actor.
Regis Philbin wasn’t a household name until he was 57.
Regis Philbin started out as an NBC page and worked on “The Joey Bishop Show,” but he was never widely known. That changed in 1988 when the morning show Philbin was working on became the nationally syndicated “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee.” After almost 20 years of working on TV, Philbin’s chemistry with Kathie Lee made the show a success and gave him national exposure. At 57, it was the first time the name Regis was in the nation’s vocabulary. He’s been a part of pop culture ever since, most notably for hosting the game show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”
The man who would go on to become Mr. Chow in the “The Hangover” series could have been known as Dr. Chow. Comedian Ken Jeong spent nearly 20 years trying to break into the business doing stand-up while also practicing medicine as a physician.
Lucille Ball starred in “I Love Lucy” at the age of 40.
Lucille Ball was a pioneer for both female leads and for comedy after creating one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time, “I Love Lucy” in 1951. However, she didn’t become Lucy Ricardo until she was 40. Before “I Love Lucy,” Ball went from role to role in films. However, once television became a prominent medium she (along with her husband and co-star Desi Arnaz) tried to sell her vaudeville act to networks. That act became the prototype for “I Love Lucy.””I Love Lucy” was a huge success, and would go on to help create the modern sitcom (the show was one of the first sitcoms in history to use the three-camera filming format which is standard in sitcoms today) while also making Ball a star.
OK, these other “youngsters” were in their 30s but thought you’d like to know…
Gene Hackman’s legendary career began at age 37.
Before a role in 1967’s “Bonnie and Clyde,” Hackman worked odd jobs like field radio operator in the Marine Corps. Once discharged in 1951, he moved to New York to follow a career in radio, but then won some roles on Broadway. After his big break, Hackman went on to win two Academy Awards.
Jon Hamm almost gave up acting at age 36.
Jon Hamm, 42, spent years starring in minor roles while trying to become an A-list actor. According to his longtime girlfriend Jennifer Westfeldt, he almost gave it all up. “He would just say, ‘I’m going to hang it up, it’s not going to work out,'” Westfeldt told The Huffington Post. However, Hamm landed the “Mad Men” role in 2007 even though he felt he was at “the bottom of the list” and created one of the most interesting characters in the history of television.
Harrison Ford was a full-time carpenter until 35.
For the first half of his life, Harrison Ford was a carpenter. It wasn’t until director George Lucas saw Ford doing some wood-working at a studio while having auditions for a space film he was shooting called “Star Wars” that things changed. According to Lucas, he knew Ford from working with him on a small role in his previous film, “American Graffiti” and asked Ford to read scenes in the role of Han Solo. The rest became history in a galaxy far, far away.
Before Ang Lee won awards for directing he could have won “World’s Greatest Dad” for his role as a stay-at-home dad. After graduating from NYU film school with a Master of Fine Arts in Film Production, Lee stayed home “cooking, picking up [the] kids from school, and doing housework” while his wife, a molecular biologist, went to work. Lee nearly became a computer engineer after years of not being able to get into movie-making. With support from his wife to keep at it, Lee directed his first movie “Pushing Hands” at 38. This began an amazing career with Lee winning the Best Director Academy Award for “Brokeback Mountain” and “Life of Pi.”
So dear actor, do you have what it takes not only talent-wise, but perseverance-wise to hang in there for however long it takes? I’d love to hear your comments if you’re in the 40+ category of actors still pursuing this career and waiting for YOUR big break!
Sections of this post were drawn from an article posted in Business Insider written by Frank Palotta