​​10 actors who made it BIG later in life

Acting is a tough gig. It can be years before you make your mark – if you're worried that things aren't panning out quite as quickly as you'd like, then don't! There are plenty of stars who took their sweet time too. Here's Mandy's rundown of ten actors who made it later in life.

13th March 2018
/ By Matthew Whitehouse

actors famous later in life acting bryan cranston samuel l jackson christoph waltz alan rickman morg GETTY

If you haven't already, check out our list of actresses who got their big break later on.

Bryan Cranston (61)
With a string of bit parts and supporting roles under his belt dating back to 1968, Bryan Cranston has been working consistently most of his adult life. But he hadn't gained recognition until a little family comedy show called Malcolm in The Middle hit screens in early 2000, when he was 44. This launched him into the mainstream, but it wasn't until eight years later, with Breaking Bad, that he became the household name we all know today. In its final season, Cranston took home a cool $1.8 million (£1.29m). Now in his 60s, Cranston's list of IMDb credits is as long as it is impressive.

Morgan Freeman (80)

Everyone's favourite narrator, star of The Shawshank Redemption, Deep Impact, Kiss The Girls, Seven, Million Dollar Baby, The Dark Knight – the list goes on (and on, and on), Morgan Freeman surprisingly wasn't always in high demand. Working since 1964 (in The Pawnbroker, he played 'man on the street'), it wasn't until Driving Miss Daisy in 1989, where he played Hoke Colburn, for which he was nominated for an Oscar, that he achieved proper recognition. He has gone on to become one of the most recognisable voices in the industry and has since won an Oscar for Million Dollar Baby.


Ricky Gervais (56)

The master of cringe humour started out doing bit parts on long forgotten Channel 4 comedy The 11 O'clock Show (which also launched the careers of Charlie Brooker and Sacha Baron Cohen) while he attempted to get his own TV show off the ground. When The Office hit our screens, Ricky Gervais then really hit the big time – aged 43. The Office's deft mix of almost unbearably uncomfortable humour and a relatable office environment made it an instant classic. He then went on to start a stand up career, was one of the first stars to adopt podcasting, hit gold again with Extras and has now successfully infiltrated Hollywood.


Steve Carell (55)

After a number of smaller comic roles including The Dana Carvey Show and Anchorman, Judd Apatow's The 40 Year Old Virgin was Carrell's first major starring role. From there the American actor starred in the US adaptation of The Office, won several awards, is lead actor in the Despicable Me franchise and enjoyed an Oscar nomination for Olympic wrestling drama, Foxcatcher. And his career isn't slowing down, with five films already in in pre-production this year.


Ty Burrell (50)

Self professed 'guy who got killed or fired' in every film or TV show he was in, it wasn't until Golden Globe-winning series Modern Family came around in 2009 that his career took a major turn – before that he was the friend, the snarky lawyer, or the leering co-worker. Modern Family began when Burrell was 40 and the sitcom is still running today.


Alan Rickman (69)

Before his untimely death, Alan Rickman was one of the most beloved British actors in the world. After years of work at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), Rickman gained wider recognition for his first major role as Hans Gruber in Die Hard at the age of 42. The villainous role led to a career full of amazing highlights, including Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, Dogma, Love Actually and perhaps most famously, bringing to life Professor Snape in the Harry Potter series.


Christoph Waltz (61)

Plucked from the obscurity of German stage and television by Quentin Tarantino, for a front and centre role in World War II thriller  Inglourious Basterds, as Colonel Hans Landa in 2009, Waltz had been working solidly since the 1970s supporting his family with plays and small TV roles. He has since returned to work with Tarantino in Django Unchained, worked with Matt Damon in Downsizing and stars in the up-and-coming Robert Rodriguez spectacular Alita: Battle Angel. Waltz, who got his Hollywood break at 52, has won two Oscars.


Jeremy Renner (47)

By age 38, Jeremy Renner had amassed a long list of credits, but nothing too substantial. It was Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar-nominated war film The Hurt Locker that launched him into the spotlight proper, earning Renner a nomination for Best Actor. He then went on to play Hawkeye in the multi-billion dollar franchise The Avengers, which is approaching its last instalment this year.


Samuel L Jackson (69)

A man who needs no introduction – one of the most iconic actors of the last twenty years, famous for his ability to make curse words almost sound lyrical. Samuel L. Jackson was 46 when he was plucked from support roles and put in Quentin Tarantino's groundbreaking classic Pulp Fiction. Since then Jackson has collaborated with Tarantino regularly, killed a bunch of snakes on a plane, lisped his way through Kingsman and even got to wield a lightsaber in the Star Wars prequels.


Jon Hamm (46)

Everyone knows the name Don Draper these days. Mad Men was one of the biggest TV shows of the time – making studio AMC a major force to reckon with – and really marked the beginning of Hamm's career, aged 36. Pre 2007 his credits are quite sporadic – a series here, a guest spot there – but since Mad Men, Hamm has been in numerous films, and TV shows, and won several awards for the hit series.