Special Report

Stars Who Didn’t Hit Their Stride Until After They Turned 40

An old adage says life begins at 40. That might be said to be especially true for many now-famous entertainment industry personalities, for whom stardom didn’t come until after – and sometimes long after their 40th birthday. (Here, on the other hand, are some actors who won an Oscar before the age of 30.)

To compile a list of stars who didn’t hit their stride until after they turned 40, 24/7 Tempo gathered information from IMDb,an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon, and from Newsweek and various other media sites.  

Many of the stars on our list had busy careers before making it big, appearing on stage, on TV, or in movies, sometimes in uncredited roles. 

Lucille Ball, for instance, appeared in many movies in the 1930 and ‘40s, but changed the arc of television entertainment with the sitcom “I Love Lucy” in 1951, which launched a few months after her 40th birthday. Betty White, known to TV viewers for her frequent appearances on game shows, became a star in earnest for her role as the salacious Sue Ann Nivens on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” when she was 51. (White is perhaps the ultimate example of actors with the longest careers.)

Click here to see stars who didn’t hit their stride until after they turned 40

Some actors who found fame didn’t take a direct path to the acting profession. Danny Trejo was a hardened criminal with a drug-addiction problem, whose boxing skills and intimidating demeanor landed him a role in “Runaway Train.” Liam Neeson was a forklift operator and an amateur boxer long before he played Oskar Schindler, the Austrian businessman who shielded Jews during the Holocaust, in “Schindler’s List.” Before she won two Emmys playing a presidential aide on “The West Wing,” Kathryn Joosten was a psychiatric nurse in Chicago.

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