These A-listers made it big later in life.
Samuel L. Jackson
In the early years of his career, Samuel L. Jackson took part in hundreds of unsuccessful auditions and productions that were doomed to fail. For much of his life, the actor was struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, which impeded his professional growth.
When he was a theater actor, Jackson would often go on stage under the influence. But in the 1990s, he was lucky to land parts in Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas and Spike Lee's Jungle Fever, and the latter role earned 43-year-old Jackson the Best Supporting Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Three years later, he starred in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, and that is how Samuel L. Jackson became a fixture in Hollywood.
This actor entered the profession back in 1964, but none of the films Patrick Stewart starred in were particularly popular. Despite his good looks and undeniable talent, the actor wasn't offered any important roles, no matter how much he tried. Twenty-three years after the start of his career in cinema, Steward gained stardom through his leading role in Star Trek: The Next Generation. The actor was 47 at the time. Steward continues to act extensively and is known to wider audiences for his role as Professor X in the popular superhero film series X-Men.
Many know Maggie Smith for her role as Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter franchise, but in fact, the actress achieved professional success long before the magical film series premiered. In 1970, Smith won an Oscar for her leading role in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. She then paused her career in the movies and focused on theater work instead. At the time Smith starred in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, she was 67 years old. Following the overwhelming success of the saga, the actress participated in a few other film and TV projects, including Downton Abbey and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
The actress found international fame at the age of 61 when she portrayed M, the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, in the James Bond movie GoldenEye. This was Judi Dench's fifth movie role: in her early years, the actress preferred to act on the theater stage. It was Dench's husband Michael Williams who inspired her to try acting in cinema. Unfortunately, Williams passed away in 2001, but his wife continued to star on screen, appearing in more than 40 film projects between 1995 and 2017. The actress was nominated for eight Oscars, winning one for her role in Shakespeare in Love.
The distinguished actor made his debut in the 1971 family drama film Who Says I Can't Ride a Rainbow! Morgan Freeman was proud of his role, but the picture was not a big success. Ten years later, he was invited to play in Brubaker, which was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 1981 Academy Awards. The actor continued to attend auditions but did not get any interesting offers. At 51, Freeman landed his breakthrough role in Street Smart — and today, more than 30 years after the success, he is still among the Hollywood A-list actors.