Bright Side
Bright Side

7 Celebrities Who Earned the Highest Recognition Only After Turning 40

We’ve all gotten used to young entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates becoming successful at a very young age when, in reality, this type of recognition comes to people much later in life. Take, for instance, fashion designer Vera Wang, who didn’t launch her own brand until the age of 40. Or Henry Ford, who created his revolutionary car at the age of 45.

1. Adam Sandler


Sandler first appeared on television in 1990 at the age of 23 and then made a fantastic film career in Hollywood as a comedy star. Though, despite all the box office successes and his devoted fanbase, critical reviews usually left much to be desired.

Sandler’s been “awarded” with 9 Golden Rasberry Awards, an accolade that is the exact opposite of an Oscar — and has been nominated a whopping 37 times. But with the 57 films he’s created during this period, derision seems to be expected.

Actually, during the last few years, the comedian reinvented himself as a dramatic actor, and it was a fruitful change. His latest work on Netflix, the basketball drama-comedy, Hustle, was well-received, even by critics. And now, the 56-year-old actor-comedian is about to receive The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

To be clear about what it really means to any nominee, let’s just take a look at who has received it prior to Sandler. They were luminaries like Richard Pryor, Carl Reiner, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, George Carlin, and Ellen DeGeneres.

2. Alan Rickman

AF Archive/David Gadd./Mary Evans Picture Library/East News

Alan Rickman became the world’s most-loved villain after playing Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies. He made an incredible impression on viewers around the globe. However, not many fans know that Rickman was already 54 when they started to shoot the first movie.

Of course, he’s had many great roles in his life and has won many awards long before Harry Potter. Yet it was J.K. Rowling’s creation that allowed him to conquer the hearts of a younger generation, which is the key to success in our modern world.

It may sound funny, but when he started filming Harry Potter, there were only 3 books written, so he had no idea that the tale would stretch across 6 novels and 7 films. And still, he continued his work despite the fact he was about to direct his own movies. It seems like it was a good decision.

After his death in 2016, J.K. Rowling tweeted: “There are no words to express how shocked and devastated I am to hear of Alan Rickman’s death. He was a magnificent actor and a wonderful man.” And he magnificently portrayed the author’s character on-screen, remaining in our hearts and memories forever.

3. Simon Cowell

Simon Cowell is well-known, first, for his television career. However, he had great success in the music industry as well, selling millions of records worldwide, with a total of 14 number-one singles in the United Kingdom.

But he became hugely famous for his project, American Idol, which launched in 2002, a year after the first series, Pop Idol. Cowell was 42 back then, and the show was a true television hit, which then allowed him to launch The X Factor. Then, in 2007, came Britain’s Got Talent’s debut, where Susan Boyle and many other winners received international recognition.

4. Lucille Ball

Courtesy Everett Collection/Everett Collection/East News

Even today, Lucille Ball is the most iconic housewife. But the actress didn’t earn this status the easy way, and she had to face a lot of rejection before becoming famous.

For instance, while studying at a drama school, teachers frowned at her dancing and said her accent was incompatible with stardom. In addition to this, she was rejected from Broadway chorus lines, so she had to work as a server and a model for some time.

She finally made it to television with her most popular project, I Love Lucy, when she was 40. And tensions were running high since she insisted on playing alongside her Cuban husband, Desi Arnaz.

CBS executives didn’t like the idea. They thought an American audience wouldn’t feel comfortable seeing a mixed-race couple on their screens. However, they gave it all a try and the first pilot episode was shot. And surprisingly enough, audiences fell in love with them! And we’ve continued to admire them, even today.

5. Joaquin Phoenix


Joaquin Phoenix is also a great example of an actor whose talent we started to recognize only when they acted in a successful movie. In this case, it was Joker, and the actor did a fantastic job portraying the well-known villain on screen.

This leading role brought the actor a much-deserved Oscar for Best Actor. He was 45 back then. Previously, the Oscar, posthumously, went to Heath Ledger for the same role in The Dark Knight. He would’ve been just 29 years old at the time.

6. Gary Oldman

Elizabeth Goodenough/Everett Collection/EAST NEWS

Despite many years of work and many great roles, Gary Oldman was first nominated for an Oscar only in 2012 for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. But he had to wait 6 more years before getting his first statuette for his role in Darkest Hour.

Oldman was 59 years old at this time, and this long wait ended up becoming a joke in his speech at the award ceremony. He said that his mother was 99, much older than the Oscar itself, and she was watching her son accept the award from the comfort of her sofa. “Thank you for your love and support,” concluded the actor. “Put the kettle on. I’m bringing an Oscar home.”

7. Peter Dinklage


This actor is an example of what exceptional passion and love for writing and acting look like. Being just 4 feet and 5 inches (134.6 cm), Peter Dinklage seemed to be doomed to play leprechauns and elves. But he refused to go on auditions for parts like these.

He spent years taking on small film roles and TV cameos. And even when The Game of Thrones co-creator, David Benioff, approached him with a role on HBO’s new series, he still had some hesitations. Because it was a fantasy, he asked that his character not have a long beard or pointy shoes. He took his acting very seriously and wanted to look appropriate.

The show’s creators assured the actor that his character wouldn’t be anything like that. So he signed on and it worked out! As a result, Tyrion Lannister became a fan-favorite in the series.

And it seems like the then-42-year-old actor was the best choice for this role. He won an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor, and his career shows no signs of slowing down.

Bright Side/Films/7 Celebrities Who Earned the Highest Recognition Only After Turning 40
Share This Article