While most celebrities become famous by the time they’re in their 20’s or 30’s, for one reason or another these 15 stars didn’t find fame until they hit the big 4-0.
Hollywood Hulk Hogan based his wrestling ego on the fact he was a star, but in actuality, Hogan wasn’t a star until he was in his 40’s. Hogan began his professional career in wrestling before trying his hand at starring in movies. After appearing in a few films, Hogan returned to wrestling, this time teaming up with Vince McMahon, who purchased WWF from his father. Becoming the face of the WWF, Hulk and his Hulkmania persona took the wrestling company to new heights and he became a permanent fixture in pop culture. After dominating the wrestling ring, Hogan ventured off into other fields including movies and reality television.
Her husband was a world famous rocker who has been entertaining fans for over 40 years, but while Ozzie Osbourne shined, Sharon stayed in the background as manager of Black Sabbath. But at the age of 50 she finally stepped into the limelight by starring in the 2002 MTV reality show “The Osbournes” with the rest of her family. Osbourne had a short stint as a judge on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” and is now a co-host on “The Talk” on CBS.
Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson has starred in over 100 movies and most of them have been after the actor hit the age of 40. Jackson had a few small parts in several movies, including Coming to America and Goodfellas, but it was his portrayal of a crack addict in Spike Lee’s 1991 film Jungle Fever that finally got him noticed. Since then Jackson, who was a former crack addict in real life, has gone on to star in both blockbuster hits as well as independent films, a great feat especially since he overcame a stuttering problem in his childhood.
Regis Philbin began his career in television as an NBC page for “The Tonight Show” before co-hosting “The Joey Bishop Show.” Philbin had his own local talk in Los Angeles for eight years before he was thrust into the national spotlight as the co-host of Live with Regis and Kathy Lee in 1988. He was 57 years old at the time. The New York native remained on the show until he retired in 2011. Philbin currently holds the Guinness Record for “Most Hours On Camera.”
Betty White has been around forever. Or so it seems. The 91-year-old actress got her start in the 1940’s in radio and transitioned over to television in the 50’s by appearing on numerous talk shows and game shows, but it was her character on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” as man-hungry happy homemaker Sue Ann Nivens that took her career to new heights. White, who was 51 at the time she joined the show, won back-to-back Emmys for her role as Nivens. White then became a recurring character on “Mama’s Family” before her iconic role as Rose Nylund on “The Golden Girls.” Still finding work, White stars in “Hot In Cleveland” and hosts her own show “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers.”
Leslie Neilson always wanted to be a star. He got his start in show business after a stint in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Appearing on television for the first time in 1948, Nielsen was in over 50 television shows in just two years. Making the switch to film a decade later, the Canadian actor starred in several genres but it was his role in the 1980 movie parody Airplane! that put him on the map at the age of 54. The Mr. Magoo star became even more popular with each unclothed Gun movie. Neilen passed away in 2010 at the age of 84.
Joy Behar has been a staple on ABC’s “The View” for 16 years but before she decided on a career in showbiz, the New York native was a high school teacher. In her early 40’s, Behar decided on a change in career and started out as a stand up comedian. It wasn’t until Barbara Walters came up with the daytime talk show in 1997 and added Behar to the original cast at 54 that she become a national star. Behar has announced she will be leaving “The View” when her contract expires at the end of this season and is excited to work on other projects.
Morgan Freeman has had a long and successful career in Hollywood, starring in over 90 movies. Freeman heavily paid his dues before receiving recognition for his work though. The Memphis, Tennessee native starred in a handful of movies, some uncredited, before he earned an Oscar nomination for the 1988 film Driving Miss Daisy at the age of 52. Playing every character from God to an assassin, the Lean On Me star has earned a total of six nominations while taking home an Academy Award for the 2005 movie Million Dollar Baby. Freeman can be currently seen in Now You See Me which hit theaters a few weeks ago.
Steven Seagal fell in love with martial arts at an early age and moved to Japan to further his training. The action hero opened up his own dojo in the U.S. and actually began his acting career as a favor to one of his students by starring in Above the Law. A few years later, Under Siege became a box-office hit and Seagal was christened the next action hero at the age of 40. Unfortunately Under Siege 2 bombed at the box office and Seagal began to focus his career on direct to DVD films.
Like many actors of her time, Beatrice Arthur began her career in Broadway in the late 40’s, but she didn’t find national success until the age of 50 when Norman Lear invited her to star on his show All In The Family as the liberal feminist Maude Findlay. That guest spot segued into her own show “Maude.” The New York native found further success later in her career as Dorothy Zbornak on “The Golden Girls.” Arthur also served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. The star passed away in 2009 at the age of 86.
Steve Carrell sharpened his comedic and acting chops as a correspondent on Comedy Central’s “Daily Show With Jon Stewart” for six seasons before inking a deal with NBC. He starred in the mockumentary style show “The Office” which was a remake of a British television show by the same name but it received horrible ratings in the first season before becoming a cult hit. Carrell, who was 43 when “The Office” first aired, left the show after seven seasons to focus his career on the silver screen. After nine seasons, “The Office” finally took its last bow in 2013.
Simon Cowell is notorious for ripping contestants to shreds as a judge on “American Idol.” Before he became a household name in the U.S. or even the U.K., Cowell was an estate agent developer and then a music executive. In 2001, Cowell became a judge for the U.K.’s “Pop Idol.” A year later, he decided to cross the pond and start a version of that show in the U.S. His sharp yet funny criticism of contestants made him the most hated judge on the show but he was also one of the most popular. After leaving “American Idol” in 2010, Cowell started another singing competition show “The X Factor.”
NeNe Leakes was just another 41-year-old housewife in Atlanta until she was cast on Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Atlanta” in 2008 but it was her appearance on the eleventh season of NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice” that propelled Leakes’ star power. Leakes, who used to work as a stripper when she was a single mom, grabbed the attention of “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy while on Donald Trump’s show. Not only is Leakes a recurring character on the hit Fox show, the native New Yorker also starred on NBC’s “The New Normal,” which was also created by Ryan Murphy.
Burt Reynolds has starred in over 70 movies but the legendary actor got his start in the theater after an injury sidelined a professional football career. Reynolds made the transition to television in the 60’s, picking up bit parts before setting his sights on the silver screen. It wasn’t until his breakout role in the 1972 film Deliverance that people in Hollywood began to take notice. The Longest Yard actor went on to have an illustrious career in Hollywood earning him a star on the iconic Walk of Fame.
Matt Lauer’s face is synonymous with NBC and “The Today Show” but the 55-year-old television journalist and former ESPN reporter wasn’t a household name until his 40’s. Lauer, who was previously a local talk show host in Boston, Richmond and Philadelphia, replaced Bryant Gumbel on “The Today Show” in 1997. Since then, the show has gone on to dominate the ratings by being the number one show and regularly beating ABC’s “Good Morning America” until recently. Lauer saw his popularity plummet after the departure of former colleague Ann Curry. Many believed Lauer was behind her dismissal because the two lacked chemistry on-air.