Long before she was depicted by Meryl Streep in "Julie & Julia," Julia Child published her first book when she was 49. And the TV program that made her a household name, "The French Chef," didn’t air until she was 51.
After years on the stand-up circuit and brief writing stints on "Fridays" and "Saturday Night Live," Larry David was 42 and looking for his next gig. He and his buddy Jerry Seinfeld decided to write "The Seinfeld Chronicles," and the rest is TV history. David then showed the world he could also improvise and act in the critically acclaimed HBO series "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which we hope will be back soon for Season 9.
If there’s one thing you have to respect about Rodney Dangerfield, it’s how he didn’t let a failed marriage and dead-end job as an aluminum siding salesman prevent him from pursuing his comedy dream. He started performing regular stand-up in his 40s and — after another comic dropped out at the last minute — was booked on "The Ed Sullivan Show." He killed it and kept audiences laughing until his death in 2004.
It takes less time to become a real-life medical doctor than it took Theodor Seuss Geisel to become children’s author Dr. Seuss. He wrote his first book when he was 34, but it was rejected by over 20 different publishers. It wasn’t until "If I Ran the Zoo" was published 12 years later that the good doctor started down the path that led to over 600 million books sold worldwide.
Fed up with a career in academia, DeWitt spent years writing fragments of novels while working at various jobs. At 44, the author decided it was time to sit down, focus and write something she could finish. The result? Her epic novel, “The Last Samurai,” which was later adapted into a successful film starring Tom Cruise.
Kathryn Joosten didn’t enjoy her life as a struggling 40-something single mom with two kids, so decided to do something about it. She joined a community theater and eventually landed a series of small parts until, at the age of 60, she finally got her big break — Mrs. Landingham, the president’s secretary on "The West Wing." She went on to win two Emmy Awards for her role as Karen McCluskey in "Desperate Housewives."
Working steadily in films since his early 20s, Leslie Nielsen had a solid career as a character actor. But it was the hilarious spoof "Airplane!" that finally brought him worldwide acclaim. Nielsen went on to star in such modern-day comedy classics as "The Naked Gun," "Spy Hard" and "Dracula: Dead and Loving It." He died in 2010 at age 84.
Harland Sanders was many things in life: a middle school dropout, motel operator, Army mule-tender and farmhand. But he didn’t become the good Colonel we know and love until he was 65 years old, when he took his $105 Social Security check and turned it into Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Laura Ingalls Wilder
The author and creator of the “Little House on the Prairie” series started her writing career a bit later in life, at age 44. She didn't hit it big, however, until she was in her mid-60s, with the release of “Little House in the Big Woods” in 1931.
After spending his 30s and early 40s working as a dresser for stage actors, Alan Rickman didn’t get his first movie break until he turned 46. But what a role it was — as bad guy Hans Gruber, chasing Bruce Willis around a building in "Die Hard."
Disillusioned with the book business after publishing a few short stories in his early 20s, Bukowski put down the pen and picked up a bottle, which he held tightly for several decades. Eventually publisher John Martin was able to convince the writer to quit his job at the post office and write his first novel. In 1971, “Post Office” was met with critical acclaim. Bukowski was 51.
Marc Maron had been a comic for more than 20 years while watching friends like Louis C.K. and Sam Kinison explode on to the scene. After a long battle with substance abuse and depression, he decided to interview some of his old funny pals and post them on the Internet. That idea became the brilliant podcast “WTF with Marc Maron,” one of the most popular programs on iTunes. Maron, 49, can now be seen playing himself in a sitcom based on his life on IFC.
To help battle depression, Peter Roget compiled note cards with his favorite words written on them. At 73, he published this massive list with the title “Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases.” Interestingly, there's still no synonym for "thesaurus."
Known as the creator of "The Office," Ricky Gervais is one of the most successful comedy writers and actors working today. But his career didn’t get rolling until he was 40, when the first episode of the famous workplace mockumentary originally aired.
Here’s a mystery maybe one of Chandler’s famous fictional detectives could solve: Why did the author wait until he lost his job as an oil executive at 44 to start writing? We may never know what took him so long, but with classics like “The Big Sleep” and "Farewell, My Lovely," we’re grateful he did.
Samuel L. Jackson
"The Snakes on a Plane" star spent his 20s and 30s appearing in small film roles, most notably in Spike Lee's "School Daze" and "Do the Right Thing." He also did a lot of drinking and drugging. But many years later, it would be Quentin Tarantino who saw the greatness in Jackson, casting him as Jules Winnfield, the philosophical hitman in "Pulp Fiction." Jackson, who by then was in his mid-40s, was nominated for an Academy Award and went on to be one of Hollywood's highest grossing actors.
William S. Burroughs
They say you should write what you know and that's exactly what William S. Burroughs did. His first book, “Junky,” was published when the author was 40 years old, about his experiences with heroin addiction.
Churchill should serve as an inspiration to every politician who’s ever ended up with a case full of unopened champagne on election night. He spent his life as a political failure, losing every bid for public office ... until he finally became England's prime minister at the ripe old age of 62.