Creatives Who Prove It’s Never Too Late
I might have mentioned before that I love writing. But in order to pay all my rent, bills and keep the wolf from the door I have a day job that’s totally unrelated to the thing I love.
What has always made me unsure about whether I will achieve success is my age. I’m 34 now. Making a big leap to a new career has always felt like a younger person’s game. Something to be done in your early-to-mid-20’s, not 30's.
But it can be done. If you’re in the same boat as me, then take heart from inspiring creative celebrities from the worlds of movies, television, music and literature who showed that you can still achieve your goals even as a late bloomer.
The beloved star of stage and screen was one of many who sadly left us in 2016. His magnetic presence will never be forgotten, whether you know him best as Harry Potter’s Severius Snape, Die Hard’s Hans Gruber or for one of his many other iconic movie roles.
What you may not know is that Die Hard was Alan Rickman’s first big screen role, and he didn’t get that until he was 42. Not only that, but it’s not as though he started auditioning at 40 and landed and plum gig. He spent the best part of a decade on the sidelines after he quit his graphic design company to pursue acting full time.
Rickman spent time as a “dresser” for other theatre actors, and after literally years of holding other actors’ coats (presumably while asking them to put in a word for him with any casting directors they knew) Rickman landed a role in the theatre adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuse, and that performance caught the eye of movie producer Joel Silver.
Rickman was asked if he would like to play a villain opposite Bruce Willis, and the rest, as they say, is history. After more than a decade of persevering and paying his dues, Alan Rickman finally made the breakthrough into acting full-time, as a bona fide movie star.
You know Stephen King as, well, the “king” of horror. He’s written more novels than most of us have probably ever read — and the thing is, it’s not as though King was some kind of child protege. He was a late bloomer too, and he’s been making up for lost time ever since!
Approaching his late 20’s, King was living in a trailer and working menial jobs — like janitorial work — to support his studies at the University of Maine, writing during whatever snatches of free time he could find. He was able to successfully sell some short stories to magazines, but his first novel, Carrie, didn’t find a publisher until he was 26.
King didn’t even know he had hit the jackpot with Carrie, throwing away an early draft after becoming frustrated with it. Thankfully, his wife knew better, encouraging King to keep writing. Things soon took off, with King following up his debut with more classics: Salem’s Lot, The Shining and The Stand. He continues to write prolifically even today. Not bad for someone who almost gave up in his 20s.
Samuel L. Jackson
You may know Samuel L. Jackson from his roles in…well, every damn thing. The IMDb lists the 70-year-old (yes, he’s really 70) as having 183 acting credits to his name, including at least six movies that haven’t even come out yet. With such a wide variety of roles, you might think the Pulp Fiction and The Avengers star must have started out young. But, if you’ve paid attention to the article thus far, you’ll know that’s not true.
Remarkably, Jackson had to wait until he was in his 40’s to get his first meaningful movie role. Sure, he had small roles in the early 80s and 90s in School Daze, Do The Right Thing and Goodfellas, but by 1992 Jackson was spending time in a supporting role on the kids TV show Ghostwriter.
Things soon to a turn for the better. A year later, Jackson grabbed his first starring role in National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1. It was followed by Amos & Andrew and better-known gigs in Jurassic Park, True Romance and, most famously, Pulp Fiction. All this happened, by the way, when Jackson was in his fourth decade. So even if you’re toiling at a job that isn’t your dream, like Ghostwriter, your Pulp Fiction could be just around the corner!
Just in case you somehow don’t know who J. K. Rowling is, she is the author behind the beloved Harry Potter series, as well as three novels in the Cormoran Strike series (under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith) and the standalone novel The Casual Vacancy. She’s also branched into other areas of writing, penning the screenplays for the adaptation of Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them and its sequel.
But hasn’t always been success and Harry Potter royalty checks for Rowling — as she approached her 30’s, she was an unemployed depressed single mother. She wrote the first Harry Potter novel as her daughter slept. After being rejected several times, the book was published in 1997, when Rowling was 32. She would go on to become a giant of the literature world. And to think, just a few years previously she thought of herself as a failure.
The great singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen was another to sadly leave us in 2016, although it seemed like the Canadian, 88 when he died, had made peace with his mortality before he went.
During his life, Cohen became a music legend for a discography that wound through the disparate genres of folk, rock, gospel, and even electronica. And yet, Cohen did not even embark on a music career until the age of 33.
Before picking up a guitar, Cohen was a published poet and author, though none of his poetry anthologies or novels sold particularly well. Disappointed by a lack of financial success, Cohen applied his poetry writing skills to song lyrics, and impressed many contemporaries in America’s burgeoning folk scene. Picked up by Columbia Records (also home to Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel), he released his first album, Songs Of Leonard Cohen, in 1967, and finally found the success he thought would elude him forever.
Sir Terry Pratchett has always been one of my favourite authors, combining a vivid imagination with homespun wisdom and a gift for great comedy. No novels can make me laugh out loud the way his Discworld novels could.
As a teenager, reading those novels, I assumed that Pratchett had come up with the idea of the Discworld and just sat back as the success and money followed. But it was never that easy. His first novel, The Carpet People, was published in 1971 and followed by the sci-fi and fantasy novels The Dark Side Of The Sun (1976) and Strata (1981). None were Discworld novels, though they all contained elements of the authors beloved series.
Despite having three published novels under his belt, Pratchett still was not a full-time author. In fact, Pratchett was still in his day job working as a Press Officer for the Central Electricity Generating Board until the fourth Discworld novel, called Mort, was published! He was 39 when he was finally able to strike out on his own and become a writer full time.
So there you have it. Don’t give up. Your starring role — whatever that looks like to you — could be just around the corner, even if it might look that way right now.