11 Actors Who Scored Huge Roles Before Their 20s And 9 Who Achieved Success After Their 40s

    You never know when your breakthrough will arrive.

    An actor's big break can show up at any stage of life. For some entertainers, getting a huge role occurs early on in their acting pursuits.

    While for other performers, a life-changing professional moment may present itself after many years of dedication, hard work, and persistence.

    Here are 11 actors whose fame occurred prior to their 20th birthdays, along with 10 stars who scored major career breaks after turning 40.

    1. A 14-year-old Matt Dillon was cutting class when he was discovered by a casting agent looking for kids at his school to act in Over the Edge. He was then hired to play Richie in the 1979 film, which led to his '80s teen idol status.

    Matt Dillon as Richie listens to a police officer in "Over the Edge"

    2. Drew Barrymore was hired to play Gertie in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial at just six years old.

    Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore on the set of "E.T."

    3. Hilary Duff was 13 when Lizzie McGuire started airing in 2001.

    Hilary Duff as Lizzie McGuire smiles at Kate during lunch

    4. Daniel Radcliffe was 11 when he was chosen to take on the lead role in the Harry Potter franchise.

    Actor Daniel Radcliffe attends a press conference for the movie "Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone" in London on August 23, 2000. 11 year old Daniel will play Harry Potter in the film of the popular book by JK Rowling

    5. River Phoenix embarked on his big break, portraying Chris Chambers in 1986's Stand by Me when he was 14.

    River Phoenix (left) as Chris and Corey Feldman as Teddy notice a train approaching

    6. Jenna Ortega was 13 years old when she began portraying Harley Diaz in Stuck in the Middle.

    Jenna Ortega as Harley talks to her mom in their kitchen

    7. Tyler James Williams was 12 years old when he first appeared as a young Chris Rock in Everybody Hates Chris.

    Tyler James Williams stars as Chris in EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS on UPN Fall 2005

    8. Selena Gomez got her big break starring as Alex Russo in Wizards of Waverly Place at 15 in 2007.

    Selena Gomez as Alex smiles in "Wizards of Waverly Place"

    9. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was 14 during the 1996 debut of 3rd Rock from the Sun, in which he played Tommy Solomon.

    Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tommy talks to Dick Solomon in "3rd Rock from the Sun"

    10. Dakota Fanning carried out her breakthrough part of Lucy in I Am Sam when she was seven.

    Dakota Fanning as Lucy looks for shoes with her dad, Sam

    11. Macaulay Culkin was nine when Home Alone was filmed, after which his fame skyrocketed from playing Kevin McCallister in the 1990 family movie.

    Macaulay Culkin as Kevin argues with his mom

    And these actors broke through after turning 40:

    12. Although Viola Davis had many years of acting under her belt by 2008, she took on her breakout portrayal of Mrs. Miller in Doubt when the actor was 42.

    Viola Davis as Mrs. Miller talks to Sister Aloysius Beauvier in "Doubt"

    13. Leslie Jones joined the Saturday Night Live cast at 47, making her the oldest person to ever become a series cast member.

    SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Season: 40 -- Pictured: Leslie Jones

    14. Alan Rickman turned 42 as he shot his first part in a feature film, Hans Gruber in Die Hard.

    Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber speaks in a walkie talkie in "Die Hard"

    15. Morgan Freeman got his breakthrough role in the 1987 crime-thriller Street Smart at 49 years old.

    Morgan Freeman as Fast Black sits in a court room

    16. Billy Bob Thornton was 41 when Sling Blade, a movie he wrote, directed, and starred in, brought him great acclaim.

    Billy Bob as Karl orders food at Frostee Cream

    17. Kathy Bates became well-known in the movie business after playing Annie Wilkes in Misery at the age of 41.

    Actor Kathy Bates in a scene from the movie "Misery," 1990

    18. Estelle Getty was 62 when she appeared on her first episode of The Golden Girls, in which she was cast as Sophia Petrillo.

    THE GOLDEN GIRLS - 9/14/85 - 9/14/92, ESTELLE GETTY (Sophia)

    19. Although she had some smaller roles prior, Lucille Ball began playing Lucy Ricardo on I Love Lucy at the age of 40.

    I LOVE LUCY SUPERSTAR SPECIAL, a new one-hour special featuring two colorized back-to-back classic episodes of the 1950s series, will be broadcast Sunday, May 17 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network

    20. Lastly, Ty Burrell started playing Phil Dunphy in Modern Family when he was 41 in 2009.

    Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy sits with Claire in "Modern Family"

    Moral of the story — your victory could be around the corner, and whenever it happens, the timing will be just right!

    Which of these memorable performances are your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!