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    17 Famous Celebrities Who Weren't Big Names In Hollywood Until After They Turned 40

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    Hollywood has a long track record of putting "expiration dates" on the careers of its stars — especially women — once they reach a certain age. It puts unnecessary pressure on young creatives and takes away opportunities from talented older ones.

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    However, there are plenty of celebs who didn't "make it" in the industry until after their 40th birthdays.

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    Here are 17 celebrities who weren't big names in Hollywood until after they turned 40:

    1. Octavia Spencer was 41 when she played Minnie Jackson in The Help, the role that won her an Oscar.

    She won for Best Supporting Actress
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    She worked in the casting department of local films before her first audition landed her a small part in A Time to Kill.

    2. Samuel L. Jackson was 43 when he nabbed a role in Jungle Fever and 46 when he starred in Pulp Fiction.

    You may recognize him as Nick Fury in the MCU
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    He's now one of the highest-grossing actors of all time.

    3. Betty White was 51 when she joined the cast of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and 53 when she won an Emmy for her role of Sue Ann Nivens.

    Actor who played Rose on "Golden Girls"
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    She's also credited as the first woman to produce a sitcom: Life With Elizabeth.

    4. Dame Judi Dench was 61 when she joined the James Bond franchise as M in GoldenEye.

    She played the role until 2015's "Spectre"
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    She won her first Oscar three years later for Shakespeare in Love.

    5. Ang Lee was 46 when his blockbuster Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon premiered.

    "Life of Pi" director
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    He told EW, "I think it hit the West in this sweet spot because of the unfamiliarity of the genre."

    6. Alan Rickman was 42 when he played Hans Gruber in Die Hard.

    Actor who played Severus Snape in "Harry Potter"
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    Before he took up acting, he pursued graphic design.

    7. Larry David was 42 when he co-created Seinfeld.

    Star of "Curb Your Enthusiasm"
    Michael Loccisano / Via Getty Images

    He didn't find much success during his previous gig as a writer on Saturday Night Live. He told Vanity Fair, "I only had one sketch on the entire year."

    8. Martha Stewart was 41 when Entertaining, her first book, was published.

    TV personality
    Cindy Ord / Getty Images

    The former caterer told NPR, "I couldn't find a good book about entertaining in 1982 and neither could my friend, so I decided to write it."

    9. Viola Davis was 42 when she starred in Doubt, which was her breakout role.

    She became the star of "How to Get Away With Murder"
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    She's the first Black actor to earn the Triple Crown of acting: a Tony, a Primetime Emmy, and an Academy Award.

    10. Steve Carell was 43 when he starred in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

    Michael Scott from "The Office"
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    The Office debuted the same year.

    11. Kathryn Bigelow was 57 when she directed The Hurt Locker.

    She also directed "Zero Dark 30"
    Michael Caulfield / WireImage / Via Getty Images

    With this film, she became the first woman to win Best Director at the Academy Awards.

    12. Ty Burrell was 42 when he began playing Phil Dunphy on Modern Family.

    He was on Broadway beforehand
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    He told the Guardian, "I'm glad I had to wait until my forties for success. I was not a mature young man and would probably have gone off the rails."

    13. At 47, Leslie Jones was the oldest cast member to debut on Saturday Night Live.

    She made her first appearance on "Weekend Update"
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    Her first professional comedy gig was opening for Jamie Foxx in 1987.

    14. Jane Lynch was 43 when she landed the role of Christy Cummings in Best in Show.

    Actor who played Sue Sylvester on "Glee"
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    She was 49 when she began appearing as Sue Sylvester on Glee.

    15. Sir Patrick Stewart was 47 when he landed the role of Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

    He also plays Professor X in the X-Men movies
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    He was knighted at age 70.

    16. Morgan Freeman was 50 when he landed his breakout role in Street Smart.

    He played Leo Smalls
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    The movie earned him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

    17. And finally, Lucille Ball turned 40 two months before I Love Lucy premiered.

    The show was based on her radio show
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    She was previously a radio host.