6 Actors and Actresses Who Had Big Roles Later in Life

Betty White at the White House

By Alison Wood, Contributing Writer

TV and film acting is often seen as the playground of the young, and there’s no doubt that youth is prized by the studios. However, there have been a number of actors and actresses who have had big roles later in life. Here are just a few who have enjoyed fame and recognition for their work as older adults!




Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda

In mentioning Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda in the same sentence, it’s difficult to choose between these two as they both won Oscars in the autumn of their lives for On Golden Pond. Hepburn was 74 and Fonda 76 when they won at the Academy Awards in 1982. Both had already had long careers in film. This was in fact Katherine’s fourth Oscar win. Henry had been nominated twice before for 12 Angry Men and The Grapes of Wrath, and he also won an honorary academy award only a year before for his long service to the performing arts. 

Betty White

While Betty White has had a long career and is considered a pioneer of television, it was later in life that her fame really flourished. White exerted control in front of and behind the camera, eventually becoming the first woman to produce a sitcom in which she starred, Life With Elizabeth in 1953.

At the age of 51, she famously played Sue Ann Nivens in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Later in life at the age of 63, White stepped into the role of Rose Nylund in the hugely successful sitcom Golden Girls. From there, her fame continued to grow. White has won eight Emmy Awards, and with a career spanning 80 years, she has worked longer than anyone else in the medium of television.

Jessica Tandy

Actress Jessica Tandy was an American-English actress who had more than 60 roles in her long career on TV and in film. She appeared in over 100 stage productions in the UK and USA. However, Tandy is best known for the two Oscar nominations that came to her later in life. In 1991, she was nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category for her role in Fried Green Tomatoes. She didn’t win that year, but a year earlier she had walked away with the Oscar for Best Actress in Driving Miss Daisy. Tandy’s win at the age of 80 made her the oldest actor to receive an Academy Award in a leading role category, a record that continued to stand at the time this article was written.

One of Tandy’s most famous quotes highlights the importance of creativity: “I think we are able to keep active provided we approach our lives with creativity. I think the mere fact that we keep doing is self-creating.”

Christopher Plummer

The oldest actor to win in a supporting role category at the Oscars is Christopher Plummer. Despite a career spanning six decades and three Academy Award nominations, it was only in 2012 that Plummer was given the award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the romantic comedy Beginners.

During his illustrious career, Plummer has also won two Emmy Awards, two Tony Awards, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a British Academy Film Award. Plummer continues to act at the age of 90 and recently appeared in Knives Out, a film which was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Original Screenplay category.

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford has appeared in many iconic roles during his long career, including in the Star Wars franchise, Bladerunner, and in many other hugely successful films, including Witness, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Actor category. However, in terms of age being just a number, one only needs to look at his role as Indiana Jones.

Ford first played Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981 and reprised the role in 1984, 1989, and 2008. In the first film, Ford was 39 years old, and in the last, he was 66. However, Indiana Jones is no ordinary role; it relies on action sequences that Ford plays so well. As of this article’s release, it’s been announced that a new Indiana Jones is going into production and will be released in 2022, at which point Ford will be 80 years of age. Don’t be surprised if this isn’t his last time playing this iconic role.