2020’s Favourite Actors: How Long Did it Take for them to Become Famous?

2020’s Favourite Actors: How Long Did it Take for them to Become Famous?

Most of us don’t realise the amount of work that goes into becoming a Hollywood star. Many of us would be surprised by how many long years of hard work our favourite actors had to put in before their talent was recognised by many. 

We looked at the careers of 2020’s Favourite Actors to see exactly what it took for them to reach the height of stardom. We’ve calculated this by looking at the average age that our favourite actors landed their breakthrough role and also how many roles that had before their breakthrough. After landing years of hard work, each of these stars had a career that all aspiring actors dream of having.

What Age Do Most Actors Achieve Widespread Fame?

Most people assume that fame happens overnight however this isn’t always the case. Our study shows that the average age that actors landed the role that gained them widespread fame is 30 years old. 

The Youngest & Oldest Age Actors Became Famous

Whilst 30 is the average age that our favourite actors and actresses achieved fame, there are some anomalies. Leonardo DiCaprio was thrown into the spotlight after starring in What’s Eating Gibert Grape in 1994 at the age of just 19 years old. On the other end of the scale, Morgan Freeman landed a role in the children’s series The Electric Company in 1971 at the age of 50, which Freeman himself considers his breakthrough role.

How Many Roles Did Actors Have to Play Before They Got Their Breakthrough?

On average, it took playing 15 different acting parts before actors gained the role that gave them widespread fame and the careers they are now known for. For 40% of actors, however, it took more than the average 15 roles before they landed their breakthrough part. But eventually, perseverance paid off!

The Most & Least Number of Roles Actors Had to Play Before They Got Their Breakthrough?

Whilst most actors landed their breakthrough role after playing 17 different roles in either film, TV or theatre productions, for some actors it took far fewer roles before their talent was recognised by many… or far more. Judi Dench starred in just 1 stage performance before playing Ophelia in the 1957 stage production of Hamlet, which gained her extensive fame. Michael Caine, on the other hand, played 39 different roles before playing Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead in the 1964 film Zulu which was the start of a widely celebrated acting career.

Main Findings:

  • On average, the age that most actors played their breakthrough role was 30 years old.
  • 60% of actors played their breakthrough role at the age of 30 years old or over.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio was the youngest actor to achieve fame after his 1994 role in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape at the age of 19 years old.
  • Morgan Freeman was the oldest actor to land his breakthrough part after his 1971 role in the children’s TV show The Electric Company at the age of 50 years old.
  • On average, actors had to play 15 different roles in TV, film or theatre before they landed their breakthrough role.
  • It took 40% of actors more than the average number of roles before they got their breakthrough.
  • Out of all the actors, Judi Dench played the fewest number of roles before landing a breakthrough part. She made her breakthrough in the stage production of Ophelia after just 1 other performance on stage. 
  • Out of all the actors, Michael Caine played the greatest number of roles before landing his breakthrough part. He played 39 different parts before acting in what is considered to be his breakthrough role as Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead in the 1964 film Zulu.

Methodology

In the study, we looked at the careers of the top 30 most popular actors of 2020 according to a YouGov poll.

To calculate the age actors landed their “breakthrough role” we looked at the age that actors landed the role that is considered to have “contributed significantly to the development of their career and beginning of critical recognition” (Wikipedia) within their backlog of performances in theatre, film or TV. 

When calculating the number of roles that actors had in their career before their breakthrough, we included any roles in theatre, film or TV productions actors played before their breakthrough.

Data sources: 

Wikipedia.org, yougov.co.uk

Image sources: 

Image Sources

Leonardo DiCaprio in Cannes Film Festival: Georges Biard / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Julia Roberts (2018): GabboT / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

Judi Dench at the BAFTAs 2007: Caroline Bonarde Ucci / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)

David Tennant, 2018: Rhododendrites / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Rowan Atkinson: Eva Rinaldi / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

Robert De Niro Cannes 2016: Georges Biard / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

Will Smith 2019: TechCrunch / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

David Jason at the 2012 Sun Military Awards: See page for author / OGL 3 (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3)

Denzel Washington: GabboT / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

Meryl Streep December 2018: Montclair Film / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Clint Eastwood (2011): Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo / Public domain

Daniel Craig 2015: www.GlynLowe.com from Hamburg, Germany / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Tom Hanks: John Bauld from Toronto, Canada / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Bruce Willis (2018): Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Ian McKellen at 2013 San Diego Comic-Con: Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

Sandra Bullock: Eva Rinaldi / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

Idris Elba: Harald Krichel / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Michael Caine, 28th EFA Awards 2015, Berlin: TonkBerlin / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Anthony Hopkins at the Toronto International Film Festival (2010): gdcgraphics / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

Sean Connery: Stuart Crawford / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Hugh Jackman: Dick Thomas Johnson from Tokyo, Japan / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Julie Walters at the Paddington Premiere: Ibsan73/Flickr / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Danny DeVito head shot: Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Robin Williams: Eva Rinaldi / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

Helen Mirren 2014: See Li from London, UK / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Harrison Ford in 2019: Blameitonwil / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Colin Firth speaking at the 2017 San Diego Comic Con International: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

Liam Neeson at the Deauville American Film Festival: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

Samuel L. Jackson in Hollywood, California on June 26, 2019: Toglenn / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0) Morgan Freeman: Georges Biard / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Latest News

View All

How to Create the Ultimate Home Cinema Room

There's nothing quite like the experience of watching your favourite film on the big screen - even better when it's…
Read more...

Essential Audio Visual Equipment for Every Office

Good technology is crucial to the operation of most businesses today. The lockdown period has shown us the extent to…
Read more...

Speech Transfer Systems

A speech transfer system enables you to communicate clearly with customers through a booth, security screen or across a speech…
Read more...