Picking a career is pretty hard, it turns out. Not only do you have to choose something you could see yourself doing for the rest of your life, but you also have to be somewhat competent at it. Most of us will just fall into something and go with it.
After all, if you haven't found your calling by, say, age 30, it's pretty much hopeless, right? If you were going to make it, you'd have made it by now.
Well ... maybe not. After all ...
5Alan Rickman Got His First Movie Role at 42
If you are an aspiring movie actor, how long would you plug away at it before deciding it's not for you? Like, if you've made it to your 40s without ever appearing in a movie, that's probably a sign that you're never going to have an action figure made from you, right?
Mid-Life Crisis Man! Gets drunk, chats up the college-age waitress and crashes his Harley into a Dumpster!
The Rock Bottom Moment:
So there was this guy named Alan who had gotten an art degree (because enrolling in drama classes "wasn't considered the sensible thing to do"), and by his late 20s was doing as well as you'd expect anyone with a degree to do. He was running his own graphic design business ... and that's when he decided to drop absolutely everything and sign up for acting classes. He even left his own company to concentrate full-time on acting, which doesn't do a lot for your financial security, it turns out.
While studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Rickman was pushing 30 and supporting himself by working as a dresser for other actors (and we mean literally helping them put their clothes on). He did get to meet stage actors like Sir Nigel Hawthorne, but their interaction at this point was probably limited to "fetch me my leotards, boy."
"Now put them on, very slowly. Yes. Yes."
And this went on for years. Rickman farted around the theater scene for over a decade.
Then finally Rickman was cast as one of the leads in the stage version of the book Les Liaisons Dangereuses. The play was a hit and was soon adapted by Hollywood as Dangerous Liaisons. Boom! Success! Everyone involved in it became internationally famous!
Except Rickman, because they replaced him with John Malkovich.
Everyone knows Alan Rickman is famously terrible at playing creepy, evil characters.
However, Rickman's performance did catch the attention of producer Joel Silver, who two years later asked him to star as the villain in some action movie with some TV actor named Bruce Willis. Something about a bunch of terrorists taking over a skyscraper.
Yep, Alan Rickman, the best bad-guy actor maybe ever, the man behind Hans Gruber and Professor Snape from the Harry Potter series, started his film career at age 42.
Above: Proof that you're never too pale or skeevy for greatness.
4Roget Invented the Thesaurus at Age 73
It's not that Peter Roget went through life broke. By age 61, he was an accomplished doctor, lecturer and inventor. He was a respected man of science. He was also, however, pretty insane and most definitely miserable.
The Rock Bottom Moment:
Being nuts, it turns out, was in his blood: His grandmother was mentally unstable, his mother was nearly psychotic and his sister and daughter had suffered severe mental breakdowns. As if that wasn't enough, his father and wife died young, and one time his uncle slit his throat in front of him. Peter was actually the sane one in the family, or as it was known to people who weren't in his family, "still crazier than a shit house rat."
Roget himself was described as "humorless and judgmental" and a little bit paranoid. His obsessive personality slowly took over his life and led him to, for example, count his steps every day. He was also obsessed with cleanliness ... which was unfortunate, because he lived in 19th century London, which had no clean water or toilets.
Civilization didn't beat out nomadic tribalism with the invention of the British accent.
The only thing that seemed to calm him was making lists, a somewhat creepy hobby he'd had since childhood. When he retired from medicine at 61, he realized he might as well spend all day making one huge, all-encompassing list of all the things ever -- so that's exactly what he did.
Twelve years later, at age 73, Peter Roget published his giant list of words as a book, Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases ... otherwise known as "the thesaurus."
Or "wordbook" or "phrasehouse" or "table-leg prop."
Back in 1805, he had compiled a small indexed catalog of words for personal use, presumably to help him cheat in crossword puzzles. Roget kept building on his initial list over the years, but only as a pointless hobby, because as we explained before, he was pretty much insane. It wasn't until he retired that he decided to devote himself seriously to creating a collection of synonyms and antonyms that writers could use as an easy reference.
The thesaurus was an instant success and made Roget's name synonymous with, well, synonyms. He kept working on it until his death at age 90, and in the meantime managed to not kill himself or anyone else. Pretty impressive, we think.
Look out! He's going to off, rub-out, liquidate or slay somebody!