Today, they have crowded trophy cases and are revered by countless fans, but once upon a time, even the most famous names were looking for their big break. The stars on this list are in their 70s now. They’re celebrated actors, singers, and even activists, with tons of life experience under their belts. But it wasn’t always that way. Read on to see our favorite celebrities who are in their 70s as they are today and how they were when they were still wannabes.
In 1978, a 36-year-old Harrison Ford was a newly minted movie star, fresh off of the release of the first Star Wars movie in 1977.
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At 79, Ford is still one of the biggest movie stars in the world. He’s currently filming his fifth adventure as another one of his iconic characters, Indiana Jones. The new sequel is due out in 2022.
In the late ’60s, when she was in her 20s, Dolly Parton became a featured singer on country music star Porter Wagoner‘s variety show. She’d see her first big solo hit, “Jolene,” a few years later, in 1973.
Now 75, Parton is a legendary singer-songwriter, as well as a philanthropist. While she continues to write, record, and act, her most celebrated contribution of the past few years was helping to fund the development of the Moderna COVID vaccine.
In 1970, when he was 25, Steve Martin had broken into Hollywood as a writer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and was about to gain some serious attention for his standup performances.
At 76, Martin is known not only as an actor and comic but as a writer, musician, and art collector. He’s currently starring in the Hulu crime comedy Only Murders in the Building, which he also co-created.
At 1964, when Goldie Hawn was 19, she was working as a professional dancer and had yet to properly get into acting. Four years later, she’d book the job that brought her to national attention: Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.
Most recently, Hawn, who is now 75, co-starred with her long-time partner Kurt Russell in the Netflix holiday movie The Christmas Chronicles and its sequel. The beloved Hollywood pair played the Clauses.
In 1969, stage actor Helen Mirren was 24 years old. As a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, she played many of the playwright’s famous heroines.
…But she had to wait until she was 76 to speed through London in a sports car with Vin Diesel. Mirren’s most recent film credit is reprising her role as Queenie in F9. Up next is the Marc Forster film White Bird: A Wonder Story and the sequel to Shazam!
Tim Curry was 29 in 1975, the very year that he took his iconic role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter from the stage to the screen in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was the future star’s first-ever film role.
Curry is 75 today and uses a wheelchair due to a stroke he suffered in 2012. He’s continued to do voiceover work and appear at fan events, and he had a cameo as a the Criminologist in the 2016 live TV production of Rocky Horror.
In the ’70s, Stevie Wonder was in his 20s and already busting out classic records like his 1972 smash, “Superstition.”
Still young at 71, Wonder has said that he has a few projects currently in the works. In 2020, he released two new singles and hit the campaign trial to perform in support of Joe Biden, as pictured above.
Seen here at the 1979 Tony Awards at the age of 33, Susan Sarandon already had films including The Front Page, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Pretty Baby under her belt.
Now 74, Sarandon is known as much for her politics and activism as she is for her acting work. She most recently appeared in the films Jolt and Ride the Eagle, as well as a couple of episodes of Search Party.
In 1986, 39-year-old Ted Danson was a TV heartthrob thanks to the celebrated comedy Cheers, which had been on the air since 1982. He’d go on to win two Emmys for his role of Sam Malone.
Now he’s 73, and Danson is still making us laugh on TV. After The Good Place rolled off into the sunset in 2020, Danson moved on to the small-town political comedy, Mr. Mayor. He’s been married to fellow actor Mary Steenburgen since 1995.
The year 1964, when Diana Ross was 20, was the beginning of the era when her group The Supremes reigned supreme. It was also the year that their first major hit “Where Did Our Love Go” hit the airwaves.
Ross, who became a major success as a solo artist, is 77 today and still performing. She has a new album, Thank You, due out in November of this year.
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Tom Selleck didn’t become a household name until 1980, when he was 35 and his series Magnum, P.I. premiered. He’d play the role until 1986.
Since 2010, Selleck has been starring on the police drama Blue Bloods. The 76-year-old also made a cameo on the Friends reunion special this year, acknowledging his recurring role as Monica’s boyfriend, Richard Burke.
In 1980, when he was 37, Ben Kingsley was still two years away from the role he’s most associated with: Mohandas Gandhi in 1982’s Gandhi, for which he won the Oscar. At this point, Kingsley’s resume was filled with London stage roles and U.K. television shows.
Kingsley is 77 now, and had two films come out this year. First was the HBO Max heist movie Locked Down and second was the Marvel Cinematic Universe flick Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, in which he reprises the same role he played in Iron Man 3.
Fame came relatively late for Samuel L. Jackson. He’s 44 in this shot from 1992, just a few years after some of his earliest significant roles, including parts in Coming to America and Do the Right Thing.
At the age of 72, Jackson is most frequently seen (and heard) as Nick Fury, his no-nonsense MCU character. He’s also set to star alongside John David Washington in a Broadway revival of The Piano Lesson next year.
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