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Then Vs. Now: What 25 Iconic Actors Look Like In Their 20s

Age is a mystery, aging even more so. Some people look decades older than their real age, some look way too young.

Some of it has to do with genetics. Phrases like “Black don’t crack”, “Brown don’t frown” and “Asian don’t raisin” come directly from people with certain genetic traits that don’t shrivel up with age.

But truthfully, science has no clues on what keeps people so young. It’s impossible to tell how young people are if you don’t have something to compare to. And so do we. Unless people tell us their real age, it’s impossible to guess how old a person is.

Fortunately, in the superstar hemisphere, we have a lot of photos to make a comparison. And the results are shocking to our core. Who would have guessed what 40 iconic actors look like in their 20s?

#1 Jessica Lange in 1977 (left) and 2017 (right).

Source: Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Getty Images/Steve Granitz/WireImage

Lange relocated to New York City when she was 24 and became a model, which led to her cinematic debut as the leading woman in 1976’s “King Kong.”

Lange, then 27, won the Golden Globe for best new actress in a motion picture for her performance in the film. Lange’s career took off from there, and she currently has award-winning parts in “Tootsie,” “Frances,” “Grey Gardens,” and FX’s “American Horror Story.”

#2 Robert Downey Jr. in 1986 (left) and 2019 (right).

Source: Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage; Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

At the age of 27, Robert Downey Jr. played Charlie Chaplin in the movie “Chaplin” (1992). Downey struggled with drug addiction throughout his twenties and thirties. He’s become more open about it and his route to rehabilitation as he’s gotten older.

Downey is most recognized now for his role as billionaire superhero Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

#3 Diane Keaton in 1976 (left) and 2018 (right).

Source: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Getty Images

Keaton obtained her first film job in “Lovers and Other Strangers” (1970) at the age of 24 after being nominated for a Tony for the Broadway play “Play It Again, Sam.”

Her breakthrough role came a few years later in Francis Ford Coppola’s cinematic classic “The Godfather.” Keaton won the Oscar for best actress in a major role for her performance in “Annie Hall” in 1978, and she has subsequently received critical praise for her roles in “Because I Said So,” “And So It Goes,” and HBO’s “The Young Pope.”

#4 Samuel L. Jackson in 1993 (left) and 2019 (right).

Source: Mike Marsland/ Mike Marsland/WireImage/Ron Galella/WireImage

After a foundation in stage plays, Jackson participated in a couple of television films in his early 20s before making his film debut at the age of 24 with “Together for Days.”

Director Spike Lee placed him in “Jungle Fever,” which garnered notice from Jackson at the Cannes Film Festival. Since then, the actor has become well-known for his roles in “Goodfellas,” “Jurassic Park,” “Pulp Fiction,” and as Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

#5 Tom Hanks in 1980 (left) and 2018 (right).

Source: ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images/John Lamparski/Getty Images

Tom Hanks, now in his 60s, has had a busy acting career spanning numerous genres. Hanks arrived in New York City from California in his twenties and landed his first film job in the slasher “He Knows You’re Alone” (1980).

Hanks is most remembered for his roles in “Big,” “A League of Their Own,” “Cast Away,” and the “Toy Story” saga decades later.

#6 Meryl Streep in the late 1970s (left) and 2018 (right).

Source: Bachrach/Getty Images/Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage

Streep, who is now in her 70s, has acted in a seemingly endless number of films, including “Sophie’s Choice,” “The Devil Wears Prada,” “Into the Woods,” “The Post,” and “Don’t Look Up.”

Meryl Streep is one of the most-awarded actresses working today, and she is a multifaceted actor, to say the least.

#7 Forest Whitaker in 1988 (left) and 2018 (right).

Source: Nancy R. Schiff/Getty Images/Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images

Forest Whitaker, 60, has had a long and illustrious career in movies. Whitaker has received accolades for his acting ability in dramas such as “Bird,” “The Last King of Scotland,” and “The Butler” as he has become older.

Whitaker has recently appeared in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “Black Panther,” and “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey.”

#8 Rita Moreno in 1950 (left) and 2019 (right).

Source: GAB Archive/Redferns/Denise Truscello/WireImage

Although she received her first Broadway part at the age of 13, Moreno only worked in small cinema roles until she was 21 and starred in “Singin’ in the Rain.”

The actress was cast as Anita in “West Side Story” when she was 29 years old, and she went on to win the Oscar for best-supporting actress for her portrayal. She recently appeared in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” adaptation.

#9 Harrison Ford in 1977 (left) and 2018 (right).

Source: Laurent MAOUS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images/Steve Granitz/WireImage

Ford traveled to California at the age of 22 to seek a career in acting and was cast in a few modest film parts in his early twenties. He received his first acknowledged part in the Western “A Time for Killing” when he was 25.

It wasn’t until 1973 that Ford was cast in “American Graffiti,” which launched his career and led to leading parts in blockbuster series such as “Indiana Jones” and “Star Wars.”

#10 Denzel Washington in 1982 (left) and 2018 (right).

Source: David Sutton/NBCU Photo Bank/HGL/GC Images

Washington made his film debut in the comedy “Carbon Copy” in 1981, and was shortly cast in the hospital drama “St Elsewhere” as Dr. Philip Chandler at the age of 28.

Since then, his career has taken off, and he has been in everything from biopics like “Malcolm X” to thrillers like “Training Day,” for which he received the Academy Award for best actor in a leading role.

#11 Julie Andrews in 1950 (left) and 2018 (right).

Source: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images/Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Hamptons International Film Festival

Andrews began filming the Disney film musical “Mary Poppins” at the age of 28, which would go on to become an iconic milestone in her oeuvre.

Andrews, who is now in her mid-80s, has had a remarkable acting career that includes classics like “The Sound of Music,” “Victor/Victoria,” and “The Princess Diaries.”

#12 Maggie Smith in 1963 (left) and 2017 (right).

Source: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images/ Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

At 22, Dame Maggie Smith made her film and Broadway debut. She got her first BAFTA nomination in 1958 for her performance in the film “Nowhere to Go.” At the age of 26, she appeared in the Royal National Theatre’s performance of “Othello,” opposite Laurence Olivier.

Smith, who is now in her mid-80s, is one of the most well-known actresses of her time, having appeared in several films such as the “Harry Potter” series and “A Room With a View.”

#13 Jeff Bridges in 1970 (left) and 2019 (right).

Source: Art Zelin/Getty Images/Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage

Jeff Bridges’ first significant acting role was in the 1971 film “The Last Picture Show,” for which he received an Academy Award nomination for a best-supporting actor at the age of 22.

Bridges, then 27, was cast with Lange in the 1976 adaptation of “King Kong.” Bridges, now in his early 70s, has a diverse playing career that encompasses tragedies like “True Grit” and dark comedy like “The Big Lebowski.”

#14 Amitabh Bachchan in 1988 (left) and 2017 (right).

Source: Dinodia Photos/Getty Images/SUJIT JAISWAL/AFP/Getty Images

Bachchan made his film debut as a voice narrator in “Bhuvan Shome” at the age of 27 in 1969, and won his first on-screen part the following year in “Saat Hindustani.”

At the age of 29, Bachchan won the Filmfare award for best supporting actor for his role in “Anand,” and he went on to appear in two more films, “Parwana” and “Reshma Aur Shera.” His career took off from there, and he rose to become one of Bollywood’s top actors. He has since appeared in over 190 Indian films.

#15 Daniel Day-Lewis in “Gandhi” in 1982 (left) and 2017 (right).

Source: Columbia Pictures;Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Day-Lewis continued to work in films throughout his twenties, including “The Bounty,” “My Beautiful Laundrette,” and “A Room With a View.” His deep character work earned him Oscar nominations for his roles in “My Left Foot,” “There Will Be Blood,” and “Lincoln.”

The English actor, now in his mid-60s, had a remarkable career that earned him three Oscars and two Golden Globes.

#16 Jackie Chan in 1981 (left) and 2019 (right).

Source: Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images/Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Aside from a few minor appearances in films as a youngster and early adolescent, Chan received his first leading role in the film “Little Tiger of Canton” just before turning 20.

At the age of 26, Chan began appearing in Hollywood films such as “The Big Brawl” and “The Cannonball Run.” Chan, who is now in his late 60s, has appeared in over 150 films and has established himself as one of the world’s most recognized performers.

#17 Angela Bassett in 1990 (left) and 2019 (right).

Source: The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images/Michael Bezjian/WireImage

Bassett made her stage debut at the age of 27 in Second Stage Theater’s performance of “Black Girl,” as well as her first television appearance in the TV movie “Doubletake.”

Bassett, now in her early 60s, has become a sought-after actress in Hollywood as a result of her roles in films such as “Malcolm X,” “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” “Notorious,” and “Black Panther.”

#18 Robert De Niro in 1973 (left) and 2018 (right).

Source: Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images/Stephane Cardinale – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

De Niro was cast in “Bloody Mama” at the age of 27, followed by “Bang the Drum Slowly” and “Mean Streets” just before turning 30. His breakout performance came in 1974 when he played Vito Corleone in “The Godfather II,” for which he won an Oscar for best supporting actor.

De Niro, now in his late 70s, is an acclaimed actor and director best remembered for his roles in “Raging Bull,” “Taxi Driver,” and “Goodfellas.”

#19 Betty White 1957 (left) and 2015 (right).

Source: Bettman/ Contributor/ Getty Images/ Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic

At the age of 27, the actress co-hosted the variety show “Hollywood on Television.” White didn’t become famous until her 30s when she hosted her show “The Betty White Show” and appeared in several comedies.

White’s eight-decade acting career featured appearances on sitcoms such as CBS’ “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Life With Elizabeth,” and, most memorably, NBC’s “Golden Girls.”

#20 Judi Dench in 1960 (left) and 2019 (right).

Source: Jones/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images; zz/KGC-03/STAR MAX/IPx/AP

Dench made her Broadway debut in the performance of “Twelfth Night,” which debuted on her 24th birthday.

She has received nominations for her roles in films such as “Mrs. Brown,” “Chocolat,” “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” and “Philomena.” She also won an Oscar for her role in “Shakespeare in Love.”

#21 James Earl Jones in 1965 (left) and 2017 (right).

Source: Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images; CARLO ALLEGRI/Reuters

James Earl Jones received his big break at the age of 37 when he starred in the play “The Great White Hope,” which garnered him a Tony Award in 1969.

On Broadway, he appeared in performances of “The Iceman Cometh,” “Othello,” “Fences,” and “You Can’t Take It With You.” Jones rose to prominence in Hollywood after portraying Darth Vader in the “Star Wars” saga and Mufasa in “The Lion King” (both in 1994 and 2019), among other prominent roles.

#22 Shirley MacLaine in 1955 (left) and 2019 (right).

Source: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images; Phil McCarten/Invision/AP

MacLaine rose to prominence in films such as “Around the World in 80 Days” and “Some Come Running.” “Sweet Charity,” “Terms of Endearment,” “Steel Magnolias,” “Bewitched,” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” were among her later films.

Shirley MacLaine, now in her late 80s, has had a great deal of success on Broadway and in Hollywood.

#23 Whoopi Goldberg in “The Color Purple” in 1985 (left) and 2020 (right).

Source: Warner Home Video; Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters

Whoopi Goldberg was born in 1955 in New York City. She is currently in her mid-60s, although she is most recognized for her portrayal as Celie Johnson in “The Color Purple,” which was one of her earliest cinematic appearances.

Goldberg earned an Oscar for her performance in “Ghost” and went on to feature in both “Sister Act” films, CBS’ “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and “The Little Rascals.”

#24 John Travolta in 1978 (left) and 2020 (right).

Source: Tom Wargacki/WireImage via Getty Images; Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic via Getty Images

Travolta began his four-year career as Vinnie Barbarino on ABC’s “Welcome Back, Kotter” at the age of 21, which catapulted him into mainstream recognition. During the next five years, he appeared in blockbusters such as “Carrie,” “Saturday Night Fever,” “Grease,” and “Urban Cowboy.”

Travolta is still highly known for those early performances decades later, and he’s subsequently achieved success in “Pulp Fiction,” “Face/Off,” “Hairspray,” and FX’s “American Crime Story.”

#25 Sally Field in 1976 (left) and 2018 (right).

Source: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images/Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

Field debuted on television at the age of 19 with the ABC sitcom “Gidget,” and two years later she was featured in “The Flying Nun.”

Field, now in her mid-seventies, has earned a position among other top performers thanks to roles in films such as “Norma Rae,” “Steel Magnolias,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” and “Forrest Gump.”

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