When you see Meryl Streep
cheering on younger actors from the audience at awards shows, it seems as if she's always been there. Sir Ian McKellen
, in our minds, has never not been a wise wizard, no matter how goofy he seems off-screen. James Earl Jones' booming Mufasa/Darth Vader voice couldn't have once been squeaky and stuttering, right? It's probably due to a lack of imagination on our part, but there are just certain actors who have built up reputations that erase the evidence of their beautiful, awkward youth.
But yes, even Dame Helen Mirren
accidentally got drunk on the job. Young soap star Julianne Moore didn't know how to cry on camera. Fledgling reporter Oprah Winfrey got too personal with her interview subjects. Jane Fonda was lonely, and Jon Hamm felt objectified.
Here, we've gathered great photos of middle-aged actors and beyond, from back when they were in their 20s, and included quotes about their early years in the business. Some were overly cocky and idealistic about their careers — while others doubted themselves, despite their radiant looks and obvious talent. None of them probably thought we'd be looking at them like this decades later.