Although many actors start their careers as children, many others take up the profession later in life. For example, Academy Award winning actor Gene Hackman didn't receive his first role in a film until he was 31. Many actors enter the field even later, often having grown dissatisfied with another line of work or even having retired. Although breaking into the business is tough at any age, older people may find it particularly challenging. However, you can take steps later in life to make your show business dreams a reality.
Take acting lessons. If you don't have any previous experience in acting, you need instruction from a professional. Some acting coaches specialize in working with older actors. When calling around, ask for teachers' resumes and whether they have experience teaching older students.
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Get headshots. Many auditions require actors to leave glossy black and white photographs. Many photographers have previous experience taking photos of actors. Before picking a photographer, ask to see samples of his work. Then decide whether you want the photographer to light the photo to take some years off or whether you want to play up your age. This decision depends largely on the kind of roles you're looking for.
Learn a monologue. When going to auditions, you need a piece to perform to the casting director, usually a monologue. Pick two--one dramatic and one comic--memorize them, and practice them over and over. Pick a piece that is short and plays to your strengths. For older male actors, consider doing Willy Loman from "Death of a Salesman;" for older women, consider Sister Aloysius Beauvier from "Proof."
Go to auditions: the bread and butter of the struggling actor's day. For every every 20 auditions he goes to, he may receive one callback. For every 10 call backs he receives, he may receive one part. But auditions are generally the only way that an unknown actor can get work, so get used to them.
Develop a resume. After plugging away at auditions, actors should begin to land a few roles, usually in theater or potentially in commercials. Put these roles on your resume, and start passing it out at auditions. According to the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, resumes should never be more than a page long and should always be stapled to head shots.
Get an agent. After you've taken on a few roles and perhaps received some favorable notices, it's time to shop around for an agent. He will likely take a commission--a percentage of the money you receive for work--but he may also score you access to some closed auditions or even book you some work. Try to get one with a record of scoring roles for older clients.