17 Stars Who Left Hollywood At The Height Of Their Careers


17 Stars Who Left Hollywood At The Height Of Their Careers

Fame isn't for everyone. We may dream of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, but lots of big names seem happy to step out of the spotlight. These 17 stars all made the decision to leave show business for good:

1. Jonathan Taylor Thomas

Keen-eyed fans probably recognized the Home Improvement star when he returned to Tim Allen's new show Last Man Standing. But until recently Thomas was happy to stay away from Hollywood. The teen heartthrob studied history at Harvard and Columbia University. He's only made a handful of TV guest appearances since the early 2000s.

2. Meg Ryan

Huge roles in hit romantic comedies like When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail made Ryan one of Hollywood's most popular actresses, but then she seemed to drop off the map.

In fact, Ryan's divorce from actor Dennis Quaid made her take a step back from acting to focus on her emotional well-being, and raising her 8-year-old son Jack. Today she's finally starting to ease back into show business.

3. Gene Hackman

The Unforgiven and two-time Oscar winner called it quits after appearing in 2004's Welcome to Mooseport, his 100th movie role. He said that he would only consider a return to acting "if I could do it in my own house, maybe, without them disturbing anything and just one or two people."

Instead, he's started a different career as a novelist. The 78-year-old now had five books under his belt, and of course they're mostly Westerns, just like his most famous roles.

4. Peter Osrum

This child actor starred in the all-time classic Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, and his great performance earned him an offer to shoot another three films. But Osrum passed on the deal, and didn't pursue an acting career. Instead, he followed his passion for animals and became a veterinarian. To this day, the children's movie is his only role.

5. Daniel Day-Lewis

Day-Lewis is technically still working in Hollywood, but not for long. The award-winning method actor has made headlines for the deep dives he takes into each of his roles, including forcing Steven Spielberg to address him as "Mr. Lincoln" on the set of Lincoln.

But he announced that his role in next year's film Phantom Thread will be his last ever. Then again, in the '90s Lewis took a five year hiatus from acting to work as a shoemaker's apprentice in Italy, so maybe we haven't seen the last of him after all.

Why did the star of My Fair Lady leave Hollywood? For her dream job...

6. Audrey Hepburn

Hepburn's roles in movies like Breakfast at Tiffany's and My Fair Lady made her a star, but in 1967 she walked away from the movie business for more than 10 years, and only came back for a handful of small roles. So what made her quit Hollywood?

Hepburn became a global ambassador for the charity UNICEF, raising money and awareness to help poor children around the world. She visited countries like Somalia and Honduras, and won the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George H.W. Bush.

7. Danica McKellar

She still takes jobs as a voice actor, but these days McKellar isn't on screen like she was in the '80s when she starred on The Wonder Years. While audiences loved the Winnie Cooper character, McKellar had trouble transitioning from child star to bonafide actress.

Instead, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics degree from UCLA. McKellar wrote a series of books to help young girls get excited about math, including Math Doesn't Suck, and so far three of her books have been best sellers.

8. Shirley Temple

She was one of Hollywood's biggest stars before she turned 12, but Temple never found the success in movies she hoped for as an adult. By the time she was approaching 30, she called it quits and went on to serve a higher purpose. Temple used her fame to become a diplomat for the United States.

Temple, during her career as a diplomat.If It's Hip It's here

In a career stretching almost 30 years, she represented America in Ghana and Czechoslovakia. She also worked as a special advisor to the president and vice president on matters of diplomacy. All that and she can tap dance!

9. Dave Chappelle

The stand-up comic had a number of hilarious movie roles, but he's best known for his sketch comedy series The Chappelle Show. But after working on the show for two seasons, Chappelle was so frustrated with the show and its effect on his comedy career that he walked away from a $50 million contract.

After spending almost 10 years as a recluse, Chappelle has finally started to embrace Hollywood again. He has finally released new comedy specials and he's appearing in movies again, but who knows if he'll stay for good.

10. Sean Connery

Maybe he's a little past his prime, but the former James Bond star was still regularly appearing on screen in the '90s. But after his 2003 science fiction/fantasy adventure The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen flopped, he said goodbye to the movie business once and for all.

He did step back into the spotlight in 2012, when he voiced a cartoon character in Sir Billi, but he has no plans to make a real comeback. "Retirement," he explains, "is just too damn fun."

11. Phoebe Cates

She had great roles in Gremlins, Drop Dead Fred and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but then Phoebe Cates disappeared from show business. It turns out she had a good reason: focusing on raising her family.

Cates is married to another Hollywood star, Kevin Cline, and she stepped out of the limelight to look after their two children while they were growing up.

12. Karyn Parsons

She played the spoiled and sassy Hilary Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,  but after the show ended in 1996 Parsons only took a handful of other roles. Since then she's founded Sweet Blackberry, an educational film series that teaches kids about unsung heroes in black history.

13. Jennifer Grey

Grey was Hollywood's "It Girl" of the '80s, and she's still beloved for her roles in Dirty Dancing and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. But Grey blames her careers's decline in the 1990s on a nose job that drastically changed her appearance. "I went in the operating room a celebrity"”and came out anonymous. It was like being in a witness protection program or being invisible," she said.

Grey even considered changing her name to start her career over with the new look, but instead her career slowed down until she returned to win the 2010 season of Dancing With the Stars.

14. Lark Voorhies

As we now know, there was a lot of bad behavior and rocky relationship drama on the set of Saved by the Bell, but stars like Mario Lopez and Mark-Paul Gosselaar went on to have successful TV careers. Voorhies, who played Lisa Turtle, did not.

Vorrhies's mother blamed her daughter's struggling career on her bipolar disorder. While she's still making guest appearances on TV and in straight to DVD movies, Voorhies spends most of her time painting, making music and writing self-help books.

15. Rick Moranis

After appearing in some of the biggest movies of the '80s and '90s, the Ghostbusters star put his career on pause for a family emergency. His wife Ann died from breast cancer in 1991, and Moranis retired from the movie business to focus on raising their children shortly after.

"I'm a single parent and I just found that it was too difficult to manage to raise my kids and to do the traveling involved in making movies," Moranis said. "So I took a little bit of a break. And the little bit of a break turned into a longer break, and then I found that I really didn't miss it." He hasn't been in a live action film since, but did a voice in the Disney animated film Brother Bear.

16. Danny Lloyd

When he was cast in the horror classic The Shining, it wasn't Lloyd's acting chops that earned director Stanley Kubrick's respect. He apparently gave Lloyd the role because he could maintain his concentration for a long time.

While there is definitely something eerie about Lloyd's performance as Danny Torrance, his connection to the movie was so strong that he had trouble landing other roles. Today, Lloyd teaches biology at a community college in Kentucky

17. Michael Schoeffling

Schoeffling's acting career began in 1984, peaked months later when Sixteen Candles was released, and officially ended in 1991.  All in all the young actor had just 8 feature film roles, and although fans loved him as Jake Ryan, there weren't many offers from producers rolling in.

The star cut his losses and opened up a woodworking shop. To this day he lives with his wife, former model Valerie Robinson, and makes handcrafted furniture. If you want to pay him a visit, the store is supposedly somewhere in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

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