Plenty of times, we see stars who retired… only to pop back up in a new project a year or two later. Does anyone remember when Jamie Lee Curtis said, “I’m not an actor anymore” in 2006? And then she promptly returned to the big screen for Beverly Hills Chihuahua, of all movies.
But there are some celebrities who say they’re done, and they mean it. They’ve lived their lives under scrutiny, being followed by paparazzi and working 12-hour workdays to film projects, and they can’t take it anymore.
From Cameron Diaz to Gene Hackman, these stars walked away from Hollywood and never looked back.
Freddie Prinze Jr.
Oddly enough, it was Neil Patrick Harris who got Freddie Prinze Jr. interested in acting – the two attended the same high school. After graduation, Prinze moved to Los Angeles to start auditioning. After a while, he saw success with movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer, She’s All That, and the live-action Scooby-Doo.
However, a few years ago Prinze revealed he wasn’t doing much acting anymore.
“I’ve really stepped away from the acting,” he said in 2017. “I don’t really do that anymore.”
What’s he doing instead? He and his wife Sarah Michelle Geller penned a cookbook called Back to the Kitchen. They’re busy raising their two kids, and Prinze has earned a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
She may have played the snooty and ditzy Hilary Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but Karyn Parsons is far from that in real life.
After starring in films like 1995’s Major Payne and 2000’s The Ladies Man, Parsons took a step back from Hollywood to pursue other ventures. She founded the Sweet Blackberry Foundation, which produces films and books about unsung Black heroes. She even penned two of the books herself.
Meg Ryan was one of the most successful actresses over the span of two decades, with roles in films like Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, and When Harry Met Sally. However, she hasn’t added much to her filmography since the mid-2010s, aside from having a role in Ithaca, which she also directed.
She confirmed that she was leaving acting behind when she sat down with Gwyneth Paltrow in 2018 at her In Goop Health event in Los Angeles. Meg said, “I didn’t really aim to be an actor. I was a journalism major at school, and a curious person, and I wanted to go back out into the world and figure out who I was – am – in relationship to other things and other people and other environments.”
Cameron Diaz also talked to Gwyneth Paltrow about quitting the biz. It was during an episode of In Goop Health: The Sessions during 2020. Diaz told her that it felt “like peace” to “walk away from a movie career of that magnitude.”
It sounds like it was just too exhausting for the actress, who called it “so intense” to always be in the public eye. That, paired with 12-hour workdays on sets, she didn’t feel like she made any space for a personal life. These days, she’s just focusing on family life and raising her daughter.
Daniel Day-Lewis has received numerous accolades over four decades, including three Academy Awards for Best Actor. But after filming wrapped for 2017’s Phantom Thread, he decided to call it quits for good.
“Daniel Day-Lewis will no longer be working as an actor,” said a brief statement from his representative, Leslee Dart. “He is immensely grateful to all of his collaborators and audiences over the many years. This is a private decision and neither he nor his representatives will make any further comment on this subject.”
I’ve gotten so used to Meghan Markle being the Duchess of Sussex that I forget she was an actress first. Meghan’s last and most significant role was playing Rachel Zane for seven seasons on Suits. She also had a stint as a briefcase girl on Deal or No Deal!
Of course, she officially announced her retirement from acting in 2017, when she was engaged to Prince Harry. When they married in 2018, she became known as the Duchess of Sussex. These days, she and Prince Harry have stepped back as senior members of the royal family, and they live with their two children in California.
I have always loved Rick Moranis for his roles in films like The Flintstones, Ghostbusters, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and – of course – the one and only Spaceballs. But he left all that behind after his wife, Ann, passed away from cancer in 1991. He decided to focus on being a full-time dad to his two children.
We did see him do some voiceover work since then, but for the most part, he has stayed away from Hollywood. After more than two decades, he did sign on to appear in a new sequel to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, but it has been stalled since February 2018.
Everyone knows that Mary-Kate Olsen began her career at the ripe old age of nine months as Michelle Tanner on Full House. She shared the role with her twin sister, Ashley. From there, they founded their own production company, Dualstar Entertainment Group, and it produced tons of TV movies and direct-to-video releases featuring the twins. 2004’s New York Minute was the last time they starred in a movie together.
From there, Mary-Kate started picking up roles solo – not part of the Olsen twin team. She had a recurring role on Weeds and was in 2011’s Beastly.
In 2012, though, both Mary-Kate and her sister left the biz for good, so they could focus on their careers in the fashion industry. They co-founded the luxury fashion brand The Row together, along with brands Elizabeth and James, Olsenboye, and StyleMint.
Ashley Olsen was the other half of Michelle Tanner on Full House, so she started her acting career at nine months old, too. And even though these two are arguably the most famous child actors in the entertainment industry, it wasn’t really for them.
2004’s New York Minute was the last time Ashley and her twin starred in a movie together, but it was also the last time Ashley had an acting role at all. She mostly retreated from the limelight to focus on their fashion brands. When the Full House spin-off was announced, Ashley turned down the role, saying “I have not been in front of a camera since I was 17, and I don’t feel comfortable acting,” according to executive producer Bob Boyett.
Known for playing the title character on Malcolm in the Middle, Frankie Muniz was definitely one of the most popular child actors for a while. All of that changed when Muniz decided to put acting on hold and chase his dream of becoming a professional race car driver. He was also the drummer of indie rock band Kingsfoil from 2012 to 2014.
He did have a few cameos in shows like The Mysteries of Laura and Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23, and he also competed on and then co-hosted Dancing With the Stars. But as far as acting goes, he’s mostly retired.
With a career that spanned more than six decades, Gene Hackman has earned one Screen Actors Guild Award, two BAFTAs, two Academy Awards, and four Golden Globes. I guess after a career like that, retirement is more than earned!
Hackman’s last role before retirement was in 2004’s Welcome to Mooseport. He confirmed in 2008 that he was retired. Outside of acting, he has written three historical fiction novels together with undersea archaeologist Daniel Lenihan, and he has written two novels on his own.
Erik von Detten
I know y’all remember my boo, Erik von Detten. The hair *swoon*
He got his start as a kid on Days of Our Lives, but he’s definitely most well-known for roles in movies like Escape to Witch Mountain, Brink!, and The Princess Diaries. And we can’t forget that Erik is also the voice of Sid in the Toy Story franchise!
He had a few roles through the 2000s, but he mostly retreated from Hollywood after that. He and his wife have two kids, and Wikipedia says he’s a sales manager at a commodities brokerage firm. He did step back out in the public eye in 2016 when he showed up to the premiere of Adventures in Babysitting, walking the red carpet with his niece and nephew.
Mara Wilson was a very well-known child actress. You’ll recognize her from Mrs. Doubtfire, Miracle on 34th Street, and, of course, the title character from Matilda. She did a couple of projects after that, but it mostly seemed like she disappeared once she became a teen. Where did she go?
She pretty much left showbiz for good, though she did some stage acting for a while after. Mara is now mostly focused on writing–penning two books so far–and has guest-starred on the popular spooky podcast Welcome to Night Vale.