They say the spotlight can be addictive… so what would cause someone to walk away? Any number of reasons, as it turns out. Becoming new parent, looking after a loved one, losing passion for the craft, or simply desiring a simpler life are among the reasons these stars chose to leave the glamorous life behind. […]
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They say the spotlight can be addictive… so what would cause someone to walk away?
Any number of reasons, as it turns out. Becoming new parent, looking after a loved one, losing passion for the craft, or simply desiring a simpler life are among the reasons these stars chose to leave the glamorous life behind. (Of course, for some stars, Hollywood left them behind.)
Related: Spooky Movies You Can Watch With Your Most Timid Friends!
Whether it’s a few years or a few decades, here are a few of the celebs who turned their backs on fame and walked away from La La Land:
Macaulay Culkin may be the biggest child star of all time. Think about how big that is. And he just walked away.
After Home Alone and its sequel, Mack went on to act in several more films back to back, leading to 1994’s Richie Rich. It was at that point he finally realized he was being worn out by all the work. As he revealed in a 2020 Esquire interview:
“It started feeling like a chore. I started vocalizing that and not being heard: I was saying, ‘I wanna go to school — I haven’t done a full year of school since first grade.'”
So he quit. He didn’t do another movie for nine years — and has only done FOUR features in the past 25.
Instead, he spends his time these days following his passion in Internet comedy with the website and podcast he co-founded, Bunny Ears. He also appears in other YouTube vids.
Mack says he still enjoys acting and will do more — provided it doesn’t start feeling like a chore again. His first big move back? Appearing on Season Ten of American Horror Story!
Did anyone in history both find and leave superstardom more quickly than Grace Kelly?? After just a year of increasingly large TV roles, she started acting in films in 1951. In just five years, the blonde starred in such classics as High Noon, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, and To Catch A Thief. She even won the Best Actress Oscar for 1954’s The Country Girl! And then… she was gone.
See, in 1955 she met Prince Rainier III, the ruler of a tiny European principality called Monaco, and after a yearlong courtship, they were married in 1956, making her an honest to goodness princess.
Unfortunately her new life as a royal took her away from Hollywood, and not just geographically. She stopped acting completely to do charity work and raise her children, the heirs to the throne of her new land.
In 1962, her old collaborator Alfred Hitchcock offered her the lead role in Marnie, and she apparently was excited to do it — but well into negotiations, she left the project, reportedly due to the role of a thief causing something of a royal scandal in Monaco. 15 years later she was offered the ballet drama The Turning Point, but the Prince apparently would not allow it. It has been widely rumored it was the Prince who kept Grace from acting altogether, in something of a gilded cage.
Sadly she passed away in 1982 without ever gracing the screen again.
If they made a Mount Rushmore of late ’80s/early ’90s comedy stars, that would be really weird. But also Rick Moranis would definitely be on it. With roles in classics like Ghostbusters, Spaceballs, and Little Shop of Horrors, he was one of the most recognizable stars of the era.
Unfortunately tragedy struck. In 1991, Rick’s wife, costume designer Ann Belsky, died of cancer. Now that he was raising two young children alone, the star found he couldn’t keep up with the hectic Hollywood lifestyle. And so in 1997, he just stopped. He explained in a 2005 interview:
“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. 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.”
But now that his kids are older, it looks like we’re going to see his triumphant return! In February 2020, it was announced he would be coming back as mad scientist dad Wayne Szalinski in the reboot of the Honey I Shrunk The Kids franchise!
There are few actresses who have the charm, talent, and pure star power to rise through the ranks of rom-com queens like Cameron Diaz. She was a staple of the ’90s and early 2000s, with enough charisma to knock a person out — and to rule the box office. After a string of successes starting with My Best Friend’s Wedding, to Charlie’s Angels, to the Shrek franchise and beyond, Cameron took a big step back in 2014 — and she hasn’t appeared onscreen since.
The 48-year-old explained her decision to walk away to pal Gwyneth Paltrow for Goop’s Health: The Sessions conversations. She said:
“I just decided that I wanted different things out of my life. I had gone so hard for so long, working, making films and it’s such a grind. I didn’t really make any space for my personal life. … When you’re making a movie, it’s a perfect excuse — they own you. You’re there for 12 hours a day for months on end and you have no time for anything else.”
The Oscar nominee said she found “a peace in [her] soul” by leaving Hollywood. She also found a wine company, Avaline, to fill some of her now-open schedule — at least, what’s not already being filled by writing books and spending time with husband Benji Madden and new baby Raddix.
In the early 2000s, Josh Hartnett was one of the biggest young movie stars in the world. One of those heartthrobs who was on the shortlist for every big movie (he famously turned down shots at Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman). And at the height of his fame, he just left.
The 40 Days And 40 Nights star moved from LA back home to Minnesota and just STOPPED being a star for a year and a half. He told Details in 2014:
“I was on the cover of every magazine. I couldn’t really go anywhere. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I was alone. I didn’t trust anyone. So I went back to Minnesota and got back together with my old friends — ended up getting back together with my high-school girlfriend for a while — and I didn’t do any filming for 18 months. I’m still finding my way through all that.”
In 2020, he reflected on the Vanity Fair piece that compared him to stars like Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts — and made him want to escape the spotlight. Unfortunately, his desire to chase smaller roles “burned bridges” at the big studios. He told The Guardian:
“They looked at me as someone who had bitten the hand that fed me. It wasn’t that. I wasn’t doing it to be recalcitrant or a rebel. People wanted to create a brand around me that was going to be accessible and well-liked, but I didn’t respond to the idea of playing the same character over and over, so I branched out.”
Luckily we didn’t lose Josh completely as he decided he still enjoyed acting enough to do the occasional indie movie here and there. Eventually he took on a more high profile turn in the Showtime horror series Penny Dreadful. But he was never a movie star again. He still looks great, though, so maybe one day he’ll make a huge comeback.
Hilary Swank was a two-time Oscar winner and industry powerhouse when she stepped back from the spotlight in 2014. Though she had sporadic projects in the interim, the Million Dollar Baby star largely put her acting career on hold for three years.
The actress had a particularly altruistic reason behind her disappearance, however — she left to take care of her father as he recovered from a lung transplant.
She explained to Health magazine:
“It was supposed to be a year, because it takes a year to see if an organ transplant takes. A lung transplant is the most difficult of all, as it’s an incredibly delicate organ. The plan was to take off a year. I became my dad’s health advocate. One year quickly turned into two, and then three. And, thank God, prayers were answered. He is healthy and doing really well five-plus years later.”
Since her dad was given a clean bill of health, Hilary has been steadily working herself back up to the productivity of the early 2000s, with offbeat movies like Logan Lucky and The Hunt as well as dipping her toes back into TV with 2018’s Trust and 2020’s Away, the recently-cancelled Netflix series where she played the commander of humanity’s first expedition to Mars.
Brendan Fraser was one of the most beloved movie stars of the early 2000s. He could play suave action hero (The Mummy) or goofy man-child (George of the Jungle) with equal humor — and equal big-budget star power. But in the 2010s, Fraser mysteriously began to fall off the radar.
Part of the reason for his disappearance was the heavy amount of stunt work he’d done over the years left his body in shambles. Over the course of seven years, he had two laminectomies, a partial knee replacement, his vocal cords repaired, and “various compressed spinal pads” bolted together, according to GQ.
Another, darker reason that Fraser became less ubiquitous was his own #MeToo story. The actor told GQ that he was groped by former Hollywood Foreign Press Association president Phillip Berk. The assault left him in a dark place mentally, and in his opinion, “curried disfavor” with the HFPA after he alerted them to it.
Work “withered on the vine” for the actor in the ensuing years, and while he continued to appear in projects, it was less frequent and much less high profile. He’s steadily making his comeback in recent years, finding success in television, including DC’s offbeat superhero team Doom Patrol.
Renee Zellweger was another critical and commercial darling in the early 2000s before she decided to take a six-year hiatus from acting. Despite multiple award nominations and box office success, she chose to step back for a “quieter life” that allowed her to have “authentic exchanges with people once again.”
She told Vulture:
“I wasn’t healthy. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I was the last thing on my list of priorities. … [My therapist] recognized that I spent 99 percent of my life as the public persona and just a microscopic crumb of a fraction in my real life. I needed to not have something to do all the time, to not know what I’m going to be doing for the next two years in advance. I wanted to allow for some accidents. There had to be some quiet for the ideas to slip in.”
After taking those six years to reset and rejuvenate herself, Renée made her comeback by stepping back into the shoes of her career-defining character Bridget Jones in the series’ third installment, Bridget Jones’s Baby. In 2019, she cemented her return with an Oscar winning performance as Judy Garland in the biopic Judy.
While coronavirus may have brought things to another pause, we hope to continue to see Renée on our screens for years to come.
Frankie Muniz was the quintessential child star of the early 2000s. He played the titular role on the hit sitcom Malcolm in the Middle, for which he was nominated for an Emmy and two Golden Globes, and starred in a handful of popular, kid-friendly films like Agent Cody Banks and Big Fat Liar.
But after Malcolm ended in 2006, he phased out of the Hollywood scene and took a sharp career turn: he became a professional race car driver. (This may be less surprising if you’re a fan of the Disney Channel Original Movie Miracle in Lane 2.) After several years of racing, he then spent some time as a professional drummer, joining two different bands and later managing a third.
Muniz made something of a return to Hollywood when he appeared on Dancing with the Stars in 2017. But while competing, he made a surprising and devastating reveal: he actually doesn’t remember most of his child star days, due to a series of mini-strokes that have left him with memory loss.
At the time, he told Entertainment Weekly:
“I’m not looking for sympathy or anyone to care about it. This is my life and I’ve moved forward. It doesn’t stop me from being anywhere I want to be. I’ve been so lucky and fortunate in my life to be able to do all the things I’ve gotten to do. I’ve literally had three dream jobs and I’m still continuing. And now I’m dancing on TV. I consider myself to be in an amazing place. So it’s weird when people are like, ‘oh I’m sorry you are going through this,’ but in my head I’m like, ‘I’m living pretty good.’ I don’t see it as a negative. I see my life as 100 percent positive.”
What an incredible attitude! We’d love to see Frankie on our screen again, but it honestly seems like the world’s his oyster. Who knows what he’ll pursue next!
Eva Mendes became a household name in the early 2000s with her breakthrough role in Training Day alongside Denzel Washington, an appearance in the Fast & Furious franchise, and as a memorable rom-com lead in Hitch with Will Smith.
Mendes met Ryan Gosling on the set of The Place Beyond The Pines in 2011, and the rest, as they say, is history. Her last acting project was her husband’s directorial debut, Lost Pines, in 2014. In the six years since, she’s enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom to their two daughters, Esmeralda and Amada.
She told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2020:
“I feel like, as far as my ambition, it didn’t go away, it just shifted onto the children. … I applaud and look up to those women who can do it all, but I’m not one of them, and, thankfully, I have a choice not to work and I realize how fortunate I am that it’s even a choice. I’ve been so happy to be able to incubate with my babies, but now they are four and six, I’m starting to feel like my ambition is coming back.”
If and when she does return to the screen, it has to be the “right” part. She explained in an Instagram comment:
“As a mother now, there are many roles I won’t do. There are many subject matters that I don’t want to be involved with, so it limits my choices and I’m fine with that. I have to set an example for my girls now.”
In the meantime, she’s got a clothing line with New York & Company to keep her busy — and of course, one of the dreamiest leading men in Hollywood to co-parent with!
Did we miss any celebs, Perezcious readers?! Sound OFF with all your thoughts in the comments!
[Image via Disney/WENN/Dimension/YouTube.]
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