Although being famous typically brings wealth and attention, some people don’t enjoy the lifestyle. Imagine starting a job you think you’ll love and then realize it’s not at all what you thought it would be. Perhaps you can’t stand your co-workers, the responsibilities, or environment. You can either be miserable, or quit and move on to what makes you happy.
Then there are those who left the entertainment industry to raise a family, or focus on their personal life. Singer Anita Baker left at the peak of her career to raise her two sons for several years, and eventually returned to record more albums. We’ve seen others do this such as actor Damon Wayans and actress Julia Roberts.
Below is a list of celebrities who left Hollywood for years before coming back, and some who left for good. The reasons for their decisions range from needing a break, wanting to start a family, disliking the craft, or simply realizing they didn’t like the fame that came with acting.
11. Debra Winger
Debra Winger gained critical acclaim and popularity in 1980 for her performance in the film Urban Cowboy. She went on to star in other successful films and received three Academy Award nominations for Best Actress. Since the beginning of her career, the actress was known to be outspoken and difficult to work with at times. She even refused to do publicity for An Officer and a Gentleman, as well as other movies. Debra had a habit of speaking negatively about her co-stars and directors. She even turned down the lead role in the classic movie A League of Their Own, because she didn’t want to work with singer Madonna.
In 1995, the beauty decided to take a break from acting, which she had wanted to do for a long time. Years later, she spoke about her decision: “I wanted out for years. I got sick of hearing myself say I wanted to quit.”
10. Kristy McNichol
Kristy McNichol made her first appearance in show business doing commercials with her brother as a young girl. She went on to make guest appearances on several television shows in the 1970s, such as The Bionic Woman and Starsky and Hutch. She received fame and major success for her role on the television drama Family, which earned her two Emmy awards. She soon became one of the biggest teen stars of that time.
In 1995, Kristy left acting for good after her last screen appearance in the sitcom Empty Nest, which was around the same time she announced that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. During an interview, the former teen star talked about her choice to leave the industry: “I retired from my career after 24 years. My feeling was that it was time to play my biggest part – myself! I must say that it has been the best thing that ever happened to me.”
9. Rick Moranis
Rick Moranis reached fame in the 1980s after starring in popular films such as Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Ghostbusters. He was a radio disc jockey in Toronto and received his big break when asked to join the third season cast of Second City Television by a friend. Rick had a successful career in Hollywood for ten years until he decided to leave to focus on raising his children after he lost his wife to breast cancer. What he thought would be a short break turned into years until he realized going back to the entertainment industry wasn’t a desire. Rick hasn’t made an appearance in a movie since 1997 although he has done voice over work. In 2006 he received a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album and went on Late Night with Conan O’Brien to discuss his future music career.
8. Heather Donahue
Heather Donahue gained popularity and fame in 1999 after the hit film The Blair Witch Project was released. She then made appearances in numerous films and television shows such as, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. However, she hasn’t made an on screen appearance in almost eight years. Heather signed a publishing deal in 2011 with Gotham Books for her debut book entitled GROWGIRL in which she talks about her time as a medical marijuana grower.
7. Peter Ostrum
Peter Ostrum is a former child actor who acted in the 1971 hit film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. This was his only role in a movie, and at the age of 13-years-old he tuned down a three-film contract offer. Years later as a teenager, he attempted to audition for several roles but didn’t land any of the jobs. Peter decided not to pursue acting after that and began a career with animals. He worked with horses and cows at the Countryside Veterinary Clinic as of 2012. Currently, his occupation is a veterinarian in New York.
6. John Hughes
John Hughes was a well-known producer, director, and writer who passed away in 2009. He was behind some of the most popular films in the 1980s and 1990s, ranging from The Breakfast Club to Home Alone. In addition to that, he helped launch the careers of numerous actors and actresses. His last film as a director was Curly Sue, which came out in 1991. Several years later, Hughes left the entertainment industry and lived a quiet life in Chicago. Many people think the death of actor John Candy influenced his decision to leave Hollywood, such as Vince Vaughn who said: “He talked a lot about how much he loved Candy—if Candy had lived longer, I think John would have made more films as a director.” The prolific filmmaker went on to write more projects, but he never directed any films after 1991. In 2009, John died moments after suffering from a heart attack.
5. Cary Grant
Cary Grant is one of Hollywood’s greatest leading men. He was known for his good looks, charm, and dynamic acting abilities. Some of the classic motion pictures he starred in include North by Northwest, Charade, An Affair to Remember, and His Girl Friday. Cary was a box office attraction for more than 30 years, often earning more money than the director and producer combined on projects. He retired from on screen roles at the age of 62 when his daughter, Jennifer, was born to focus on creating a stable life for her. Cary joined the board of numerous organizations and even had a one man show entitled, A Conversation with Cary Grant. In 1986, he passed away from a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 82.
4. Gene Hackman
Gene Hackman is a highly accomplished actor who won the best actor Academy Award for The French Connection. His career spans five decades, starting in the 1950s with his role as Buck Barrow in the classic film Bonnie and Clyde. After numerous Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations, Gene told Larry King during an interview in 2004 that he believed his acting career was over. In 2008, he officially announced his retirement from acting and focused on his career as a novelist. He appeared on The Loose Cannons, a Fox radio show, in 2011 where he discussed his books and acting career.
3. Phoebe Cates
Phoebe Cates rose to fame in the 1980s for her role in the film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. She was a teen sensation, appearing on magazine covers for Seventeen and Teen Beat. As a former model, she wanted to take on films that catered to an adult audience such as Gremlins. Phoebe starred in a TV mini-series called Lace and also performed off-Broadway. In 1994, she decided to retire to raise her children and focus on family. In 2001, she made an appearance in the film The Anniversary Party as a favor to the director. In 2005 she opened up a boutique in New York and hasn’t appeared on screen since in years.
2. Shirley Temple
Shirley Temple was a child star in the 1930s, starting at the age of three years old. Her role in the movie Bright Eyes gained her fame and at the age of six she received a Juvenile Academy Award for her contributions to the arts. Shirley had huge box office appeal as a young child, which is the reason why merchandise using her image has earned millions. As she became a teenager and young adult, Shirley’s success waned and she ultimately decide to retire from movies at the age of twenty-two. She came back eight years later to host and narrate an NBC series that only lasted until 1961. Although she made guest appearances on numerous television shows, Temple was heavily involved in politics. She passed away this year from natural causes and remains one of the most famous and critically acclaimed child actors in history.
1. Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill began singing and acting as a young child. She became famous as the vocalist in the music group The Fugees. They released two albums, one of which sold six million copies and earned a Grammy. In 1998, Lauryn released her only smash hit album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. She received awards and became the feature image on many magazine covers that year. However, the pressure of the music industry and inability to repeat her former success made her slowly drop out of the public eye. In 2001, she released a live album that didn’t do well. She currently has six children and served a three-month prison sentence for tax evasion in 2013.