Acting is a tough old game. There's a one in a million chance of your career ever getting off the ground but when you finally hit the big time, there's no career quite like it. The fame, the riches, and the work come flooding in along with invitations to every event in town. Who would ever want to turn their back on such a life? Once the door to Hollywood is open, it's hard to ever walk out again. But, on rare occasions, some do just that.
Like the old saying goes: the bigger they are, the harder they fall. And in the case of these following stars, a life of glitz and glamour just wasn't for them. They bowed out of the fame game, and just to take a break - these former stars left for good.
Vowing never to return to the big screen ever again but then making a comeback just years later is common; Elizabeth Hurley, Freddie Prinze Jr and Drew Barrymore are examples. It can be hard for them to stay away once they've become accustomed to the lifestyle.
Each year we see star after star complain about gruelling schedules, press invasion, relationship stresses and terrible working conditions. They have just enough strength to tweet their frustrations from the make-up chair. On some occasions, though, there are the genuine few who just don't feel comfortable with overnight fame and want to retreat to a life of true anonymity and normality.
From childhood stars to seasoned professionals, these few successful stars don't want any more to do with one of the most coveted professions in the world.
12 Jack Gleeson
When you've spent the majority of your on-screen time being hated by audiences then acting might not have been the best experience for you. The once reigning King of Westeros, Jack Gleeson, vowed to quit acting after he finished portraying King Joffrey in Game of Thrones (2011-). He was one loathsome character everyone hated to love.
Gleeson confirmed first-hand in an interview that he would not continue with acting; "It was always a recreation beforehand, but when I started doing Game of Thrones, perhaps the reality was made too real for me. The lifestyle that comes with being an actor in a successful TV show isn't something I gravitate towards".
Could it be that playing King Joffrey actually scared him away from any future roles? The Irish actor doesn't watch any of his performances back on the show as it sends 'shivers down his spine'. So unfortunately for all, the young 22-year-old who was pitched to be 'Hollywood's Next Villain' will not be seen again on our screens.
11 Russell Brand
Russell Brand, who has a net worth of $15 million, revealed in an interview last year that he holds no interest in making money anymore and that earning mega bucks from movie appearances leaves him only "feeling guilty" as well as "worthless and meaningless". He now prefers to focus his time on his own revolution.
The owner and creator of The Trews: True News, turned his back on Hollywood shortly after his divorce from pop-singer Katy Perry. The couple were married for two years between 2010-2012 before they decided to divorce citing "irreconcilable differences". Russell Brand was entitled to half of Perry's $44 million worth, as the pair had not signed a nuptial agreement, but the comedian politely gave up his claim to the fortune.
Brand won't be seen again in any big-budget movies such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) or Get Him To The Greek (2010). He does however own an independent film company and plans to make a documentary focusing on "inequality and why the 1 percent (of the world's wealthy) seem to have so much and the rest of us not quite so much".
10 Amanda Bynes
Actress Amanda Bynes is the child-star car crash of our decade; along with other offences she has been arrested for throwing a bong out her apartment window, charged with reckless endangerment, criminal possession of marijuana, DUI offences, hit-and-run incidents and tampering with evidence.
She constantly captured the public's attention with her mindless tweets which have border-lined on insanity. Her bizarre tirades have included announcing Drake has to be photoshopped to cover up Down's Syndrome and telling Rihanna she was beaten by Chris Brown because she wasn't "pretty enough".
In June 2010, Bynes announced via Twitter, "I've #retired. I don't love acting anymore so I've stopped doing it...If I don't love doing something anymore I stop doing it...Being an actress isn't as fun as it may seem". The last movie she appeared in was beside Emma Stone in Easy A (2010) and she hasn't been casted since; be that her own decision or that nobody is interested in working with her anymore.
9 Heather Donahue
The Blair Witch Project (1991) catapulted Heather Donahue to the dizzy heights of fame, she had Hollywood at her feet and many new projects thrown at her. However, Donahue turned her back on the glamour and turned to a life of green fingers as she pursued a new career growing medical marijuana.
The actress has her own prescription for medical marijuana to deal with PMS and released a book GrowGirl: How My Life After The Blair Witch Project Went to Pot in 2011 about her experience in the field.
She mentions about her decision to quit acting; "I took all my stuff into the desert related to my acting career and burned it all," but she has kept hold of the ski-cap worn throughout the movie and which also features on all the promotional posters. She jokes; "I figured if things got really bad, I could always sell it on eBay."
8 Rick Moranis
For every kid who grew up in the 80's and 90's; you will remember comedy legend Rick Moranis from his much-loved appearances in Ghostbusters (1984) and Honey, I Shrunk The Kids (1989). Sadly for audiences (but wonderful for his family) he retired in 1997 to become a full-time, stay-at-home Dad.
Moranis made the decision after he lost his beloved wife to breast cancer, at the peak of his career he disappeared off the public radar. Although, he has continued with small parts of voice acting he hasn't shown his face in front of a camera since, preferring the quiet life.
He said his decision was influenced by his own happy childhood: "When my kids came home, there was music, and there were lights on, and there were great smells coming out of the kitchen,” he said. “And it was just a joyful place to be, and that’s what I wanted.” Sounds as if he is enjoying a very happy retirement.
7 Taylor Momsen
Gossip Girl (2007-2012) star Taylor Momsen quit Hollywood to get grungy on stage with her band The Pretty Reckless. Actress turned Rock Goddess; Momsen often shocks her fans as she often takes to the stage wearing just a bodice, stockings and stripper heels to serenade them down the microphone.
At just 21 years old she is happy with her new career change: "I quit acting, actually. I quit Gossip Girl and now tour and am in a band and that's pretty much all I want to do. Hopefully I'll be able to only do that for the rest of my life."
When Gossip Girl was at its height of popularity there were more rumours and back-stabbing off camera than there were on. With Momsen baring her breasts on stage as her rock-star alter-ego it was said that she jumped ship before being forced to walk the plank by director's anyway.
6 Peter Ostrum
Peter Ostrum began his life living out in Cleveland and enjoying attending the local children's theater group. He was then the lucky boy who really did win the golden ticket as he was snapped up to play Charlie in Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory (1971) alongside Gene Wilder, aged just 12-years-old. It would be his first and only movie role.
Ostrum believes the key to his success was: "I was in the right place at the right time. Basically, good things happen to people that make the right decisions." After the success of the Roald Dahl classic he decided to retire to a normal life and not pursue an acting career anymore.
You will now have to refer to him as Dr. Ostrum, since he gained his degree and works at Countryside Veterinary Clinic in Lowville, New York. Working mainly with horses and cows, it's the quiet life in the country this actor dreams only of now.
5 Mara Wilson
Mara Wilson was tipped to be Hollywood's biggest and brightest star after winning the hearts of millions in roles like Mrs Doubtfire (1993), Miracle of 34th Street (1994) and Matilda (1996). Then she decided fame wasn't for her and left the spotlight and hundreds of movie role offers behind.
Since abandoning the big screen; Wilson has become a renowned playwright and wishes to live more modestly. Her witty blog posts explain that you will never see her on Dancing With the Stars and also details why she made her decision to leave it all: "Here is something no real celebrity will ever tell you: film acting is not very fun. Doing the same thing over and over again until, in the director’s eyes, you “get it right” does not allow for very much creative freedom."
Fans of hers will be devastated to know that she is also not quite as cute as it all appears on screen, "I was playing a lot of cute characters, a lot of little girls, I was objectified. It’s a version of Mara Wilson that doesn’t exist. And I’d rather be known for my accomplishments and for things that I really do take pride in, rather than known for this doll-like image I had when I was a child." Whatever keeps you smiling, Wilson.
4 Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
When the world is at your feet, you can pick and choose which profession you want to make a career out of. Twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen discovered a new-found freedom when they turned their back on the big screen, the last appearance was from Mary-Kate in Beastly (2011).
After being in the spotlight since 1987, they decided to take a break and focus on their education and duck out of the limelight for a bit. Ashley said of the decision: "It was time to step behind the process. But if I ever do get back in, it’s not going to be as an actress. It just felt right to move away. I don’t have to be a pretty face. I’ve done that, but now it’s important and liberating to be on the other side of the lens. I don’t like to be the center of attention anymore".
The pair were best known their work together on Full House (1987-1995) and Two of a Kind (1998-1999). Now it's time for their little sister Elizabeth Olsen to become the talk of the family as she is set to star in huge movies such as Avengers: Age of Ultron and Hank William's biopic I Saw The Light; both due for release this year.
3 Meg Ryan
It must have been a tough decision to make for Meg Ryan to leave her Hollywood career behind even when there were still many lucrative offers for her to work. She was married to actor Dennis Quaid for ten years until they divorced in 2001 as both sides had affairs throughout the marriage. Ryan confessed to having an affair with Russell Crowe during the time they filmed Proof of Life (2000) together.
The star who could not be seen out of the movies at one point is now settled as a full-time New York mom to her two children Daisy and Jack. She has said in many interviews since her departure from the screen that she prefers to live a quiet life and does not like to be recognised when out in public with her family.
Her most notable work will be Sleepless In Seattle (1993) and You've Got Mail (1998); in both roles she starred opposite Tom Hanks. It was 'that scene' in When Harry Met Sally (1989) that really shot her stardom though as the new, fresh face of comedy.
2 Gene Hackman
When Gene Hackman did work in Hollywood, he worked very hard; with 40 years spent in the business he acted in over 90 movies. The veteran star even scooped Oscars for his work in The French Connection (1971) and Unforgiven (1992). He has now retired from the big screen since 2004 and focuses on penning his own novels; which don't make him the same money as a Hollywood pay-check but if that's what he enjoys doing...
Hackman has said about his departure from acting: "The compromises that you have to make in films are just part of the beast, and it had gotten to a point where I just didn't feel like I wanted to do it anymore".
Hackman was also well-known for terrifying his fellow cast and crew wherever he worked. The stars of The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) said they feared for director Wes Anderson when Hackman would start arguing with him. When asked for a response to the comments from the other characters in the film, Hackman responded "Characters? What characters? All I saw was a bunch of little kids dressed up in costumes".
1 Sean Connery
Legendary James Bond actor Sean Connery made his last feature movie The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) and then bowed out of acting for good. What went so wrong that the star felt the need to end his career right there and then? Where do we even begin...
Everyone knew a movie about a team of extraordinary literary legends such as The Invisible Man, Dorian Grey, Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde was not going to be the best entertainment. The reviews came in and hit hard with Rotten Tomatoes only awarding it 17%. It was Connery himself though who handed the movie its most damning review and the quote is: "F**k everything. F**k this world. I'm out." Talk about throwing your toys out the pram.
What makes matters even worse is that Connery actually chose this role over the option to play Gandalf in Lord of The Rings as he 'did not understand the script.' You don't have to be an expert on Tolkien to know that when director Peter Jackson approaches you to play a part then you should take it. Connery has not been seen on the big screen ever since.