There are thousands of great actors in the world, but every now and then one comes along that blows us all away and sticks in our minds for a long time. However, more often than not, these actors are on their A game for several years then kind of just fade out of public sight.
From some of our most admired adolescent idols to ones that starred in our cult classic favorites, we can all think of an actor or actress who we wish was still around and doing their thing. What we tend to forget is that people change and people’s lives progress, leading even the biggest of celebrities to pursue different paths once they’ve had enough of acting. All of us are curious though, and from time to time we think back and wonder where our favorite film stars are at, what they’re doing and what could have persuaded them to do away with fame.
Whether it be activism, focusing on family or getting into directing, we’ve compiled a list of our all-time favorite actors and actresses who have left box office hits behind and moved on to other things. We can’t say we aren’t hoping for their comebacks though.
10 Jonathan Taylor Thomas
If you lived through the nineties, you almost certainly spent some time watching Home Improvement. Jonathan Taylor Thomas’ sly comebacks and witty banter as Randy Taylor brought in millions of teen viewers and he was widely considered the teen actor to beat for most of the decade. Then, he dropped off the face of the Earth, save for a few guest spots on shows like Smallville, 8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter and Veronica Mars.
Everybody had high career hopes for someone who was once considered the prince of primetime TV but JTT opted to put acting on hold and get an education instead. After Home Improvement went off the air in 1998, Jonathan Taylor Thomas enrolled at Harvard University in 2000 to study philosophy and history and eventually graduated from Columbia University in 2010.
In regards to his leaving the acting world, JTT said that he had worked steadily throughout his adolescence and needed a break to get to know people his own age, learn about the world and travel. Nowadays, the actor has redeveloped an interest in the entertainment industry and has been focusing on writing scripts with the goal of eventually directing movies.
9 Sean Connery
Whether you loved Entrapment or his role as one of the most dashing 007 agents ever in the James Bond films, everybody knows Sean Connery and has enjoyed at least one of his many movies. Widely critically acclaimed, the actor has won an Academy Award, two BAFTA awards and numerous Golden Globes across the span of his long and successful career. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth the II in July of 2000 and has been recognized as Scotland’s greatest national treasure, yet he decided to walk away from all of the fame in 2006.
On his retirement, the handsome actor has been quoted as saying that “idiots are now making the films in Hollywood.” Since then, he’s been offered numerous film roles in franchises like the popular Indiana Jones series but has turned them all down, stating that “retirement is just too much damned fun.” Nowadays, the 84-year-old has been seen relaxing at tennis tournaments and taking long walks in New York City, living life to the fullest. He was reportedly being considered for a role in the last James Bond movie, Skyfall, but the idea was scrapped due to it being too distracting to the film.
8 Julia Roberts
Throughout the nineties and early 2000s, Julia Roberts was America’s sweetheart. She became known to worldwide audiences after starring in Pretty Woman and went on to hold the title roles in several other box office hits like Sleeping with the Enemy, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Stepmom, Notting Hill and Erin Brockovich – which won her an Academy Award. Her career gradually slowed into the late 2000s and we haven’t seen much of her since Eat Pray Love, where her love for Hinduism grew and she spent significant time with the Swami Daram Dev of a local ashram.
Nowadays, Roberts serves as the executive producer for the series of American Girl books turned into movies and has become increasingly involved in charity work, becoming the spokeswoman for a renewable fuel charity called Earth Biofuels and narrating a Conservation International Film about climate change. She’s settled down far away from the entertainment hubs of Los Angeles and New York and lives on a ranch in Taos, New Mexico with her husband, cameramen Daniel Moder and their three children.
7 Mischa Barton
Ah, The O.C. Whether you were still in high school or watching it with your teenaged kids, it was the hottest show on primetime television from 2003 to 2006 and catapulted actress Mischa Barton to mainstream fame. She won numerous awards over the show’s run and was named the “It Girl” of 2003 by Entertainment Weekly. She went on to appear in box office flops like St Trinian’s (2007), Closing The Ring (2007) and Assassination of a High School President (2008) and had the leading role in the Ashton Kutcher-produced The Beautiful Life before it got cancelled went off air.
Since then, she’s disappeared from the world’s radar except for a theatre performance here and there and filming a few low budget films that have yet to be released. She’s also gotten into some legal trouble, having been arrested in 2007 for driving under the influence without a valid license with marijuana on her. She was also sued by her landlord in New York for failing to pay three months of rent on her apartment – a total outstanding balance of $21,000! As if that wasn’t enough trouble for the actress, Mischa Barton was placed under a psychiatric hold in July of 2009 after a dentist tried to administer a needle during a routine tooth infection procedure, prompting Barton to get into a fight with the nurses due to her fear of needles.
6 Helen Hunt
What ever happened to Helen Hunt? The world fell in love with the movie star while watching her in films like As Good As It Gets, Twister, Cast Away, Good Will Hunting and other cult classics. Starting out as a child actor on the hit Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s, Hunt went on to be extensively recognized and critically acclaimed throughout her career, winning Academy Awards, Golden Globes and numerous Emmy awards. She was all over Hollywood until the early 2000s, after which she began to lay low and starred in a broadway play, did some short film work and opened up a production company called Hunt/Tavel Productions under Sony Entertainment. Nowadays, she hasn’t done much except for direct and star in an as of yet unnamed surf movie co-starring Luke Wilson. The movie completed filming in 2013 yet still hasn’t been titled or released.
5 Josh Hartnett
Josh Hartnett held the key to most teenage girls' hearts in the early 2000s, starring in box office hits like Pearl Harbour, Black Hawk Down, 40 Days and 40 Nights and Wicker Park. However, his choice in roles started to decline with flops like The Black Dahlia, The T Takes and I Come With The Rain, and in 2008 he kind of just disappeared off of the Hollywood circuit altogether.
Hartnett ended up moving back to Minnesota, expressing that he wanted to work on independent films that he felt were more purposeful than the commercial successes he had previously been a part of. He became passionate about activism and joined President Obama’s campaign trail in 2008. Since then, he’s been a part of a few independent films without much success. He recently decided to get involved again with Hollywood, as he recognizes that in order to fund his smaller projects, he’ll have to act in big projects occasionally. He also stars in Showtime’s horror series Penny Dreadful, which began airing in 2014.
4 Adrien Brody
In 2002, Adrien Brody seemingly appeared out of nowhere in the lead role of Wladyslaw Szpilman in the critically acclaimed and Oscar-winning The Pianist. After losing twenty-nine pounds, learning to play Chopin on the piano and breaking up with his then-girlfriend for the role, the actor went on to be the youngest male ever – at age twenty-nine – to win an Oscar for best male lead. He made headlines around the world when he grabbed Halle Berry to kiss her on the mouth following his win and was America’s crush for a while. He went on to star in King Kong in 2005, which grossed $550 million worldwide and was his most financially successful film to date. After that, he played in a few movies without much critical acclaim except for his indie roles in Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris and the Wes Anderson-directed The Darjeeling Limited and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Other than that, he’s laid low for the most part and has dropped out of the mainstream entertainment world’s sight.
3 Neve Campbell
If you were a teenager in the nineties, you lived and breathed for Neve Campbell in the hit television series, Party of Five. The show aired from 1994-2000 and portrayed the lives of a dysfunctional family, capturing the hearts of audiences around the world. Campbell also starred in some of the biggest box office successes of the nineties, including The Craft, Wild Things and all four of the Scream movies. She became everybody's favorite horror film star and she was everywhere until the end of the decade, after which she seemed to disappear altogether. Since then she’s gotten married, divorced, re-married and become involved in charities focused on Tourette’s Syndrome. She also had a handful of cameos in television series like Mad Men and Grey’s Anatomy.
2 Rick Moranis
1 Alicia Silverstone
Alicia Silverstone became a star worldwide after starring as a spoiled rich girl in the hilarious 1995 film Clueless. She got her start in the entertainment industry by being cast in three Aerosmith videos, after which she was given the role in Clueless. She then went on to star as Catwoman in the hit Batman & Robin. After that, her career slowed down and she acted in a few box office flops then transitioned to performing a bit on Broadway and in a couple of television shows that went off the air.
Silverstone began to focus on being a vegan activist, starting a website about the topic and publishing a nutrition book. She is also interested in environmental activism and built herself an eco-friendly home complete with solar panels. She has an interest in politics and supported Barack Obama during the 2008 election. She also wrote a letter to Vladimir Putin while the band Pussy Riot was imprisoned, asking the Russian government to provide prisoners with better meals. We think it’s safe to say that returning to the Hollywood scene is very far from Silverstone’s mind.