Famous Actors & Actresses Who Don’t Act Anymore
Hollywood is a cutthroat business that has been known to take a toll on celebrities over the years. While some stars can’t maintain the fame they get thrown into, others have decided to walk away from the chaos and drama of the spotlight. From those who have flat out retired from Hollywood to those who simply fell off the radar, here are some famous actors and actresses who don’t act anymore:
37. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
These two rose to fame during the ’80s and early ’90s playing Michelle Tanner on Full House. Throughout their childhood and adolescence the two continued to perform in their own TV movies and direct-to-video releases that were produced by their company, Dualstar. After New York Minute bombed at the box office, Ashley stopped acting altogether while Mary Kate continued to dabble in acting with roles in the TV show Weeds and movies Beastly and The Wackness. By 2011, at only 25 both retreated from acting and now the two business moguls are focused on their fashion empire, which includes the brand The Row, Elizabeth and James, Olsenboye, and StyleMint.
36. Freddie Prinze Jr.
Freddie Prinze Jr. was the unequivocal king of the late ’90s and early 2000’s. With a slew of iconic films including I Know What You Did Last Summer, She’s All That, Down to You and more, he was on top of Hollywood. Instead of clinging to fame however, Prinze Jr. decided to take a step back in the mid-2000’s and has not returned to the spotlight. Instead he focuses on several voice-acting roles on animated shows like Robot Chicken and Star Wars Rebels. He almost made a comeback when it was reported he had signed on to star in the new CW series Nancy Drew as Nancy Drew’s dad, but backed out shortly after the series was picked up in 2019 and was replaced by fellow ’90s heartthrob Scott Wolf.
35. Meg Ryan
There was a point in time when no actress in Hollywood was as highly sought after as Meg Ryan. In the late ’80s into the ’90s she was “America’s Sweetheart” thanks to iconic roles in classic romantic drama like When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, City of Angels, and You’ve Got Mail. The intensity of her fame became too much for the actress however and she took a break from the industry following the failure of her 2004 sports drama Against the Ropes. She took time off to refocus and focus on her children, and returned in 2007 with a starring role in The Land of Women with Adam Brody and Kristen Stewart. In 2009, after a role in Serious Moonlight and Curb Your Enthusiasm, Ryan went on hiatus again for another four years. When she returned she chose to step behind the camera and direct and star in the 2015 film Ithaca, and that was her last major role.
34. Joe Pesci
Joe Pesci retired from acting back in 1999, but not before giving us some classic flicks like Casino, Raging Bull, My Cousin Vinny, and of course, the all time favorite, Home Alone. But the actor hasn’t left the limelight completely. In 2006, he appeared in The Good Shepherd, and in 2010 he was in Love Ranch. It would seem that he’s been focusing on gaining fans in another area: music. Yep, Joe Pesci has released a few albums that combine humor, rap, and jazz.
33. Mackenzie Rosman
Mackenzie Rosman played the adorable Ruthie Camden on 7th Heaven. Since the show ended, her biggest role has been as a guest star on The Secret Life of an American Teenager. The last roles she had was in the horror/fantasy film Ghost Shark and the horror/thriller Nightcomer both of which were released in 2013.
32. Jack Gleeson
Like so many of the young stars of the show, actor Jack Gleeson was thrown into super stardom thanks to Game of Thrones. Unfortunately for Gleeson, his role as one of the most hated characters in TV history, Joffrey Baratheon took a toll on him outside of acting. After his character was killed off, Gleeson decided he had had enough of acting and quit. “I just stopped enjoying it as much as I used to,” he said of his decision. “And now there’s the prospect of doing it for a living, whereas up until now it was always something I did for recreation with my friends, or in the summer for some fun. I enjoyed it. When you make a living from something, it changes your relationship with it. It’s not like I hate it, it’s just not what I want to do.” He added, “I’m happy to sacrifice a big paycheck for my happiness, if that’s not too corny a thing to say. It’s probably more naive than mature to say that, maybe, but that’s how I feel.”
31. Lisa Bonet
Lisa Bonet’s fame was worldwide thanks to her role as Denise Huxtable on The Cosby Show and A Different World but after the show she didn’t throw herself into everything Hollywood wanted to, and now she barely acts at all. Since the end of The Cosby Show in 1991, Bonet only had 14 other roles, several in straight-to-video or made-for-TV films and her last serious role was in 2016 in seven episodes of the series Ray Donovan. Of course, she has been on the red carpet more recently than ever thanks to the stardom of her husband Jason Momoa.
30. Daniel Day Lewis
After a decades long career spanning both stage and screen work, iconic actor Daniel Day Lewis announced he was leaving the business in 2017. “Daniel Day-Lewis will no longer be working as an actor. 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,” his rep Leslee Dart said at the time. The last addition to his career, which saw him with three Oscars wins as well as numerous other awards, was 2017’s Phantom Thread.
29. Sarah Michelle Gellar
Much like her husband, Freddie Prinze Jr., actress Sarah Michelle Geller got her fill of stardom early and regardless of her step back from the spotlight now, she will always remain iconic thanks to her time as Buffy Summers in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Geller has had two attempts to get back into TV with Ringer and The Crazy Ones but after the cancellation of the later in 2014 she more or less stopped acting. Like her husband, she too does voice acting and made a guest appearance on the series finale of The Big Bang Theory, but that is it for the ’90s star.
28. Dustin Diamond
While many of the other stars of Saved by the Bell have continued to pop up with shows and films, Dustin Diamond’s life has seemingly spiralled out of control and out of acting. Following Saved By the Bell, Diamond didn’t appear in any major projects and hasn’t had a role since 2016 after his second arrest.
27. Jodie Foster
Jodie Foster is an Academy Award-winning actress anda former child star who is best known for roles in the films Taxi Driver, The Accused and The Silence of the Lambs. While she’s renowned for her talent as an actress, after appearing in 2013’s Elysium she has only had one role and that was in 2018′s Hotel Artemis. These days, she has been focusing more on her directing projects, which include the movie Money Monster and episodes of Netflix shows like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards.
26. Rick Moranis
Rick Moranis made the choice to step out of the spotlight after his wife tragically died of breast cancer in 1991. While he took on fewer roles to try to juggle his time as a single dad, his retirement came after the 1997 release of Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves and he hasn’t fully returned to showbiz since. With classic flicks like Spaceballs and Ghostbusters under his belt, it’s hard to understand how he doesn’t miss it.
25. Jamie Lynn Spears
Jamie Lynn Spears is best known for being the younger sister of Britney Spears and for being the star of the Nickelodeon series Zoey 101. Despite the success she had with the show, after getting pregnant in 2007 at the age of 16, she has more or less abandoned acting altogether. Instead, she took a long break from the spotlight and then returned in 2013 as a country music star. Her debut single, “How Could I Want More,” debuted at number 29 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs and her EP The Journey rose to the top of iTunes’s top country albums.
24. Phoebe Cates
Phoebe Cates was the teen star of the 1980s with classic flicks like Gremlins and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but she retired from acting in 1994 to focus on raising her children with fellow actor Kevin Klein. She returned to film in 2001 in The Anniversary Party, as a favor to her friend and former Ridgemont High co-star, Jennifer Jason Leigh, who directed the film.
23. Lark Voorhies
Lark Voorhies biggest role to date was as Lisa Turtle on Saved by the Bell. After the series ended, she appeared in several soap operas and sitcoms, including Days of Our Lives, The Bold and the Beautiful, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Family Matters and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Since 2012, she hasn’t been in anything. Her last roles were in 2012’s Little Creeps and Closer to God: Jessica’s Journey. Since 2010, she has also written three books, Reciprocity, Trek of the Cheshire and A True Light, all of which she self-published.
22. Tracey Gold
Tracey Gold is best known for her role as the overachieving middle child Carol Seaver on the 1980s sitcom Growing Pains. Although she continued to act after the series ended, she has mostly starred in television movies and made a few guest appearances on television series like Melissa & Joey. Since 2013, she’s been in the TV movie I Know Where Lizzie Is, Battle of the Network Stars where she appeared as herself, and Daily Blast, which she hosts but her last acting role came in 2016’s All Hallow’s Eve.
21. Mia Sara
Mia Sara made her big screen debut with the cult classic Legend and she rose to even greater fame afterward because of her role in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as Sloan Peterson, Ferris Bueller’s girlfriend. During the ‘90s, she found further success with the movie Timecop and since then has continued to act sporadically. In 2012, she told The Daily Mail that she is mostly retired and that she’s been focusing on being a mother to her two children and writing poetry.
20. Amanda Bynes
Amanda Bynes rose to fame thanks to her roles on the Nickelodeon series All That and The Amanda Show and the WB sitcom What I Like About You. After her success with television, she made her mark on the big screen with starring roles in What a Girl Wants, She’s the Man, Hairspray, Sydney White and Easy A; however, in 2012, she announced that she was retiring from acting and began making headlines for her erratic behavior. She was arrested for DUI twice and was forcibly hospitalized in both 2013 and 2014.
19. Taylor Momsen
Taylor Momsen was an up and coming star because of her role as Jenny Humphrey on the CW series Gossip Girl, but she threw it all away at the age of 18 to focus on her music career. “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,” she told Elle. She’s kept her word. Since 2012, she has completely abandoned acting and continues to tour with her band, The Pretty Reckless.
18. Randy Quaid
Alright so this guy didn’t really retire and he also didn’t really give up the biz to pursue other ventures. His last movie was Balls Out: Gary the Tennis Coach in 2009, and in 2010 he and his wife Evi had run off to Canada after they failed to appear in a California court to face felony vandalism charges. They tried to seek asylum in Canada, claiming that they were running from a celebrity-killing organization called the “Hollywood star whackers,” but were only granted permission to stay until 2011 and their request for permanent residency was denied in 2013. In 2015, they tried to cross into Vermont from Canada and were arrested. Not much has been heard from him since.
17. Leelee Sobieski
Leelee Sobieski was thought to be the next “it girl” in Hollywood thanks to roles in Eyes Wide Shut, Joy Ride, Never Been Kissed and Public Enemies, but she instead retreated from fame. She is now listed as a retired actress and has only had five roles since 2010. In 2016, Sobieski confirmed “I don’t do movie stuff anymore,” and she told Us Weekly, “I am just focused on my kids. I think that’s mainly why I stopped … Also, ninety percent of acting roles involve so much sexual stuff with other people, and I don’t want to do that.”
16. Macaulay Culkin
Everyone is well aware of Macaulay Culkin’s tumultuous relationship with fame thanks to the super stardom he found as he star of Home Alone. After becoming so famous at such a young age, he took a hiatus in 1994 and didn’t return to acting until 2003. Ever since he has had minimal roles while he has instead focused on his music and his band called The Pizza Underground, a comedy-rock band.
15. Mara Wilson
This little cutie, known for her roles in Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda, was one of the biggest child stars of the 1990s. But these days she’s keeping a relatively low profile and focusing on her writing. When asked why she quit acting she said, “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. The best times I had on film sets were the times the director let me express myself, but those were rare.” Her debut book with Penguin called (K) for Kid was released in 2016.
14. Chuck Norris
Chuck Norris is best known for his role as Texas Ranger Cordell Walker on Walker, Texas Ranger that ran until 2001, but his real legend began when “Chuck Norris Facts” went viral. His popularity has only grown since his departure from acting after the series completion, but he hasn’t cashed in on the interest in his larger-than-life personality. Instead, he played a small part in his buddy, Stallone’s The Expendables 2 in 2012 which would be his last role. He has since been contributing regular columns to the conservative blog, WorldNetDaily. He’s also published books and backed political candidates. Regardless, many fans miss him.
13. Bridget Fonda
Bridget Fonda is the daughter of Pete Fonda, granddaughter of Henry Fonda, and niece of Jane Fonda! Guess a career in acting was inevitable! She is best known for her roles in Singles, The Godfather Part III, Point of No Return, and Jackie Brown. She was reportedly offered the lead role in Ally McBeal, but turned it down to focus on her film career. She made cameo appearances in films until 2002 but has not been in a movie since. She got married to composer Danny Elfman in 2003 and seems to be enjoying her time as a wife and mother to their son Oliver.
12. Dave Chappelle
Dave Chappelle is known for his disappearing act in which he left his hugely successful series Chappelle’s Show to escape the limelight and go live in South Africa. Critics had hailed him “the comic genius of America” and his flight produced rumors of a mental breakdown. In 2014, with David Letterman, Chappelle attempted to explain his desire for privacy: “There’s not too many good hiding places left in America.” The comedian is said to have left a deal with Comedy Central worth $50 million. When asked if he regretted his decision he said, “It’s very hard to go through something like this because no one’s really done it before, so there’s not too many people that don’t think I’m crazy.” He made a surprise appearance in A Star Is Born, but that is it in terms of recent roles.
11. Jenna Von Oy
Jenna von Oy’s most famous role to date was as Six LeMeure on Blossom. Since that show ended, she played Stevie van Lowe on The Parkers and voiced Trinket St. Blaire on Pepper Ann. She also had guest-starring on episodes of 7th Heaven, Moesha, Cold Case and Family Guy. The last role she had was in 2012 in the film Lukewarm and the competition show Battle of the Network Stars in 2017 where she appeared as herself. While she may have given up on the whole acting thing, she has been dabbling in country music. In 2007, she released her debut album Breathing Room.
10. Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Child star Johnathan Taylor Thomas sent preteen hearts whirling and fans were devastated when the Home Improvement series ended. Instead of continuing on in the industry, JTT decided instead to focus on his studies and attended Harvard for philosophy and history. What’s even better is that in 2010 he graduated from the Columbia University School of General Studies. The last appearance he made on screen was on the show Last Man Standing.
9. Heather Locklear
Heather Locklear became a huge star during the ‘80s and ‘90s thanks to her roles on the primetime soap Dynasty, the ABC cop drama T.J. Hooker, the primetime drama Melrose Place and the ABC sitcom Spin City. While she somewhat recently had a recurring role on Hot in Cleveland and a main cast part on Franklin & Bash, her only acting parts in recent years was a recurring role on Too Close to Home and one episode guest part on Fresh Off the Boat.
8. Jack Nicholson
Rumors regarding Jack’s disappearance from the limelight after 2010 were widely circulated and tabloids began reporting the failing health of the most nominated male actor in Academy Award history. But Nicholson was sure to put a stop to all of the speculations: “I’m not going to work until the day I die, that’s not why I started this. I mean, I’m not driven. I was driven—but I’m not, I don’t have to be out there anymore…I had the most chilling thought that maybe people in their twenties and thirties don’t actually want to be moved anymore. They may want just to see more bombs, more explosions, because that is what they have grown up with. And I’ll never do that type of movie.” We can’t exactly blame Nicholson for his stance.
7. Linda Forientino
During the ‘90s, Linda Fiorentino was a busy actress. She had roles in The Last Seduction, Men in Black and Dogma. She continued to act during the early to mid 2000s, but only sporadically. Then, after her role 2009 role in Once More with Feeling, she completely stopped acting. In 2018, she was sued the German production company Art Oko Film for $5 million for refusing to report for rehearsals, makeup, and camera tests and of feigning illness.
6. Robert Redford
Robert Redford is one the of most iconic men in Hollywood and over the years has earned two Oscars, six Golden Globes, and one BAFTA, among several other accolades. He has also starred in dozens of films, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, The Great Gatsby, All the President’s Men, and Out of Africa and directed several others, but in 2018 he revealed that he was retiring after the release of The Old Man & The Gun. “Never say never, but I pretty well concluded that this would be it for me in terms of acting, and [I’ll] move towards retirement after this ’cause I’ve been doing it since I was 21, Redford explained to EW. “I thought, ‘Well, that’s enough.’ And why not go out with something that’s very upbeat and positive?”
5. Meghan Markle
After appearances in many series and films and a couple of leading roles in a couple of made-for-TV movies, Meghan Markle’s career skyrocketed with the success of the show Suits which she starred in as Rachel Zane. Just as it seemed her place in the industry was really forming, she quit the show and the industry…to become a royal. After her engagement to Prince Harry was announced in 2017 it was confirmed she would also stop acting as she took her place in Britain’s royal family. “I see it is a new change, a new chapter,” she said of leaving acting behind. “I’ve been working on my show seven years, we were so fortunate to have that longevity, and I feel like I checked that box and am very proud of the work I’ve done there and now it’s time to work with [Harry] as a team.” Now she is the Duchess of Sussex and is working to use her position to help many charities and foundations.
4. Gene Hackman
This leading man had an acting career for the books. His time spent in the business spanned over 50 years and earned him two Academy Awards for The French Connection and Unforgiven. In 2004, he said farewell to acting and officially retired, but that hasn’t stopped him from soaking up some of the creative world’s limelight. Together with undersea archaeologist Daniel Lenihan, Hackman has written three historical fiction novels. He has also released two of his own novels, Payback at Morning Peak and Pursuit.
3. Bridget Wilson-Sampras
Bridgette Wilson-Sampras is known for her roles in Mortal Kombat, The Wedding Planner, and Billy Madison, but has been on hiatus from acting ever since starting her family with pro-tennis player hubby, Pete Sampras. “For now, I want to be there when [the boys] wake up and I want to be there to put them in bed,” she says, adding that her return to acting is simply “a matter of when.”
2. Sean Connery
While this legend turned down what could have been the greatest role of his career as Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, he is still iconic for being what many consider the best James Bond. And this is good news because he turned down the role of Gandalf to star in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Unfortunately, this dud would be his last film and he announced his retirement from acting after being awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. Sean Connery’s legacy as the pioneer star in the James Bond films and his Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in The Untouchables makes this actor’s retirement a crying shame. He doesn’t seem to think so though. In public appearances at sporting events, the ex-actor says, “retirement is just too damned much fun.”
1. Cameron Diaz
Hollywood darling Cameron Diaz has more hit films under her belt than many and she was fine with effectively retiring from the business in 2014 after the release of Annie. Now, she is known for her her 2013 health book, The Body Book: Feed, Move, Understand and Love Your Amazing Body, co-written with Sandra Bark which hit no. 2 on The New York Times Best Seller list in March 2014. She then released The Longevity Book: The Science of Aging, the Biology of Strength, and the Privilege of Time in June 2016. In 2017, the actress admitted she went on a break to focus on her relationship and marriage to husband Benji Madden and said she needed to focus on herself again. “I just went, ‘I can’t really say who I am to myself,’ which is a hard thing to face up to,” she admitted. “I just felt the need to make myself whole.”