10 Hollywood Stars Who Disappeared From The Spotlight

Image of Sean ConneryBeing a celebrity has its perks- the fame, the fortune, the ability to own an action figure version of yourself (or if you’re WIll Smith, an entire room full of tiny, plastic you).

But there are- unlikely as it may seem- some downsides to being a household name. And so there are celebrities who give up on the “being famous” thing altogether, retiring to a life of quiet dignity among regular folk. At least until someone makes a list article about them.

So here for your enjoyment are 10 big names who achieved fame, only to say, “yeah, nah.”

Image of Jack Gleeson
Jack Gleeson

Jack Gleeson’s a talented guy. Think about it- if you’ve ever seen “Game of Thrones,” you probably felt an urge to punch him in the mouth just from looking at the picture above. That’s all from his acting ability.

And when Gleeson left “Game of Thrones,” he left his acting career with it. For asurprisingly down-to-earth reason: “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.”

Image of Gene Hackman
Gene Hackman

Gene Hackman’s career spanned five decades and includes more than a few legitimate classics- “The French Connection,” “Young Frankenstein,” “The Birdcage.”

But after 2004’s “Welcome to Mooseport” (which was not great), Hackman just… stopped making movies. After fourty years, Hackman finally confirmed it: he’s done with moviemaking for good. Since then, he’s written three novels.

Image of Greta Garbo
Greta Garbo

Greta Garbo isn’t the household name she once was, but in the 1930s she was one of the biggest names in all of Hollywood. At least, until her 1941 film “Two-Faced Woman” was eviscerated by critics.

Garbo attempted a few more film roles through the ’40s, but for one reason or another they all fell through. Eventually, she grew sick of Hollywood entirely, and spent the rest of her life as far away from the limelight as physically possible.

Image of Rick Moranis
Rick Moranis

Rick Moranis’s reason for quitting show biz is a sad one- his wife Ann had breast cancer and died in 1991. After a few years, Moranis realized that being a single dad and being a movie star were mutually exclusive, so he quit for his kids’ sake.

Moranis has released two comedy albums since retiring, but nothing on the level of “Ghostbusters” or “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.”

John Hughes

After retiring in 1994, legendary filmmaker John Hughes (who gave us movies like “The Breakfast Club,” “Sixteen Candles” and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”) would speak about just why he quit the industry. Some say it was a whole mess of issues.

Some, like his friend Vince Vaughn, said it had to do with the death of another friend: actor John Candy, who passed away the same year. “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,” Vaughn revealed, years later.


Image of Mara Wilson
Mara Wilson

How about something a little less sad? Less sad is good. Like Mara Wilson, who begged her parents to let her audition for movie roles when she was little.

Finally, they relented, and Wilson hit it big- landing major parts in “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Matilda.” Which was great! At least, until she realized that acting in movies isn’t actually as fun as she thought it would be. After “Thomas and the Magic Railroad” in 2000, she was done for good.

Image of Peter Ostrum
Peter Ostrum

Another child actor who got out of the game (probably for the best- child actors tend to grow up a little… weird), Peter Ostrum was Charlie Bucket in the original 1971 “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Paramount offered Ostrum a three-movie contract after the film finished shooting, but the 13-year-old Ostrum said that acting was too tough, and that he’d rather do something else.

Eventually, Ostrum considered a return to Hollywood, but thought better of it and went to pursue his true passion- veterinary medicine. Today, he’s a successful vet- mostly horses, some cows. “Willy Wonka” remains his only film role.

Image of Bridget Fonda
Bridget Fonda

Bridget Fonda is basically Hollywood royalty. All those other famous Fondas out there- Henry, Peter, Jane. Same clan. So it’s no surprise that she landed quite a few major roles in her time- “The Godfather, Part III,” “Single White Female,” “Jackie Brown.”

Then in 2003, Fonda married composer Danny Elfman, had a couple kids and realized she kinda like the stay-at-home-mom situation. So she stuck with it. Looking for more drama than that? There… really isn’t any.

Image of Sean ConnerySean Connery

Sean Connery is like the patron saint of retired celebs. If only because his “how’d he retire?” story is more perfect than anything you could ever make up.

First, Connery was offered the role of Gandalf in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. He passed, saying he couldn’t understand the script. Then he was offered a role in “The Matrix” (it’s never been confirmed which role, though). Also a pass. Finally, Connery managed to grab hold of a fantasy-action picture: “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.” It bombed. Connery quit acting forever.

Joe Pesci

Joe Pesci’s known mostly for being that short guy who yells Italian-sounding threats in every gangster movie ever made. But he didn’t start his career as an actor; he started as a musician, playing guitar in a couple different groups (including one that would later include Jimi Hendrix). So when Pesci announced his retirement in 1999, it was with the intent of renewing his musical career.

He put out one “My Cousin Vinny”-themed album, “Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings for You,” with one single. The single was a rap song titled “Wise Guy.” It’s embedded above. It’s awful. You should watch it right now.


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