It’s hard for the “Regular Joe” 9 to 5 working stiff to understand why a successful actor would ever want to leave such a lucrative career as show business. However, these actors made the decision to exit entertainment for a different life. Read what these actors had to say about leaving Hollywood.
Some actors leave Hollywood to start a different career. Others leave simply because they are tired of the Tinseltown grind. One famous comedy actor left to take care of his kids after his wife passed.
Make your voice heard. Vote up the most understandable explanations for leaving showbiz.
- 1251 VOTES
Canadian treasure Rick Moranis got his start on SCTV. He then went on to show off his legendary comedy chops in multiple 1980s comedy classics, including Strange Brew, Ghostbusters, Little Shop of Horrors, Spaceballs, and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
The actor/writer/producer stepped away from show business in 1997 after his wife passed from breast cancer. Moranis opted to concentrate on raising his two young kids.
“I took a break, which turned into a longer break,” Moranis said in 2015. “But I’m interested in anything that I would find interesting. I still get the occasional query about a film or television role, and as soon as one comes along that piques my interest, I’ll probably do it. [But Ghostbusters] didn’t appeal to me.”
Moranis never left showbiz altogether. He worked as a voice actor on multiple animated projects over the past two decades.
He remains selective about getting back in front of the camera. “I'll continue to be picky. Picky has worked for me,” added Moranis.
Shirley Temple Black was the first true child actor. The cute-as-pie singing, dancing, and acting talent reigned supreme as the top box-office draw from 1934 through 1938.
In her 1988 book Child Star: An Autobiography, Black details her experiences as a child actress.
Her early life was not always filled with Hollywood glam. The Bright Eyes star faced kidnapping attempts and death threats. When she turned 12 years old, she moved over to MGM after making 35 movies at 20th Century Fox. Black alleged that MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer made a pass at both her and her mother.
In 1955, when Black turned 22, she decided to give up acting. “I had had enough pretend. I wanted to be in the real world,” said Black.
She would pop up here and there on TV programs over the years. She turned to politics in the 1960s. Black served in three ambassadorships among other political endeavors.
- Photo: Empty Nest/NBC
In the late 1970s and '80s, Kristy McNichol was one of the biggest stars on television. She became a household name at 14 years old when she appeared as Buddy Lawrence in the Aaron Spelling/Mike Nichols television drama Family. McNichol won two Emmy Awards for her work on the ABC series.
She went on to star in several movies and also had a steady gig on The Golden Girls spinoff Empty Nest. However, the actress had to leave Empty Nest in 1992 due to her worsening bipolar disorder.
McNichol has mostly stayed away from the entertainment business since the early 1990s. She released a public statement in 2001:
“A lot of people have wondered what I've been up to. 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.”
- Photo: Paramount Pictures4126 VOTES
Peter Ostrum had one major role as a Hollywood actor, then decided to retire. The future doctor was 12 years old with no prior acting experience when he landed the lead role of Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
Ostrum liked working on what would go on to become a cult classic. Afterward, the studio even offered him a three-picture deal. However, he didn't love the grind. “Everybody thinks that acting is such a glamorous profession, but it's a difficult profession,” admitted Ostrum.
When he was a teenager living in Ohio, his parents got a horse. The animal piqued his interest, and he decided to become a veterinarian.
"I can remember the veterinarian coming out and taking care of the horses, and it made a huge impression on me," added Ostrum. “This person really enjoyed what he did for a living. My father was a lawyer, and I really didn't have a clue what he did all day. But I knew exactly what the veterinarian did. Someone making a living from something he enjoyed so much really sparked my interest.”
Gene Hackman earned five Academy Award nominations and two wins for his performances in The French Connection and Unforgiven. The New Hollywood thespian's career spanned six decades and included some of the most celebrated films in Hollywood history such as Bonnie and Clyde, Hoosiers, Mississippi Burning, and The Royal Tenenbaums.
Hackman never came out publicly to officially announce his retirement. However, he did admit during a 2008 interview that he was done with acting. He was 78 at the time.
“I haven’t held a press conference to announce retirement, but yes, I’m not going to act any longer," revealed Hackman. "I’ve been told not to say that over the last few years, in case some real wonderful part comes up, but I really don’t want to do it any longer.”
It's not the actual performing that caused Hackman to exit La La Land.
“I miss the actual acting part of it, as it’s what I did for almost 60 years, and I really loved that,” added Hackman. "But the business for me is very stressful. 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 went on to become a novelist. He wrote four historical fiction novels with undersea archaeologist Daniel Lenihan. He also penned two additional novels on his own.
- Photo: Home Improvement/ABC
Jonathan Taylor Thomas played jokester middle child Randy Taylor on Home Improvement from 1991 through 1998. The child actor also became a pinup star and teen dreamboat to Generation X girls around the world.
In 1998, Thomas decided to step away from the spotlight. “I’d been going nonstop since I was 8 years old,” said Taylor in 2013. “I wanted to go to school, to travel and have a bit of a break.”
Thomas was able to do exactly what he wanted. He attended Harvard and spent a year abroad studying at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He graduated in 2010 from Columbia University.
Thomas didn't give up showbiz for good. He's made several guest appearances over the years on shows like Veronica Mars and reunited with his TV dad Tim Allen on Last Man Standing. He's also worked behind the camera.
The actor doesn't regret his decision to exit the Hollywood grind. “I never took the fame too seriously,” added Thomas. “It was a great period in my life, but it doesn’t define me. When I think back on the time, I look at it with a wink. I focus on the good moments I had, not that I was on a lot of magazine covers.”