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14 Actors Who Had One Major Role And Then Called It Quits

Sometimes a career-making acting role doesn't necessarily make for a lasting career in acting. In fact, some actors have followed up that major role by calling it quits, leaving show business behind. Their reasons have varied. Some simply couldn't find additional acting work. Others wanted to pursue different careers like the law or teaching, while some former actors simply hated the Hollywood spotlight.

Young Anakin Skywalker, Danny Torrance, and Homer Parrish are among the most memorable characters in film history. Yet, the actors who played those parts did not appear in another major movie role. 

Find out why Jake Lloyd, Danny Lloyd, and Harold Russell never wanted to become permanent fixtures in the Hollywood landscape. What happened to Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles, or Newt from Aliens? What other actors landed the role of a lifetime and then decided to walk away from the limelight?

  • Photo: Miramax

    The Major Role: There are plot twists, and there are mind-bending brain bleeds. The Crying Game's jaw-dropping reveal qualifies as the latter. Jaye Davidson took on the role of the beautiful Dil in the 1992 political thriller The Crying Game. The film's protagonist, an ex-IRA member named Fergus (Stephen Rea), falls for Dil and eventually discovers she is trans.

    The Crying Game was nominated for six Academy Awards, including a supporting nod for Davidson. Yet, the graphic reveal of Dil's male privates is the only part of the film that everyone remembers. It's become cemented in cinema pop-culture history.

    What Happened After: Davidson had no acting experience when he landed the role of the transgender woman. He only had one more big-screen credit after The Crying Game. He starred as the evil sun god Ra in 1994's hit science-fiction adventure Stargate. Then, Davidson decided to retire from acting. 

    "Back then I did not think there were enough roles for Black people. And then when you add openly gay Black people, that's the double whammy," he said. "So I thought I would be scrambling for the crumbs. And it's hard to live off crumbs."

    Davidson genuinely hated the spotlight. After retiring from acting, he embarked on a lucrative career in fashion modeling.

  • The Major Role: Danny Lloyd was just 5 years old when he took on Danny Torrance in the now-horror classic The Shining. The 1980 Stephen King adaptation, which was directed by famed perfectionist Stanley Kubrick, became Lloyd's only big-screen movie role. In the film, young Danny is blessed (or perhaps cursed) with the psychic ability to "shine," which allows him to detect spirits in the Overlook Hotel. Danny is Jack (Jack Nicholson) and Wendy's (Shelley Duvall) son. 

    Danny's one-take Big Wheel ride through the Overlook has been studied by cinema lovers for decades. Additionally, his finger-wagging imaginary friend Tony and "Redrum" are forever etched in pop-culture movie lore. 

    What Happened After: Lloyd became a biology professor at a community college in Kentucky. He got married and had four kids. In 2017, he did an extensive interview with The Guardian detailing his post-Hollywood life. "I don’t do many interviews," he said. "But when I do, I try to make it clear, The Shining was a good experience. I look back on it fondly. What happened to me was I didn't really do much else after the film. So you kind of have to lay low and live a normal life."

    Lloyd admitted to not even realizing he was making a horror film. He also had no idea Kubrick was putting his movie mom Duvall through the proverbial wringer throughout filming. Lloyd attempted to land more acting work after The Shining. However, he gave up the craft for good at around 13 years old. Lloyd said the rejection never got to him, but he was simply ready to quit.  It's a decision he still doesn't lament.

    "I don’t regret trying acting," he said. "When I decided to stop, I don't regret that either. At the end of the day, it's not a huge deal. Well, it is and it isn't. I still have to grade the tests at school, get the kids to bed. All the regular stuff."

  • The Major Role: Peter Ostrum was 12 years old when he scored the lead role of Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Charlie is the poor kid who wins the Golden Ticket for the coveted chance to visit Wonka's chocolate factory. Ostrum had no acting experience at the time. Thanks to Charlie's kind-heartedness and honesty, the newspaper boy becomes the heir to the candy empire. 

    What Happened After: Charlie Bucket turned out to be Ostrum's lone big-screen role. He enjoyed the experience of being in a major motion picture, but still opted to retire from the movie business for good at the age of 13. Most people don't remember that when the now-cult classic premiered in the early '70s, it wasn't a hit. That all changed when Roald Dahl's adaptation was released on home video a decade later. 

    Ostrum opted to pursue a more traditional career path. After his parents got a horse when he was a teenager living in Ohio, he grew interested in the veterinarian who came to check up on the animal. Ostrum decided at that point to become a vet. "Everybody thinks that acting is such a glamorous profession, but it's a difficult profession," said Ostrum. "I can remember the veterinarian coming out and taking care of the horses, and it made a huge impression on me."

  • The Major Role: Renée Jeanne Falconetti was an accomplished French stage actress when director Carl Theodor Dreyer cast her in his 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc. Falconetti secured the role of the 19-year-old real-life French heroine despite being 35 and having no movie experience. Both Falconetti's performance and the movie itself are still widely regarded among the most acclaimed in cinema history.

    Critic Pauline Kael wrote of the actress's lone movie role, "It may be the finest performance ever recorded on film." The Passion of Joan of Arc depicts Joan of Arc's capture, trial, and eventual execution. 

    What Happened After: Falconetti never acted on the big screen again. Dreyer used an unconventional shooting and editing style that made the filmmaking process a laborious effort.

    Film critic Roger Ebert wrote in his glowing review of the silent classic, "For Falconetti, the performance was an ordeal. Legends from the set tell of Dreyer forcing her to kneel painfully on stone and then wipe all expression from her face - so that the viewer would read suppressed or inner pain. He filmed the same shots again and again, hoping that in the editing room he could find exactly the right nuance in her facial expression."