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30 Celebrities Who Have Retired From the Spotlight

Al Green

Musician Al Green made a name for himself in the 1970s. Since the release of his soulful hit singles, he's become better known as The Reverend Al Green—and not just because of his return to gospel albums and secular music...

He traded his career on stage for a career in the church. He currently resides in Memphis, Tennessee with his family and pursues a religious vocation as a Baptist minister. We can only hope that he incorporates his songs into his sermons!

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Tony Danza

In the play As You Like It, Shakespeare wrote the famous line, "All the world's a stage." Clearly, Tony Danza thought so too, because in 2009, he decided to test this theory out by taking the stage of a 10th grade English classroom in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He left acting and show business behind and filmed Teach: Tony Danza, an A&E reality show.

Being an established entertainer, Danza assumed teaching was just another form of entertainment. But after just one year in the classroom, he realized that teaching is much more than a well-rehearsed performance.

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Freddie Prinze Jr.

Freddie Prinze Jr. was a major 90s star in both movies and television. His good looks, acting chops, and charming personality lead him to fame, but his personal interests lead him away. Prinze Jr. stepped out of the limelight and into the kitchen—literally. He enrolled at the Culinary Institute in Pasadena, California and began a career as a chef.

In 2016, he released a cookbook that he authored, Back to the Kitchen: 75 Delicious, Real Recipes, (& True Stories) from a Food-Obsessed Actor.

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Gene Hackman

Gene Hackman is known for his fame as both actor and author. His 1967 film debut as Buck Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde gained him initial notoriety. He went on to star in other major films, receiving many awards and nominations.

It wasn't until an interview with Larry King in 2004 that Hackman revealed his retirement from acting. He announced that he would spend the rest of his days writing and publishing. Hackman’s career as a novelist has been wildly successful as well. He co-wrote four books with Daniel Lenihan, and went on to write multiple novels of his own.

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MC Hammer

His hit songs “U Can’t Touch This” and “2 Legit 2 Quit” were played repeatedly on radio stations across the country (and still at a lot of weddings today). His talent, fancy dance moves, and iconic Hammer pants added to his charisma and fame. But by the 1990s, new musicians had begun to shadow Hammer and his music…

So Stanley Kirk Burrell decided to become a preacher and an ordained minister. “M.C.” does indeed stand for “Man of Christ!”

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Macaulay Culkin

As one of the most famous child actors, Macaulay Culkin found himself in the limelight by a very young age. He starred as Kevin McCallister in Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, and he was an immediate hit. He continued acting in the following years, but at the age of 14, he made the decision to retire from Hollywood.

He found a place for himself on the fringe of fame. He has taken to music and is actively involved with his band The Pizza Underground, a parody of The Velvet Underground. He also created Bunny Ears, a comedy brand that writes articles and films podcasts and videos.

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Sean Connery

At his acting peak, Sir Sean Connery was both James Bond and People magazine's sexiest man alive and sexiest man of the century. However, he called it quits in 2006. 

After expressing displeasure that he wasn't being offered the big-time roles of his younger years, Connery decided to just leave acting altogether. But he's been enjoying retirement ever since, and if anyone deserves it, it's him. 

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Rick Moranis

Rick Moranis became an entertainer in the early ‘70s. Over the span of two decades, he made a name for himself and welcomed a busy career in feature films. In 1986, he married Ann Belsky and had two children with her.

When Belksy passed away from cancer in 1991, Moranis made the decision to take a hiatus from acting to care for his family, realizing that he didn’t really miss the fame.

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Nikki Blonsky

The moment that Nikki Blonsky accepted the lead role of Tracy Turnblad in the 2007 film adaptation of Hairspray, she became known as American’s newest triple threat: actor, singer, and dancer. But what happened after the film’s release? Well, Blonsky kept working with hairspray...but in a much more literal way.

She returned to her New York borough, attended cosmetology school, and was hired as a hair and makeup artist at a salon in Long Island.

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Geena Davis

Geena Davis is most-often recognized for her roles in Tootsie, Thelma & Louise, and A League of Their Own. As a child, Davis always dreamed of becoming an actor, but after many years in Hollywood, she found a new avenue of work as an activist.

In 2004, she founded the Geena Davis Institute (seejane.org), an organization that advocates for gender equality in the media. As a strong woman who spent many years in the film industry, she knows just how important it is to empower women and to combat harmful gender stereotypes.

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Cat Stevens

Cat Stevens is no stranger to reinvention. Each of his three names—Steven Georgiou, Cat Stevens, and Yusuf Islam—signifies a different stage of life. Before fame, he was Steven Georgiou. In the process of becoming a musician, he took the stage name “Cat Stevens.” While undergoing religious conversion, he became Yusuf Islam.

It was at this point that Stevens decided to follow the calling to convert to Islam, study the Koran, and bow out of his music career. However, in 2006, he made his return to the world of music and has released several albums since. 

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Doris Day

During Hollywood's Golden Era, there weren't many stars bigger than Doris Day. She starred in classic movie hits like Calamity Jane and Pillow Talk, and eventually made her way to television as well. 

However, she announced her retirement from acting in 1975, and, for the most part, kept good to her word. She did release an music album and did some charity work for animal organizations, but she largely remained reclusive until her death in 2019. 

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Emilio Estevez

Emilio Estevez, a prominent member of the Brat Pack, starred in many of the 1980s cult classics, like The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire, and The Outsiders. In addition to his acting repertoire, Estevez had already experienced fame as the son of Martin Sheen and brother of Charlie Sheen, he was no stranger to the public eye.

Although he appeared in many movies as a young adult, he quickly realized he would rather be behind the camera than in front of it. He retired from acting and made a career as a Hollywood writer, director, and producer.

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Jonathan Taylor Thomas

When it came to 90s teen heartthrobs, Jonathan Taylor Thomas was king. In addition to a successful role on the sitcom Home Improvement, Thomas starred in numerous movies in the 90s. But his once-young fans haven't heard from him in a while. 

While he does make the occasional appearance on Last Man Standing, created by his former Home Improvement co-star, Tim Allen, he's largely remained off the radar. He did graduate college in 2010, but he hasn't been up to much in the public eye besides that. 

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Cameron Diaz

For years Cameron Diaz was Hollywood's "It" girl. After her debut role in The Mask, she went on to star in numerous big-budget comedies like There's Something About Mary and Shrek. However, after a string of poorly reviewed performances, the superstar decided to remove herself from the limelight. 

(images via Wikipedia)

These days, Diaz is still keeping busy with her family and her career as an author, but she hasn't had a movie role since 2014. And she seems to be just fine with that. 

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Ann Curry

Well-known American journalist Ann Curry has spent the majority of her working years being on-camera. She was employed by NBC News for more than two decades before making the decision to retire from her position in 2012.

Curry continued reporting after her departure, starting her own production company, Ann Curry, Inc. She also finds joy in photography and continues to work on new and upcoming projects in her spare time.

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Peter Ostrum

Peter Ostrum is the actor who portrayed Charlie Bucket in the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. His name is one that many haven’t ever heard before because this was his first and last experience with the film industry. Although fame wasn’t for him, he does have fond memories of filming—like Gene Wilder sharing chocolate bars with him every day after lunch.

Unlike his character, Ostrum’s career didn’t lie within the walls of a chocolate factory. Instead, his golden ticket was an acceptance letter to Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. He now spends his days working as an equine veterinarian in upstate New York. He's also a husband and father.

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Greta Garbo

Greta Garbo took the world by storm in the 20s and 30s as one of Hollywood's hottest actors of the time. However, even during her acting career she wasn't too fond of the spotlight--she never gave interviews or autographs and never attended the premiere of any of her movies. 

(images via Wikipedia)

So, it was only a matter of time before she withdrew from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood entirely. At the age of 36 she called it quits on acting and lived a fairly reclusive life until her death in 1990. 

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Danny Lloyd

If you’ve ever seen the film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining, you know Danny Lloyd. He’s best known as the 6-year-old boy who played Danny Torrance, son of the villainous Jack Torrance. Does “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” ring a bell? Well, this saying must’ve rang true for Lloyd…

He grew up and had no interest in working as an actor. Instead, he decided to pursue a career as a biology professor in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. To each their own!

(Image via Facebook)
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Cynthia Nixon

Cynthia Nixon, who is better known as the career-minded, intelligent, and self-assured Miranda Hobbes from the HBO's Sex and the City, decided to take note of her fictional character’s career goals...

In 2011, she made a name for herself in political circles, lobbying for education, LGBTQ+ rights, and women’s health care, and in 2018 she ran for governor of New York. From actress to activist, Nixon has found her place in a career that is in a different kind of spotlight. 

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Shirley Temple

When remembering Shirley Temple, it’s almost impossible not to think of her as America’s Little Darling: curly hair, freckled cheeks, and a sweet smile. She was discovered at the age of 3 by two producers as she danced around Mrs. Meglin’s Dance Studio in Los Angeles, California. She went on to be a successful child star that embodied the American spirit, but it didn’t last...

What many don’t realize though is that Temple’s career in show business ended so that she could dedicate herself to human service. Temple became a U.S. representative to the United Nations, the first female U.S. Chief of Protocol, and first-ever U.S. Foreign Service Officer.

(Images via Wikipedia [1] [2] )

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Candace Cameron-Bure

American actress Candace Cameron-Bure found fame in the late 1980s and early 1990s with her role as D.J. Tanner on the beloved TV series Full House. Although she continues to star in Hallmark movies and has returned to the revived-and-rebooted Fuller House (2016), Bure spends her time off-screen as an entrepreneur.

In 2006, she and her husband launched Bure Family Wines, a wine label and winery based out of California. 

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Amanda Bynes

Amanda Bynes was a child star that got her start with her own show on the kid's network Nickelodeon. From there, she went on to star in multiple movies in the early 2000s. Bynes was touted as the next Lucille Ball, but that all changed in 2010. 

It was then she announced her retirement from acting--citing the fact that she didn't love it anymore. In the ensuing years she's had some problems with the law and with substance abuse, but she recently announced three year's sobriety and a desire to get back into acting. 

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Jack Gleeson

You might recognize Jack Gleeson as the Game of Thrones character everyone loved to hate, King Joffrey. However, don't expect to see him on TV anytime soon again. 

Gleeson had been acting since age eight, and he just wasn't liking his career choice anymore. Although he's made a few appearances on stage since then, he's most kept a low profile. 

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Phoebe Cates

Former 80s film actress Phoebe Cates had memorable roles in movies like Gremlins and Fast Times at Ridgemont High.  And she's just one of many stars who began seeking normalcy after a stint in the spotlight. 

It wasn't until 1994 that she and her husband decided to spend less time at work and more time at home. She retired to be home with her family and acted on her dream of owning a boutique. In 2005 she opened Blue Tree in New York City.

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Angus Jones

Being a child actor can be a strange experience, but Angus Jones' career in acting was made all the weirder by the fact that he starred next to Charlie Sheen in Two and a Half Men. But despite the fame, Jones put it all behind him. 

(images via Wikipedia)

These days he works as a production manager, which is a pretty standard job. But there is a Hollywood twist--the company he works for is run by P. Diddy's son. 

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Jeff Cohen

For fans of the 80s film The Goonies, Jeff Cohen needs no introduction. He played Chunk--a.k.a. the "truffle shuffle" kid. While he made a splash in this film, it was the last time he'd been seen in Hollywood. 

These days, Cohen works as a lawyer. That pays well enough that he was finally able to stop searching for One-Eyed Willy's treasure. 

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Danica McKellar

You would be hard-pressed to find someone who's done as much of a career 360 as Danica McKellar. She got her start as Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years, but boy, have things changed. 

After leaving Hollywood, McKellar studied to become a mathematician. Now, she writes books, blogs, and gives speaking engagements encouraging young women to pursue a career in math. 

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Mara Wilson

Mara Wilson had a whirlwind career as a child actor in the 90s. She starred in big hits such as Mrs. DoubtfireMatilda, and A Miracle on 34th Street. However, after all her success, she's decide to expand her talents in other areas. 

These days, Wilson makes a living primarily as a writer. However, she has dipped her toes back into the Hollywood waters by doing some voice acting on the side as well. 

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Karyn Parsons

Will Smith might have been the star of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but Karyn Parsons knew how to steal the show as the opinionated, shopping-obsessed Hilary Banks. 

Parsons had a few other roles after her stint on Fresh Prince, but she's largely left Hollywood behind. Now, she works as the creator of Sweet Blackberry, an organization that makes animated films about black history. 

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