Famous Actors That Retired Early To Get Out Of The Limelight

For some people, being a movie star might be their biggest dream. You’re famous, people love you, and of course, you’re wealthy. It’s also hard work, taxing both mentally and physically, and you never get any privacy. These are some former movie stars that called it quits early to live a normal life.

Game of Thrones Left A Bad Taste In Jack Gleeson’s Mouth

Picture of Jack Gleeson
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO

Jack Gleeson was born in Ireland and began acting at the age of 8 as part of the Independent Theatre Workshop. In his youth, he had roles in films including Reign of Fire, Batman Begins, Shrooms, and All Good Children.

However, the role that put him on the map was as the oh-so-hateable Joffery Baratheon in HBO’s Game of Thrones. Yet, following his character’s death, Gleeson retired from acting to focus on school, saying, “I just stopped enjoying it as much as I used to.”

Doris Day Had Her Moment

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Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Doris Day began her career in the spotlight as a big band singer at the end of the 1930s before making it big in 1945, launching into a successful solo career. Eventually, she became an actress in Hollywood and is considered one of the biggest film stars throughout the 1960s, starring alongside some of the other biggest.

Yet, after her lackluster run of television in the 1970s, she decided she had enough. She commented, “It wasn’t the city I knew anymore. If I had stayed, I might be playing a grandmother — who knows!”

Michael Schoeffling Gave It All Up To Make Furniture

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Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Michael Schoeffling made a name for himself at the young age of 23 as Jake Ryan, the sensitive athlete that Molly Ringwald’s character is infatuated with in the 80s classic film Sixteen Candles.

Following Sixteen Candles, he acted in eight other films such as Vision Quest, Let’s Get Harry, and Wild Heart’s Can’t Be Broken. After his rather brief acting career, Schoeffling became a woodworking shop owner and began manufacturing his own handmade furniture.

Eva Amurri Didn’t Exactly Follow In Her Mother’s Footsteps

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Jesse Grant/WireImage for Shore Fire Media
Jesse Grant/WireImage for Shore Fire Media

The daughter of well-known actress Susan Sarandon, Eva Amurri began her acting career working with her mom at first, before appearing in the film Saved! She was later a character in the third season of the Showtime series Californication as a dancer that has a love affair with the main character Hank Moody.

She also starred in the film Middle of Nowhere and was featured in several other shows. When she announced her early retirement, she noted she had no plans of returning saying “I’m just feeling so much more fulfilled in every way by what I’m doing now.”

Frankie Muniz Wanted To Go Fast

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SGranitz/WireImage
SGranitz/WireImage

As a child, Frankie Muniz became famous for his role as the title character in the sitcom Malcolm in the Middle, for which received an Emmy Award and two Golden Globe nominations.

From his success on the show, Muniz also acted in feature films such as Big Fat Liar, Racing Stripes, Agen Cody Banks, and more, making him one of the most popular child actors of 2003. In 2008, Muniz decided to make a career change and became an open-wheel race car driver and also a co-owner of “Outrageous Olive Oils & Vinegars” in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Shirley Temple Quit While She Was Ahead

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John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

As a young child, Shirley Temple was the No.1 box office draw between 1934 and 1938 working as an actress, singer, and dancer. From the ages of 3 to 10 she was in 29 films, but only 14 films between 14 to 21. In 1950, at the age of 22, she announced her retirement from the profession.

Temple then went on to pursue a career in politics and was named as the United States ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia. She also served as Chief of Protocol to the United States.

Greta Garbo Didn’t Make It 20 Years In The Business

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images

Widely considered to be one of the greatest actresses of all time, Greta Garbo’s career began in 1924 with a secondary role in a Swedish film before catching the attention of Louis B. Mayer, the chief executive of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Starring in both silent and “talkie” films, Garbo quickly grew in popularity, being nominated for Best Actress for her first three sound films.

However, her career began to falter and she retired from acting at 35 after having been in 28 films. She went on to decline all offers to return to the business and led a notoriously private life collecting art.

90s Kids Remeber Cara DeLizia From So Weird

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Disney Channel
Disney Channel

Cara Elizabeth DeLizia is an actress best known for portraying the character of “Fi” Phillips in the Disney Channel Original Series So Weird. She began acting at 5 years old in theater productions until she starred in the WB show Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher.

She appeared in shows such as Mad About You, ER, Seventh Heaven, and more. She also had small roles in feature and television films. After some time doing voice acting, DeLizia retired from acting, and, as of 2012 works for an organization that helps children in Haiti.

Erik von Detten Transitioned Into Business

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Gregg DeGuire/WireImage
Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

Erik von Detten’s first role as an actor came at a young age as Nicholas Alamain on the soap opera Days of Our Lives, in which he appeared in 55 episodes between 1992 and 1993. Unknown to most, he also provided Sid’s voice in Toy Story before acting in films such as Leave it to Beaver, Christmas Every Day, and Brink!

After his main role in The Princess Diaries, he had a few cameos in several television shows before announcing his retirement from acting in 2010. Today, he is a sales manager at a commodities brokerage firm.

Adam Lamberg Is Best Known As “Gordo” From Lizzie McGuire

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Rebecca Sapp/WireImage
Rebecca Sapp/WireImage

Adam Lamberg had a short but sweet career in front of the camera, beginning in the 1996 film Radiant City in which he played the main role of Stewie Goodman.

He then acted both on stage in several short films and television movies until he had his big break as David “Gordo” Gordon in the hit Disney Channel series Lizzie McGuire between 2001 and 2004. Yet, just four years later, he retired from acting and now works at New York’s Irish Arts Center.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas Wanted To Go To School And See The World

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Ron Galella, Ltd/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella, Ltd/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Jonathan Taylor Thomas’ big break came from playing Randy Taylor on Home Improvement, leading him to become a teenage heartthrob. He was also a voice actor with some impressive roles, including Simba in The Lion King and Pinocchio in the 1996 film, The Adventures of Pinocchio.

As a young adult, Thomas left acting behind him and attended Harvard, Columbia, and St. Andrew’s University in Scotland. He explained, “I’d been going nonstop since I was 8 years old […] I wanted to go to school, to travel and have a bit of a break.”

Megahan Markle Put Aside Acting To Become A Princess

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Ben Birchall – WPA Pool / Getty Images
Ben Birchall – WPA Pool / Getty Images

While attending Northwestern University, Meghan Markle began acting, with her biggest role being Rachel Zane in the legal drama Suits, for which she acted for seven seasons. During this time, she also released two fashion lines, increasing her popularity.

Nevertheless, in 2017, she became engaged to Prince Harry, and upon their marriage in 2018, she became the Duchess of Sussex, leaving behind her acting career. The two stepped out of the royal family, moved to Southern California, and established the organization Archwell Inc.

Portia de Rossi Didn’t See A Future In Acting Anymore

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Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Portia Lee James DeGeneres, formerly known as Portia de Rossi, is a former model and actress and now a businesswoman. She is most recognized for her role of Nelle Porter on Ally McBeal as well as for performances on other shows, including Arrested Development, Scandal, and Nip-Tuck.

In 2018, she explained her early retirement on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, stating, “I was approaching 45, but I just kind of was wondering is there something I could tackle now that I’ve never done before that would be really challenging and different?” So, she started a business.

Grace Kelly Went From Celebrity To Royalty

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Archive Photos/Getty Images
Archive Photos/Getty Images

Grace Kelly was one of the most famous and successful actors of the 1950s. During that time, she worked frequently with Alfred Hitchcock, starring in three of his prominent movies: Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, and To Catch A Theif, although she had several other roles during her career.

While attending the Cannes Film Festival, she met Prince Rainer III of Monaco. The two would go on to fall in love and then marry in 1956, with Kelly transitioning from an actress to a princess.

Danny Lloyd Retired When He Was Ten

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Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Incredibly, Danny Lloyd’s most well-known role was his first, as Danny Torrence in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel The Shining in 1980. Following his performance in The Shining, Lloyd acted in the television film Will: G. Gordon Liddy in 1982.

Then, at the young age of ten years old, he retired from acting. Lloyd would live out his childhood like a normal kid and in 2004 became an anatomy professor at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College in Kentucky. In 2019, he had a brief cameo in The Shining sequel, Doctor Sleep.

Mara Wilson Felt Out Of Place As She Grew Up

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Ron Galella, Ltd./Getty Images
Ron Galella, Ltd./Getty Images

Mara Wilson was a child star that rose in popularity after her appearances in the classic films Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda, although she shied away from the spotlight as she aged. In her 2016 book, Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame, she comments that she felt that she no longer had a place in Hollywood as she grew up.

She further explained that her options were to have had cosmetic surgery and continue as an actress or accept herself and leave her Hollywood life behind her. She chose the latter.

Phoebe Cates Is A Boutique Owner

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Jamie McCarthy/WireImage
Jamie McCarthy/WireImage

During the 1980s and 90s, Phoebe Cates was the modern version of a 1950s pin-up girl, plastering the walls of countless teenage boy’s rooms. As an actress, some of her most notable roles were in films such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Gremlins, and Drop Dead Fred.

However, in 1994, still a young adult, Cates essentially retired from acting. She has been married to Kevin Kline since 1989 and since 2005 has owned a boutique called Blue Tree in New York City.

Ariana Richards’ True Passion is Art

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Ron Galella, Ltd/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella, Ltd/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Ariana Richards began her acting career in the 1987 film Into the Homeland, before scoring her most popular role as Lex Murphy in Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster hit Jurassic Park, also making a brief appearance in The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

Richards was also involved in the Tremors franchise as Mindy Sterngood in Tremors, and Tremors 3: Back to Perfection. Although she had a successful acting career, she gave it up to pursue her passion as a painter which she continues to do today.

Mary-Kate And Ashley Olsen

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Matt Winkelmeyer/MG19/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue
Matt Winkelmeyer/MG19/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

For the most part, the Olsen twins have worked together in the spotlight for their whole lives. The two first got their start playing the same character of Michell Tanner on the television series Full House, which turned them into almost instant celebrities.

After the show, the two would star in several straight-to-video movies and other television shows. However, the two fully gave up acting in the early 2010s and now have their own successful designer label known as Row. The two even declined to reappear on Full House’s revival, Fuller House.

Freddie Prinze Went On To Work For WWE

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Vincent Sandoval/Getty Images
Vincent Sandoval/Getty Images

Freddie Prinze was a well-known actor in the 1990s and 2000s, with some of his most notable films including I Know What You Did Last Summer, She’s All That, Scooby-Doo, and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, among others.

Yet, Prinze completely rebranded himself after chasing his passion for wrestling. He took his knowledge of the business and wrestling and went on to be a writer, producer, and director for WWE. He has even made an on-screen appearance in some of his work. In 2021, Prinze Jr. dipped his toes back into the acting world with a role on Punky Brewster.