Making it big as a Hollywood star sounds like a dream come true, but for some celebs, fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. See who left Hollywood to lead a “normal” life away from the spotlight. Check out the lawyers, teachers, ministers and even farmers who once graced the big screen.
Tony Danza got his start as a professional boxer before starring in sitcoms such as Taxi, Who’s the Boss and The Tony Danza Show, as well as several films. He later went on to become an English teacher at Northeast High School in Philadelphia, eventually writing a book about his experiences: I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High.
Sean Connery defined his career as well as a legendary action hero when he played British secret agent 007, James Bond. He’s still considered by many to be the definitive Bond, while going on to a fruitful career earning every major acting award and even being knighted. With all these accomplishments under his belt, Connery decided to retire, describing the carefree lifestyle as “too much damn fun.”
As a teen, Amanda Bynes kept busy with her own Nickelodeon show and starring roles in films like What A Girl Wants, Hairspray and She’s the Man. Perhaps inspired by her movie costumes, she enrolled in California’s Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising to study fashion design.
Clueless embodies high school in the ‘90s, and Alicia Silverstone became one of the most iconic faces of the time. It seemed she couldn’t get enough of acting, but apparently she did. Today, she still makes acting appearances but puts much more attention on animal rights activism. She has supported an LA rescued pet sanctuary, endorsed PETA, and written her own vegan cookbook, The Kind Diet.
A classic beauty of old Hollywood, Greta Garbo appeared in a number of silent films and some of the first ‘talkies.’ Garbo made a lasting impression on the world of film, before she decided to retire at the early age of 35. Since, she enjoyed vacationing abroad and traveling with an exclusive group of friends, as well as collecting art.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas
JTT was a recognizable face due to his portrayal of Tim Allen’s TV son Randy on the sitcom Home Improvement. His voice is perhaps even more famous as he played Simba in The Lion King, singing in it’s iconic soundtrack. JTT went on to attend Harvard and Columbia universities to study philosophy.
Sarah Michelle Gellar
Another megastar of the 90s, Sarah Michelle Gellar appeared in a variety of soap operas and slasher films and starred in the immensely popular series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When she became a mother, Sarah began moving out of the spotlight. She still keeps busy though – she co-founded an ecommerce company selling kid-friendly baking kits with another parent from her children’s school.
Besides starring as the protagonist in TV’s Malcom in the Middle, young Frankie Muniz has quite a few films under his belt. He found more of a thrill in 2001 when he was introduced to car racing, and now competes professionally as a race car driver instead of focusing on acting.
Erin Moran started her career as a child star at the age of seven. Most famously, she played Joanie Cunningham the sitcom Happy Days for over 8 years. She enjoyed immense success but eventually moved out of Los Angeles and settled in the California mountains, and into retirement.
A starring role in the sitcom Growing Pains made Kirk Cameron a household name in many ‘80s homes. However, Kirk felt a higher calling for religion and became very active in Christian Ministry. In 2002 he founded an organization called Way of the Master which produces a radio show, TV series and Christian publications.
Often, child actors didn’t exactly intend to have a career in the spotlight. This was the case for Mara Wilson, who is best known for starring in Matilda, Mrs. Doubtfire, and the 1994 remake of Miricle on 34th Street. She preferred to retire from acting in favor of writing, a decision she discusses in her memoir. She has also written a play called Sheeple for the New York International Fringe Festival.
A young Peter Ostrum is such a recognizable face, it’s hard to believe he appeared in only one film – Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. After such a magical start, he grew up to lead a much more normal life. He moved to New York and became a veterinarian.
The original lead singer, songwriter and guitarist of the insanely successful band Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett no doubt left his mark on music. He was ousted from the band due to drugs and other issues, and found solace outside the spotlight, creating abstract paintings. He moved from London to quiet Cambridge and tried his best to avoid the paparazzi.
Another young sitcom star is Josh Saviano, who started on the show The Wonder Years when he was 12. As he got older though, he preferred to focus on education, enrolling in law school and becoming a senior partner at a large firm. Now that he has that experience under his belt, he was particularly qualified to play a TV lawyer on Law & Order: SVU.
Angus T. Jones
Agnus Jones made his name as the ‘half’ in TV’s Two and a Half Men throughout his childhood and teenage years. As an adult however, he decided to pursue a different business in event production at his company Tonite.
The quintessential child star, Shirley Temple has been known and loved since the age of five when she launched her film career. After acting, she became active in politics, appointed as the US Ambassador to Ghana between 1974 and 1976, and Ambassador to Czechoslovakia between 1989 and 1992.
Cary Grant is the very image of Hollywood’s Golden Age, with dozens of film credits through the 1930s-60s. Grant was known for playing ‘the basic man,’ a normal person who didn’t rely on his looks. In 1968, at the age of 62, he opted to leave Hollywood behind, stating that the “Golden Era” of film had passed. He left the profession to provide a stable environment for his newborn daughter, Jennifer.
Dylan Sprouse and his twin brother Cole had their own Disney Channel show, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, along with appearing in Big Daddy and Friends. Today, Dylan is following another passion as a brewmaster for his Williamsburg, Brooklyn meadery and bar.
Barret Oliver starred in 13 films during his childhood in the 1980s, most famously The NeverEnding Story. These days, he’s turned his interest in 19th century photography and printing techniques. His work has been featured in museums, gallery exhibitions and in films, and he has published A History of the Woodburytype,a book on ancient photography techniques.
Jack Gleeson is instantly recognizable as one of the most hated characters on TV, the child king Joffrey on HBO’s Game of Thrones. He played the role for several seasons until his character was killed off. He then chose to take a break from acting and to enroll in college to study theology.
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Erik Per Sullivan
Erik Per Sullivan made a name for himself as Dewy, the youngest brother in TV’s Malcolm in the Middle. When the show ended, Sullivan decided to focus on education at the University of Southern California.
As ABBA’s leading woman, Agnetha Faltskog was an enormous star in the 1970s and ’80s. When the Swedish pop group broke up, she launched a short solo career. Following that, Faltskog purchased an isolated country house in her homeland of Sweden, and focused on her astrology studies, yoga and horse-riding.
Alfonso Ribeiro is instantly recognizable for his role as Will Smith’s cousin Carlton in the sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Afterwards, Alfonso went on to become a TV show host, and showed off more of those classic Carlton dance moves as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars.
Nikki Blonsky was part of the box-office success Hairspray where she played the lovable Tracy Turnblad. Perhaps taking inspiration from the film’s title, Blonsky did not continue acting but instead became a hair stylist.
Chris Owen played Chuck Sherman – aka the Sherminator – in the cult classic American Pie. The film was a huge success but Owen had difficulty landing further roles, and returned to earning money like the rest of us, including working as a waiter at a sushi restaurant.
Kevin Jonas became hugely popular along with his two brothers as part of his band The Jonas Brothers. After leaving the band, Kevin made a number of solo TV appearances, including on The Celebrity Apprentice. He went on to become an entrepreneur, founding a real estate and development company, a service for social media influencers, a food search app and a video sharing app.
Danny Lloyd gave one of the most memorable and creepy performances as Danny Torrance in Stanley Kubric’s 1980 masterpiece, The Shining. But after his iconic role, he went on to a completely different career as a biology professor at a Kentucky community college.
MC Hammer was a hip hop pioneer who brought the genre into the pop music mainstream. He was famous for his hits like Can’t Touch This, and his distinctive “Hammer Pants” which are still recognizable today. Following a period of economic hardship and bankruptcy, Hammer became an ordained minister, and now works full time in his Christian calling.
Freddie Prinze Jr.
Freddie Prinze Jr. was a major heartthrob of the early 2000s, when he starred in She’s All That and I Know What You Did Last Summer. Prinze met co-star Sarah Michelle Geller on set and the two married in 2002. In addition to a career with the WWE as a contributer, Prinze is also skilled in the kitchen. He published a cookbook of his recipes titled Back to the Kitchen.
Jeff Cohen, starred in the 1985 blockbuster The Goonies as the lovable Chunk. He didn’t opt to leverage his Hollywood success however, but instead became a lawyer. He studied at the University of California, Berkeley, founded his own law firm, Cohen & Gardner, and is a regular contributor for the Huffington Post.
Carrie Henn was a quintessential one hit wonder actress, appearing in a single movie. But that one film just so happens to be a cult classic in the action/horror/sci-fi genres – 1986’s Aliens – which earned Henn a place of honor with franchise fans. After the role, Henn returned to school and went on to become a schoolteacher in California.
Doris Day’s name will never be forgotten, with music and film credits such as Young at Heart, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Pillow Talk and Move Over, Darling. She got her start in the 1940s, but hasn’t been acting since the ’70s. Instead, she found a higher calling fighting for animal welfare. Day runs multiple nonprofits, including Doris Day Pet Foundation (now the Doris Day Animal Foundation), the Doris Day Animal League (now merged with the Humane Society), the Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center, and she founded World Spay Day to help reduce the population of unwanted pets.
Lark Voorhies came into our homes and hearts when she played Lisa Marie Turtle on NBC’s Saved By the Bell. After the show, Voorhies chose to move on from her acting career but continued in the creative arts – she is now a published author.
Grace Kelly had a prolific acting career that surprisingly only lasted 6 years In that time, she earned several Golden Globes, an Academy Award, a New York Film Critics Circle Award, and a BAFTA nomination. As verified Hollywood royalty, Kelly went on to meet and fall in love with a real royal – Rainier III, Prince of Monaco. Kelly and Rainier III married, transforming her into a real-life princess in fairytale ending.
Rick Moranis is best known for his appearences in Ghostbusters, Little Shop of Horrors, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Spaceballs. To Canadians, he’ll always be Bob McKenzie from SCTV (Second City Television).
Moranis tragically lost his wife Ann to cancer in 1986. He became a single parent to their two children and eventually stopped acting in order to dedicate more time to raising them.
Brittany Ashton Holmes
Brittany Ashton Holmes first appeared in 1994’s The Little Rascals, when she played Darla at the age of five. She took a few more roles over the next couple years, before leaving acting for good. Today, Holmes is living and working in LA, studying for a degree in political science.
Tom Selleck and his iconic mustache became famous on TV’s Magnum P.I., when he played Thomas Magnum. Selleck has since retired to a 60-acre ranch in California, where he spends his time managing an avocado farm.
Another actor-turned-farmer, Hayden Christensen sought out the simpler life in Ontario, Canada. As an actor he’d met huge commercial success with his depiction of a young Anakin Skywalker in the second two Star Wars prequels.
Andrew Shue’s defining role as Billy Campbell in Melrose Place, between 1992 and 1998, made him a heartthrob. Following his acting stint, Shue became a professional soccer player with the Bulawayo Highlanders in Zimbabwe’s premier soccer league. Later, he played for several professional soccer teams in the States and went on to establish two prominent online businesses – “DoSomething” and “CafeMom.”
Meghan Markle was an accomplished American actress on the hit series, Suits. When she met Prince Harry of the British Royal Family, her life changed dramatically. The two married 2018, prompting Markle to leave her Hollywood career in favor of royal Duchess duties.