It’s hard to imagine being someone who can command untold sums of money for just pretending to be another person for a bit – and then walking away from it all. But it does happen. And perhaps more often than you think. Call it “retirement,” call it “having a break,” call it whatever you want, but the following 20 actors in particular have all enjoyed extended periods away from the big screen at some stage during their careers.
40. Randy Quaid
Randy Quaid thinks that the “Hollywood Star Whackers” are trying to end him, which may explain why he hasn’t worked in Tinseltown since 2009. The troubled actor did, however, make headlines in early 2015, when he uploaded tapes of himself calling out his harassers and then having sex with his wife – who creepily sported a Rupert Murdoch mask.
39. Mara Wilson
You’ll no doubt recognize former child star Mara Wilson from blockbusters like Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda. Surprisingly, Wilson hung up her acting shoes prematurely in 2000, aged just 13 – soon after being terrified by a script for kooky 2001 drama Donnie Darko. In 2012 Wilson wrote that performing in movies “is not very fun.”
38. Joe Pesci
Joe Pesci is another face we miss seeing on screen. Shockingly, the Goodfellas star made his retirement official in 1999 when he was 56 years old. Nevertheless, Pesci did go on to make a cameo appearance in buddy Robert De Niro’s 2006 movie The Good Shepherd and also starred in 2010 drama Love Ranch.
37. Bridget Fonda
Bridget Fonda made her mark with movies like Single White Female and Jackie Brown, but for some reason she decided to leave acting behind, with 2002 TV movie Snow Queen her last filmic outing to date. Fonda married composer Danny Elfman in 2003, so perhaps she wanted to spend more time with him instead.
36. Jack Nicholson
In 2013 Jack Nicholson had to deny claims that he’d quit acting because he couldn’t remember his lines. The truth, he told British newspaper The Sun, was that 20- and 30-somethings “may want just to see more bombs, more explosions… And I’ll never do that type of movie.” His last credit was 2010’s How Do You Know.
35. Macaulay Culkin
Child stars don’t come much bigger than Macaulay Culkin was in his time. But after 1994 flop Richie Rich, the Home Alone star disappeared completely for nine years – during which time he was briefly married. Since then, Culkin has been hauled in for drug possession, acted in several small movies and started a novelty band called The Pizza Underground.
34. Rick Moranis
How great would it be to see funnyman Rick Moranis on screen again? Sadly, the comedian mostly gave up acting when his wife died, and his most recent live-action movie was direct-to-video 1997 sequel Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves. Since then Moranis has only occasionally lent his voice to things, most lately the 2006 Disney movie sequel Brother Bear 2.
33. Renée Zellweger
In 2014 Renée Zellweger turned heads at the annual Elle Magazine Women in Hollywood Awards – leading to speculation that she’d had extensive plastic surgery during the self-imposed hiatus she’d been on since 2010’s My Own Love Song. Still, with The Whole Truth due out later this year and two movies scheduled for release in 2016, Zellweger is now well and truly on the comeback trail.
32. Gene Hackman
Gene Hackman is another Hollywood legend who’ll probably never grace the screen again. He confirmed his retirement from acting in 2008, with 2004’s Welcome to Mooseport then becoming seemingly his last movie. In 2011, however, Hackman told GQ that maybe – just maybe – he’d work once more if the producers came up with a way to film at his home without “disturbing anything.”
31. Amanda Bynes
Former child star Amanda Bynes was a star of the small and silver screens in the early 2000s, making her movie debut with 2002 comedy Big Fat Liar. Sadly, Bynes’ recent battles with mental illness have been well documented, which is perhaps why in 2012 she claimed to be “retired” from Hollywood. Her last movie role was in 2010’s Easy A.
30. Warren Beatty
Warren Beatty was a mega star back in the day, with 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde being arguably his most enduring movie performance. Still, he hasn’t been seen on the big screen since 2001’s Town and Country and apparently only cropped up in the made-for-TV Dick Tracy Special in 2010 so that he wouldn’t lose his option on the character.
29. Phoebe Cates
Phoebe Cates in a red bikini in Fast Times at Ridgemont High is one of the enduring images of 1980s Hollywood. However, Cates abruptly gave up acting to focus on her family in 1994 – only returning to the big screen for her 2001 appearance in Fast Times co-star Jennifer Jason Leigh’s The Anniversary Party. Cates also opened a little store in New York in 2005.
28. Sean Connery
Screen legend Sean Connery officially announced his Hollywood departure in 2006, meaning that 2003’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was his last live-action crusade – and even a fourth Indiana Jones outing couldn’t pique his interest. In 2012 Connery did, however, briefly return to voice the titular character in low-key British animated movie Sir Billi.
27. Ariana Richards
Most people won’t know her name, but everyone will know her face, as Ariana Richards played John Hammond’s granddaughter Lex in 1993 smash hit Jurassic Park. Richards is credited with just ten little-known credits in the past 22 years, and there’s one 12-year gap in her screen career to boot. She now makes a buck as a portrait painter in Portland.
26. Daniel Day-Lewis
Britain’s Daniel Day-Lewis has won more Best Actor Oscars than anybody else and after 2012 biopic Lincoln is enjoying a “lie down” for at least “a couple of years” – if not more. It wouldn’t be the first time, either, as Day-Lewis’ last break from Hollywood saw him make not a single silver-screen appearance between 1997’s The Boxer and 2002’s Gangs of New York.
25. Linda Fiorentino
It’s been suggested that Men in Black star Linda Fiorentino become disillusioned with Hollywood after the production of Kevin Smith’s 1999 movie Dogma. But whatever the reason for her absence, Fiorentino certainly hasn’t been lighting up the silver screen much in the 21st century: her last movie credit was 2009’s Once More With Feeling, and the one before that was all the way back in 2002 with her role in Liberty Stands Still.
24. Jared Leto
After 2009’s Mr. Nobody, Jared Leto went off and did the rock star thing for a few years with his band 30 Seconds to Mars. However, when he returned to the big screen in 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club he walked away with an Oscar, so maybe the break did him good. Leto’s next movie project is 2016’s Suicide Squad, in which he will star as The Joker.
23. Jonathan Taylor Thomas
In the ’90s Jonathan Taylor Thomas was a star of sitcom Home Improvement and Disney’s The Lion King, but he seemingly stopped movie and TV work altogether in 2006. Thomas had kept himself busy, though, having enrolled at Harvard in 2000 and eventually graduating from Columbia in 2010. He finally returned to the small screen in 2013 with a guest spot in Tim Allen’s sitcom Last Man Standing.
22. Alison Lohman
Alison Lohman rose to fame with 2003’s Big Fish and made something of a splash in 2009 horror Drag Me To Hell. But in 2010 Lohman took time out from Tinseltown to have a son, then welcomed another child before finally returning to screens with the low-key role of “Psych Patient” in 2015’s The Vatican Tapes.
21. Chuck Norris
It seems that everybody knows Chuck Norris’ name, but that may have more to do with the “Chuck Norris Facts” internet meme than any actual acting. Indeed, the erstwhile action star has only had three credits in the past ten years – namely, for his roles in The Cutter and a Walker, Texas Ranger TV movie in 2005 and in The Expendables 2 in 2012.
20. Neve Campbell
Neve Campbell hasn’t strictly disappeared; you can still find her popping up in bit-parts on TV or in indie films. But it’s fair to say that she hasn’t been front-and-center since the Scream films, and the last one, Scream 4, was out in 2011.
19. Thora Birch
Despite being a star of 1999 Oscar-guzzler American Beauty and 2001 cult fave Ghost World, Thora Birch told the Guardian in 2014 that she was “looking for an agent.” She said of her post-Beauty career, “I was always working, it’s just that no one was paying attention.”
18. Hayden Christensen
In December 2015 erstwhile Anakin Skywalker Hayden Christensen told the Los Angeles Times that he took a break from Hollywood because he felt his fame was “too handed” to him. He was a casual farmer for a time, and he’s had a handful of under-seen screen credits too.
17. Meg Ryan
Formerly “America’s Sweetheart,” rom-com queen Meg Ryan took a six-year break from movies between 2009 and 2015. In fact, she moved away from Hollywood completely, relocating to New York in order to focus on family.
16. Alicia Silverstone
Alicia Silverstone’s resume is extensive without being particularly noteworthy. Indeed, everyone still remembers her primarily as stylish Cher Horowitz from 1995’s Clueless. She has three movies set for release in 2016, though, so this may just be her year.
15. Pauly Shore
Pauly Shore was a major MTV star in the early ’90s, but his career was beginning to fade by the time he made the self-deprecating Pauly Shore is Dead in 2003. Shore seems convinced, however, that he’ll soon make a comeback. In 2014 he told Vice, “It’ll happen again.”
14. Ralph Macchio
Everybody knows Ralph Macchio as the butt-kicking Daniel LaRusso from 1984’s Karate Kid, and perhaps that’s why the actor has never really managed to capitalize on that film’s success. His most notable recent role, for example, was as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars in 2011.
13. Damon Wayans
While the career of his son Damon Wayans, Jr. may be on the rise, Damon Wayans, Sr. hasn’t had a single credit since 2011. And that may be set to continue, as he last hit the headlines in September 2015 for calling the Bill Cosby accusers “unrapeable.”
12. Annabella Sciorra
Annabella Sciorra caught everyone’s eye in 1991 Spike Lee joint Jungle Fever and again in the early ’00s as Tony Soprano’s gumar Gloria in HBO’s The Sopranos. But there’s not been much else, and she is now mostly seen in supporting parts on small projects.
11. Emilio Estevez
Emilio Estevez hasn’t been making headlines in the same way as his brother Charlie Sheen, but the former Brat Pack member has been forging a quietly impressive resume nonetheless. Indeed, his directorial efforts Bobby and The Way were met with praise, but there has been nothing since 2010.
10. Debra Winger
Three-time Academy Award-nominee Debra Winger surprised everyone when she spurned Hollywood in the mid 1990s. In 2002 she told the Guardian of her decision, “I looked around and thought: it’s time to go.” She has had a handful of credits since 2008, though.
9. Mike Myers
Aside from the Shrek films, the last time anybody saw anything of Mike Myers on the silver screen was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role in Inglorious Basterds. He did, though, direct a documentary, and there are always rumors of another Wayne’s World movie.
8. Edward Furlong
Once a promising actor, thanks to roles in Terminator 2: Judgement Day and American History X, Edward Furlong is another unfortunate case of a child star gone off the rails. In 2013, for instance, he was sentenced to five years probabtion following domestic violence charges.
7. Kelly McGillis
Kelly McGillis was riding high in the 1980s as the star of Top Gun and Witness. But she stepped back from Hollywood, the actress told The Huffington Post in 2014, because she wanted “to get sober and… be a single, full-time parent to [her] kids.”
6. Val Kilmer
The early ’90s was Val Kilmer’s time, with the actor praised for his performances in the likes of Tombstone and The Doors. He’s since perhaps become more famous for his off-camera antics, though, and is reported to be on a “hiatus” from Hollywood.
5. Michael Biehn
Poised to become an ’80s action hero after roles in The Terminator and Aliens, Michael Biehn unfortunately never gained the same success as respective co-stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sigourney Weaver. He’s worked consistently since, though; it’s just that he’s mostly appeared in B-movies and bit-parts.
4. Kristanna Loken
Kristanna Loken broke out as the villain in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, but she followed it up with appearances in a couple of films by notoriously awful director Uwe Boll. Since then, besides a stint in The L-Word in 2007, she has remained mostly below the radar.
3. Jennifer Grey
Jennifer Grey blames her “nose job from hell” for ruining her career after Dirty Dancing. In 2012 she told the Mirror, “I went into the operating room a celebrity and came out anonymous.” She did win Dancing with the Stars in 2010, though.
2. Tara Reid
Tara Reid is no longer the up-and-coming star she was after 1999 mega-hit American Pie or even 2002’s Van Wilder. The intervening years saw her mostly in the press for her partying ways, while her most memorable recent role was in 2013’s Sharknado.
1. Mary Stuart Masterson
Coming to prominence with a leading role in 1987’s Some Kind of Wonderful, Mary Stuart Masterson has unfortunately made few appearances on screen in recent times. Indeed, her last film role was in 2006 film The Insurgents, and she has only made guest appearances in TV in the years following.