13 Actors Who All Decided To Retire From Acting Way Earlier Than Everyone Expected

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“I had to basically take it back and take responsibility for my own life.”

Making it big in Hollywood may seem like a dream for a lot of people, but for some famous actors, they figured out it wasn’t for them — and then retired way earlier than expected.

Here are some of the biggest stars who decided to retire early…

1. Cameron Diaz

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Cameron Diaz first took a step back from the spotlight in 2014, and four years later, she revealed that she was “actually retired” from acting. She recently explained her decision, saying that she wanted to take back control of her life. 

“I know a lot of people won’t understand it. But it’s so intense to work at that level and be that public and put yourself out there…I stopped, I really looked at my life, and I saw what I had been [missing]…When you’re making a movie…They own you…For months on end, you have no time for anything else…I had to basically take it back and take responsibility for my own life. That’s my job. There’s a lot of things I had to iron out, a lot of relationships I had to repair, a lot of relationships I had to build that were absent in my life,” Cameron said in an interview with Gwyneth Paltrow. 

2. Gwyneth Paltrow

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Gwyneth Paltrow may still be in the spotlight for her entrepreneurial efforts with Goop, but she doesn’t have any plans to accept an acting gig anytime soon. She says the only way she’d return to the big screen is if her husband Brad Falchuk wrote the script. 

“I would have to be fucking the writer. But that’s sort of it. If my husband writes something and wants me to do it, I’ll do it,” Gwyneth said on No Filter with Naomi.

3. Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen

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Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were massive stars throughout their childhood, but they have since stepped away from the industry. After attending NYU and launching their fashion design careers, they decided to fully retire from acting in 2012.

“It was time to step behind the process. I wanted to work on other things. It doesn’t mean I’m not interested in Hollywood. I like the way it operates, I like the people who are involved and the sense of possibility. But if I ever get back in, it’s not going to be as an actress,” Ashley told Vanity Fair.  

4. Portia de Rossi

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Portia de Rossi marked her 45th birthday with the decision that she wanted to stop acting and focus on something new. While she planned to step back after the fourth season of Arrested Development wrapped, creator Mitch Hurwitz wrote her into the fifth season — which then ended up being her final pursuit as an actress.

“I was approaching 45, and I just kind of…was wondering is there something that I could tackle now that I’ve never done before that would be really challenging and different. I kind of knew what acting would look like for me for the next 10, 20 years, so I decided to quit and start a business,” Portia said on The Ellen Show.

5. Mara Wilson

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Mara Wilson seemed as though she was on her way to super stardom after her starring roles in Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda, but she stepped away from it all as a teenager. She later explained that she made the decision as she no longer wanted to deal with painful scrutiny about her appearance in Hollywood. 

“I realized, ‘I don’t fit their idea of what a Hollywood actress looks like, so there’s no room for me here.’ It’s hard to come out of that sane and without some serious doubts about yourself…As I saw it, I had three choices: get cosmetic surgery and go out on auditions for the cute and funny best friend characters, stay the way I was and go out for the meager character actor roles for young women, or accept myself and give up the idea of a Hollywood film acting career for good,” Mara wrote in her memoir.

6. Daniel Day-Lewis

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Daniel Day-Lewis had just turned 60 when he decided to retire from acting. While many people do retire in their 60s, the news came as a shock to fans. In a statement, Daniel’s reps explained it was a “private decision,” but he was “immensely grateful to all of his collaborators and audiences over the many years.” When he was later asked why he made the decision, he didn’t quite have an answer.

“I haven’t figured it out. But it’s settled on me, and it’s just there…I dread to use the overused word ‘artist,’ but there’s something of the responsibility of the artist that hung over me. I need to believe in the value of what I’m doing. The work can seem vital. Irresistible, even. And if an audience believes it, that should be good enough for me. But, lately, it isn’t,” Daniel told Variety

7. Shirley Temple

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Shirley Temple stole the hearts of fans around the world as a child actress, but at 12-years-old, she decided to step away from it all in order to attend school full time. In her early 20s, she gave things another try but ultimately decided to retire at age 22. She went on to work as a diplomat, serving as the Ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia.

8. Meg Ryan

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Meg Ryan decided to take a step back from acting in 2019, explaining that her career was making her feel burned out. While she didn’t completely rule out stepping back into the spotlight at a later time, for now, she’s not acting. 

“I felt in a crazy way that, as an actor, I was burning through life experiences. Somehow, I was a helicopter pilot or a journalist or an alcoholic. I was living these express-lane lives. I didn’t feel like I knew enough anymore about myself or the world to reflect it as an actor. I felt isolated,” Meg told the New York Times

9. Taylor Momsen

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Taylor Momsen was an actor throughout her childhood, but she really skyrocketed to fame on Gossip Girl as a teenager. After she wrapped up her time on the show, she decided she wanted to take a step back from acting and fully pursue her music career.

“I quit acting, actually. I quit Gossip Girl and now tour and am in a band, and that’s pretty much all I want to do. Hopefully, I’ll be able to only do that for the rest of my life,” Taylor once told Elle

10. Jennette McCurdy

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iCarly actor Jennette McCurdy was a massive Nickelodeon star when she decided she no longer wanted to act. Despite many fans still supporting her, she recently admitted that she resented her career and was “so ashamed” of the unfulfilling roles she had taken in the past. She explained that initially she didn’t even want to act but did it as a way of supporting her family. 

“I quit a few years ago because I initially didn’t want to do it…If it were a director I really admired or someone whose work I really admired, then I would be so excited. But just because of my past and the auditions that would come across my eyes, I was like, OK well this is what the industry sees me as and I don’t want to do that,” Jennette said on her podcast Empty Inside

11. Peter Ostrum

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After Peter Ostrum starred in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in 1971, he could have easily launched a successful career in Hollywood. Instead, he decided to retire from the entertainment industry at 14 following his first and only role. Instead, he went on to become a veterinarian. 

“There wasn’t any glitz and glamour on set. We were young teenagers, and we were expected to work as young adults and be professional, so that meant showing up on time, knowing your lines, and there wasn’t any messing about. I soon came to the realisation that acting was a lot of work…I was offered a three-picture deal with the studio, but I decided not to pursue acting. Looking back, my paycheck was paltry, but it was during filming that I really became interested in medicine. So I bought my first horse with my earnings, and that started my current career path as a vet. I will always cherish my memories of making the movie, but I feel I won the golden ticket by becoming a vet,” Peter said to Express UK.

12. Angus T. Jones

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Angus T. Jones became a familiar face in Hollywood after starring on Two and a Half Men for almost a decade. But after deciding the series conflicted with his religious beliefs, he quit the show as a teenager and eventually retired from acting.  

“It was making light of topics in our world that are really problems for a lot of people. I was a paid hypocrite because I wasn’t okay with it, but I was still doing it,” Angus told People.

13. Kay Panabaker

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Disney Channel star Kay Panabaker was in her early 20s when she decided acting was no longer for her. She filmed her final movie, Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Viva la Fiesta!, in 2012 and then headed to attend college at UCLA. She studied zoology and currently works at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida.

When she was asked on Twitter why she stepped away from acting, Kay replied, “I just lost the love for acting. Life is short, we spend so much time at work, gotta do what you love 🙂 and I love my job!!”  


Mar. 31, 2022, at 22:09 PM

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