Celebrities Who Said Goodbye to Hollywood for New Careers
The Hollywood dream sounds like a fairy tale to most people, but the road to fame can come with many pitfalls. While some A-list actors choose to have lifelong careers in front of the camera, many other celebrities decide to trade the limelight for new opportunities.
The lure of a slower pace and less public scrutiny with more job stability is more than enough to make some celebrities decide to trade fame for a calmer life outside the Hollywood glare. Not surprisingly, their fame often gives them the advantage they need to kick start their thriving new careers. Let’s take a look at some popular celebrities who gave Hollywood the boot.
Jersey Shore: Angelina Pivarnick
Angelina Pivarnick endured plenty of drama during Season 1 of Jersey Shore. After not showing up for her shift at the T-shirt shop, she was evicted and left town. During Season 2, she returned but was evicted from the house (and show) again after a confrontation with the cast. The show continued for another five seasons, but Pivarnick wisely chose to pursue a career outside reality television.
Even Stevens: Steven Anthony Lawrence
Steven Anthony Lawrence is a well-known former child actor with acting credits that ranged from Cheaper by the Dozen to The Cat in the Hat, but he is probably best known for his role on Even Stevens. Fortunately, he avoided the curse that seems to plague so many child stars.
The Facts of Life: Lisa Whelchel
As the funny and fabulous Blair Warner on The Facts of Life, Lisa Whelchel won the hearts of audiences everywhere. After her time in Hollywood, she married associate pastor Steven Cauble and became a stay-at-home mother. She is also a successful author, writing more than nine books on motherhood and religion and a memoir based on her relationship with God.
Chips: Erik Estrada
In a perfect case of life imitating art, Erik Estrada — best known for playing California Highway Patrol officer Frank Poncherello on CHIPs — is now a real-life cop. Estrada left Hollywood and became a sheriff for Bedford County, Virginia, in 2009. Later, he became a reserve police officer in St. Anthony, Idaho.
Music Legend: Al Green
Famous for his songs "Let's Stay Together" and "Love and Happiness," this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame soul singer is recognizable for his deep and passionate vocals. As fate would have it, music wasn’t his only passion, and after a transformative moment, he started down a new path and became a pastor.
The Hills: Lauren Conrad
Lauren Conrad escaped the curse of the reality TV star and made a name for herself in the publishing and fashion worlds. Initially known for the MTV reality shows Laguna Beach and its spinoff The Hills, Conrad is now more famous for her California fashion and lifestyle publications.
The Shining: Lisa and Louise Burns
The horror film classic The Shining is full of memorable lines and terrifying moments, and the creepy twin Grady girls — played by Lisa and Louise Burns — are among the best of them. They went above and beyond to terrorize and haunt the patrons of the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film.
Home Improvement: Taran Noah Smith
As the youngest son of Tim Allen on the popular sitcom Home Improvement, Taran Noah Smith enjoyed a steady career as a child actor. After the show ended, Smith said goodbye to the television world and became an entrepreneur. Thanks to his television salary and the ample residuals from the show, he was able to pursue his passion for producing soy-free vegan cheese. This niche market is estimated to reach a value of $4 billion by 2024.
The Cosby Show: Geoffrey Owens
After playing Elvin Tibideaux on The Cosby Show, Geoffrey Owens continued to work sporadically as an actor. He made international news after the Daily Mail posted an article shaming the actor for working at Trader Joe's. Owens stood tall and pointed out there was no shame in trying to earn a living between gigs.
The Goonies: Jeff Cohen
Widely recognized as "Chunk" from the cult classic The Goonies by Steven Spielberg, Jeff Cohen found a way to combine his passion for movies with a profitable career in law. After wrapping up his successful career as a child actor, he studied Business Law at UCLA.
NBA Star: Adrian Dantley
As a six-time NBA All-Star, Adrian Dantley was known for his professionalism on the court during more than 15 years of play. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008 and served as head coach of the Denver Nuggets from 2009 to 2010.
Two and a Half Men: Angus T. Jones
Known to the public as the "half" on the infamous sitcom Two and a Half Men, Angus T. Jones played Jake Harper for 12 seasons. A sitcom star throughout his childhood, he left Hollywood for good after the show was canceled in 2015 (and barely appeared for several years before that). During his time on the show, Jones was the highest-paid child star on TV.
Academy Award Winner: Gene Hackman
Since retiring in 2004, two-time Academy Award-winner Gene Hackman has traded in his illustrious 60-year acting career for famed novelist. He was an A-list actor at the height of his career when he said goodbye to Hollywood, but the long hours on set and the business side of filmmaking had taken its toll on him.
Mrs. Doubtfire: Mara Wilson
One of the most famous child stars of the 90s, Mara Wilson is widely recognized for her role as Matilda Wormwood in Matilda and as Robin Williams’ adorable daughter Natalie in Mrs. Doubtfire. Even though her star was rising, Wilson decided to retire in 2000 from acting and focus her career on writing.
Love Story: Ali MacGraw
Best known for her heartbreaking role in Love Story with Ryan O'Neal, Ali MacGraw left quite an impression on fans around the world. She is also widely known for her passionate affair and marriage to Steve McQueen, her costar in The Getaway. Their affair made headlines all over the globe and soured MacGraw on fame.
The Jonas Brothers: Kevin Jonas
A pop sensation with his brothers from a young age, Kevin Jonas never lost sight of life outside the spotlight. He sang, played guitar and wrote music along with his brothers, Nick and Joe Jonas. The band broke up in 2013 due to creative differences.
Hip Hop Star: Vanilla Ice
His first hip hop single "Ice Ice Baby" broke several Billboard chart records, and the album "To The Extreme" became the fastest-selling hip hop album of all time. His success was fleeting and left Ice (whose real name is Robert Matthew Van Winkle) touring and trying to recapture that initial fame.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Phoebe Cates
From her famous entrance in a red bikini in Fast Times at Ridgemont High to her unforgettable performance in the horror classic Gremlins, Phoebe Cates was a prime starlet of the '80s. She could have had her pick of roles, but she left Hollywood instead to become a stay-at-home mother.
A-List Star: Cameron Diaz
In one of the most notable retirements of any A-list superstar, Cameron Diaz left the world of stardom to write self-help books. Although she was an Academy Award-nominated actress and one of the highest-paid actresses of her generation at one point, she preferred to refocus her energy on education.
Willy Wonka: Peter Ostrum
For his only film role, Peter Ostrum couldn’t have done better than Charlie Bucket in the classic film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. He became an instant star and was offered a three-year contract to film more movies, but he decided that his time as a child actor was over at the young age of 12. Ostrum understood that his true calling was with horses, well beyond the bright lights of Hollywood.
Disney Star: Dylan Sprouse
Identical twins, Dylan and Cole Sprouse, began their careers on the show Grace Under Fire at the age of one. Of course, they are best known for their roles in the Disney series The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, followed by The Suite Life on Deck.
Beverly Hills 90210: Jamie Walters
Jamie Walters is best known as Ray, the bad news boyfriend of Donna on the hit show Beverly Hills 90210. Although the part was specifically written for him by producer Aaron Spelling, he left after two seasons to pursue his music career and capitalize on the success of his #1 song "How Do You Talk to an Angel."
Grammy Winner: MC Hammer
Known around the world for his #1 hits "U Can't Touch This" and "2 Legit 2 Quit," MC Hammer also created iconic dance moves. Fame and fortune came at a cost, however, and he ultimately decided to focus on a higher goal.
1980's Pop Star: Tiffany
In the '80s, pop singing starlet Tiffany enchanted audiences with her hit single "I Think We're Alone Now." The '80s icon is still recording music, but her clothing shop provides her with a steady paycheck and alleviates the stress of an uncertain career as a singer.
Reality Dad: Jon Gosselin
Jon Gosselin became famous with his former wife, Kate, on Jon & Kate Plus 8, a reality show focused on their lives raising their eight children. The show put pressure on an already strained marriage and led to a contentious divorce. After struggles related to 24/7 public exposure, tabloid gossip and court battles with Kate, Gosselin retreated from public life.
Hollywood Legend: Shirley Temple
Shirley Temple danced and sang her way into the hearts of millions when she was only five years old. Her tap dancing and adorable giggle captivated viewers in Heidi and Captain January. Unfortunately, growing up and maintaining a career in Hollywood proved a struggle for Temple, and she officially retired from acting in 1950.
Ghostbusters: Rick Moranis
Rick Moranis is known for his hilarious roles in Ghostbusters, Spaceballs and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. He was an in-demand A-list comedian and actor in the '80s and '90s before he left Hollywood.
America's Got Talent: Susan Boyle
When Scottish singer Susan Boyle stepped onto Britain's Got Talent stage in 2009, no one was expecting her to belt out a stunning version of the ballad "I Dreamed a Dream." She made it to the finals and became an overnight success but then retreated from the spotlight at the height of her career.
Heavyweight Champion: George Foreman
George Foreman famously suffered his first boxing loss to Muhammad Ali in the match known worldwide as "The Rumble in the Jungle." Regardless, Foreman finished his successful career in boxing with two World Heavyweight Championships and an Olympic Gold medal.
Teen Heartthrob: Freddie Prinze Jr.
A teenage girl's dream in the '90s, Freddy Prinze Jr. starred in She's All That, Scooby-Doo and I Know What You Did Last Summer. He married fellow IKWYDLS and Scooby-Doo costar, Sarah Michelle Gellar. His career was going strong, but he decided to focus on his passion for cooking and the WWE.