Retired of Acting

Actors and actresses who called it quits at a young age

by Josh Kurp   |   Jun 22, 2010

Retired of Acting

Photo: Library and Archives Canada

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If there’s one thing that Party Down taught me it’s that Hollywood is a tough place to get a break (because they’re clearly the first show or movie to tackle that subject). The main character, Henry, became a pseudo-celebrity for appearing in a beer commercial and saying, “Are we having fun yet?” Basically he’s the sitcom equivalent of Verizon’s “Can you hear me now?” guy—although much less annoying. Henry quickly gets tired of idiots asking him about his fun-level, though, not to mention all the typecast role offers, and he retires from acting in his late-20s. Now, he runs a catering company.

On June 18, Amanda Bynes announced that she was done with acting via Twitter. Whether this is because she wasn’t getting roles (her last motion picture was 2007’s instantly forgettable Sydney White) or because she’s now better known for her Maxim cover is left unanswered. The only clues Bynes has given are on Twitter, and they’re not really clues at all:

I know 24 is a young age to retire but you heard it here first I’ve #retired

I don’t love acting anymore so I’ve stopped doing it

Fair enough. At least she’s not fooling herself. Besides, it’ll be pretty tough to top the lovable caricature she played on Nick’s All That and The Amanda Show, dancing with her lobster pals. Plus, she was enjoyable in Hairspray.

There is a chance that Bynes will change her mind, or that this is just one giant PR hoax. After all, both Joaquin Phoenix and Viggo Mortensen have recently hinted that they were going to retire from acting, but neither of them actually did. But some are for real, and once they say they’re done, they’re done, minus the occasional personal favor to a friend. Here are ten actors and actresses who pulled a Barry Sanders and called it quits with mileage left in the tank:

1. Greta Garbo
Last role: Two-Faced Woman (1941)

Garbo was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, but she decided to quit acting at the age of 36—and considering she lived until she was 84, that’s a lot of time not spent on the screen. Why did she quit acting? There are many theories—World War II, the critical failure of Two-Faced Woman—but the answer is probably the simplest answer: She was a shy woman who didn’t enjoy being in movies. In 1953, Garbo bought a house in New York City and spent most of the rest of her life there. The Kinks’ Ray Davies even wrote a song, “Celluloid Heroes,” that mentions her: “Don’t step on Greta Garbo as you walk down the Boulevard/She looks so weak and fragile, that’s why she tried to be so hard/But they turned her into a princess/And they sat her on a throne/But she turned her back on stardom/Because she wanted to be alone.”

2. Grace Kelly
Last role: High Society (1956)

What is it about talented, beautiful women that make them want to retire from acting at such a young age? Granted, Kelly was a little busy with other things, namely being the Princess of Monaco. But still, she’s so good in Rear Window! Tragically, while driving her daughter to Monaco from their country home in 1982, Kelly had a stroke, crashing the car. She passed away a day later.

3. Cary Grant
Last role: Walk, Don’t Run (1966)

Very few actors have as many as great films on their resume as Grant; The Awful Truth, His Girl Friday, The Philadelphia Story, Arsenic and Old Lace, To Catch a Thief, An Affair to Remember, North by Northwest, and Charade are all classics of cinema, and all star Grant. At the age of 62, after playing an English businessman in Tokyo, Grant retired from acting and became creative consultant for the House of Fabergé.

4. Rick Moranis
Last role: Brother Bear 2 (2006)

If you grew up in the 1980s or ‘90s, Mr. Moranis is a hero. Think of all the great films he’s been in: Ghostbusters; Honey, I Shrunk the Kids; Little Shop of Horrors; Little Giants…okay, maybe that last one wasn’t so outstanding, but it taught an entire generation that the Dallas Cowboys are evil. He stopped acting in the late-’90s due to the passing of his wife, Anne, to liver cancer to look after their two children. Moranis will occasionally supply a voice to an underwhelming kids movie (Brother Bear) and its sequel or release a country album. It’s not known whether he’ll appear in the upcoming Ghostbusters III.

5. Shirley Temple
Last role: Shirley Temple Theatre (1961)

The fact that she hasn’t acted since JFK was president is surprising enough, but know what’s even more shocking: She’s still alive. I mean that as no disrespect to Miss Temple, but seriously, can you believe she hasn’t acted in 49 years and isn’t dead? I guess when you get your first role at the old age of 3 and have a drink named after you, you’re allowed to retire early—at least from acting. In 1967, she ran for a spot on the House of Representatives, but lost to Pete McCloskey. But that didn’t stop her political nature: She’s been a representative to the 24th General Assembly of the United Nations; United States ambassador to Ghana; chief of protocol of the United States; and United States ambassador to Czechoslovakia. All this from the girl who once appeared in Ali Baba Goes to Town.

6. Doris Day
Last role: The Doris Day Show (1973)

Why would someone as talented (and pretty) as Day appear in a film called With Six You Get Eggroll? Sadly, that was her last starring role before starting her namesake show (which probably only existed due to Day’s financial troubles). In the 1990s, Day founded the Doris Day Animal League, which merged with the Humane Society in 2006. Day now lives in Carmel-by-the Sea, California, presumably hanging out with fellow resident, Betty White.

7. Bridget Fonda
Last role: Snow Queen (2002)

Fonda began her career with Easy Rider and ended it with…the made-for-television Snow Queen? What happened in the middle? She appeared in The Godfather Part III, Single White Female, Grace of My Heart and Jackie Brown. She also turned down the leading role in Ally McBeal. Oops. Good thing for her she’s married to Danny Elfman, who will continue to rake in his millions performing the same score over and over again.

8. Joe Pesci
Last role: The Good Shepard (2006)

Yes, Pesci has a new movie out this year (Love Ranch, with Helen Mirren), but since 1998’s Lethal Weapon IV, he’s only appeared in Shepard. Damn shame because Pesci is consistently the most entertaining part of already outstanding films, like Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and Home Alone (speaking of, what happened to Daniel Stern?). He now spends his time producing the hit musical Jersey Boys. A bit different from “not the first time I dug a hole.”

9. Phoebe Cates
Last role: The Anniversary Party (2001)

Also known as the girl in the bikini from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. That was actually her second film (after the Blue Lagoon-rip off Paradise) and from its release in 1982 to 1994’s Princess Caraboo, Cates appeared in 16 films. After that, just The Anniversary Party, and that’s only because of her friendship with the film’s director, Jennifer Jason Leigh. She retired from acting to raise her children with husband Kevin Kline.

10. Michelle Meyrink
Last role: Permanent Record (1988)

Let’s just agree there’s no topping Revenge of the Nerds, in which Meyrink plays Judy. The Outsiders and Real Genius aren’t too shabby, either. In 1988, she quit acting and hasn’t been heard from since. On Wikipedia, though, she has an oddly specific “Personal Life” section: “As of 2003, Meyrink lived with her husband and three children on Bowen Island, a short ferry ride from Vancouver.”

After you’ve starred in Revenge of the Nerds, all of life is just a ferry ride away.