Movie stars who retired from acting

Tom Beasley
Sean Connery, Cameron Diaz and Daniel Day-Lewis have all said goodbye to acting. (Credit: Uri Schanker/WireImage/Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic/Lars Niki/Getty for AMPAS)

For many, acting is a lifelong profession. It’s not uncommon for actors to keep themselves in front of the camera until their final years. But not everyone wants to be a movie star forever.

This week, it was announced that Rick Moranis will return to acting for Disney’s upcoming Shrunk — a reboot of the 1980s family comedy Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. The Ghostbusters actor appeared in the original 1989 movie, as well as its sequels in 1992 and 1997. The latter was his last live-action movie appearance, marking the beginning of a hiatus from acting that he only interrupted to provide a voice for Disney’s Brother Bear and its direct-to-DVD sequel.

Read more: Judi Dench says she’ll never retire from acting

Meanwhile, last year saw Joe Pesci come out of retirement to reunite with Martin Scorsese for the epic Netflix crime drama The Irishman. It reportedly took him being asked 50 times before he finally said yes and agreed to be in the movie.

But there are plenty of examples throughout Hollywood history of actors who said they were stepping back from the industry and, for the most part at least, stuck to it.

Sean Connery

Sean Connery as James Bond in 1962's 'Dr No'. (Credit: United Artists)

Best known, of course, as the first big screen incarnation of James Bond in the 1960s, Sir Sean Connery called a halt to his acting career in the wake of the disastrous 2003 comic book adaptation The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In fact, the film was such a mess that its director — Blade helmer Stephen Norrington — has also not worked again in cinema since its release.

Read more: Actors who gave up on accents halfway through a movie

Connery announced his retirement in 2006 when he accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute at the age of 75. Other than a voice role in Scotland’s first ever CGI-animated movie Sir Billi, he hasn’t acted since that day.

Gene Hackman

Gene Hackman attends the premiere of 'Wyatt Earp' on June 18, 1994 in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Gene Hackman, star of The French Connection and The Conversation, celebrated his 90th birthday in January. The actor’s last movie credit, other than a couple of documentary voice-over gigs, was 2004 comedy Welcome to Mooseport. He told Larry King that year that he had nothing in the pipeline and believed his career was over, confirming in 2008 that he was done with the acting business.

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Since then, Hackman has kept himself busy as a novelist. He co-wrote three historical fiction novels with archaeologist Daniel Lenihan and then went solo with a Western and a cop thriller.

Cameron Diaz

Cameron Diaz signs copies of her new book "The Longevity Book: The Science Of Aging, The Biology Of Strength And The Privilege Of Time" on April 13, 2016. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)

After a busy 2014 in which she starred in three major studio movies — The Other Woman, Sex Tape and Annie — Cameron Diaz announced that she was stepping away from acting. In the years since she left Hollywood, she has released several books related to health and wellness, while investing in several businesses in that sector. Last year, Diaz said she wasn’t missing acting and suggested she wouldn’t be returning to the screen any time soon.

Read more: Diaz reveals career highlights and favourite role

I suppose it was difficult to get over that scene with the car windscreen in The Counsellor. It’s certainly etched into the memories of anyone who saw the movie.

Robert Redford

Robert Redford attends Sundance Institute's 'An Artist at the Table Presented by IMDbPro' at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb)

While silver screen legend Robert Redford has certainly retired from acting, having announced his decision in 2016, he hasn’t said goodbye to Hollywood. He founded the Sundance Institute and the Sundance Film Festival, named for his character from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and those projects are very much ongoing.

Read more: Looking back at Redford’s The Natural

Redford’s final movie was the charming crime caper The Old Man and the Gun for director David Lowery, who has since moved on to enormous fantasy projects. He did also briefly reprise his role from Captain America: The Winter Soldier for a cameo in Avengers: Endgame. So he managed to star in the highest-grossing movie of all time while retired, which is pretty good going.

Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis attends Arthur Miller - One Night 100 Years Benefit on January 25, 2016. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

Sir Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the most acclaimed performers in history. He’s the only man to have ever won three Best Actor Oscars and has been nominated six times in total. Like Garbo, he’s a publicity-shy, private person with an enigmatic public image — only enhanced by his famed commitment to method acting. He announced his retirement in the summer of 2017 after completing work on his fashion world drama Phantom Thread.

Read more: Watch the trailer for Phantom Thread

Few were truly surprised to see Day-Lewis step back from acting, given the fact he had spent several decades as one of the most selective performers in the industry. He told Variety that he hadn’t fully decided why he was retiring, but said he needed to “believe in the value of what I’m doing” in order to carry on.

It would be strange to fully rule out a future Daniel Day-Lewis movie, but there’s nothing currently on the horizon.

Doris Day

Doris Day in 'Calamity Jane'. (Credit: Warner Bros)

The late Doris Day was one of the iconic faces of the Golden Age of Hollywood. With roles in films including musical Calamity Jane and Alfred Hitchcock thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much, she was one of the biggest stars of the 1950s. Her film career came to an end in 1968 and, after fronting sitcom The Doris Day Show, she quit acting in 1973.

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Day flirted with a return to the big screen in 2015, but ultimately declined a role in a film being developed by Clint Eastwood. She was given the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement by the Academy in 1989 and passed away in 2019 at the age of 97.

Amanda Bynes

Amanda Bynes arrives at the 2011 MTV Movie Awards. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Amanda Bynes was one of the most recognisable teen movie stars of the noughties, leading films including She’s The Man and What a Girl Wants. Her last feature credit was in 2010 comedy Easy A. Around that time, Bynes had dropped out of a number of projects at the eleventh hour and, in the subsequent years, her problems with substance abuse became clear.

Read more: Bynes discusses addiction and retirement in magazine interview

Bynes announced an indefinite hiatus from acting in 2010, aged just 24. A possible return last year was scuppered by another trip to rehab and Bynes is reportedly working on her studies at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles.

Cary Grant

Cary Grant in Alfred Hitchcock's 'North By Northwest'. (Credit: MGM)

Cary Grant was one of the most versatile leading men in the history of the movies, capable of playing everyman heroes and darker characters with equal flair. At the age of 62, however, he sensed that the Golden Age of Hollywood was coming to an end and opted to quit the business, hoping to spend more time with his daughter, Jennifer Grant, who had just been born. His final movie was 1966 comedy Walk, Don’t Run. His commitment to the retirement was instantly affirmed when he turned down the chance to work with long-time collaborator Alfred Hitchcock on Torn Curtain.

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Grant had reportedly grown increasingly upset with the movie business throughout the 1960s, rarely being impressed by scripts he received. He resisted several attempts to bring him back to the screen, including Hitchcock — again — hoping to cast him in the title role of a Hamlet movie.

He died after suffering a stroke prior to a performance of A Conversation with Cary Grant in November 1986. He was 82 years old.

Greta Garbo

Greta Garbo in 1936 film 'Camille'. (Credit: MGM)

Hollywood Golden Age icon Greta Garbo made 28 films in her career, but stepped down from the industry at the age of 36, having been nominated for three Oscars. She had always been private and shy of publicity and it is suggested that the critical failure of her 1941 film Two-Faced Woman proved to be the final straw, after years of career decline.

Any attempts to return to film soon after were scuppered by her reliance on the European film industry — suffering due to the Second World War — and she resisted later attempts to lure her back to the screen. She turned down the lead role in Sunset Boulevard and focused on her interest in art. She lived alone and, in 1971, told a friend that she was suffering from “deep depression”.

Garbo died in 1990 at the age of 84 as a result of pneumonia and renal failure.

Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple Black arrives at Heathrow Airport from France on a European tour on behalf of the Republican National Committee. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

Shirley Temple was one of the most famous people in the world during the 1930s and still stands as perhaps the most successful child star in the history of Hollywood. She made her movie debut in 1932 at the age of three and then rose to fame two years later with Bright Eyes — subsequently starring in more than 40 films before she was 21. Perhaps unsurprisingly given that workload, she retired in 1950 at the age of 22.

Read more: Child stars who took on surprising careers

This wasn’t entirely the end of Temple’s showbiz career as she ultimately popped up to front a fairytale anthology series and made several television guest appearances. Far more impressively, she also had a political and diplomatic career and sat on the board of companies including Disney and Del Monte Foods.

She died at the age of 85 as a result of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Although Temple had smoked for most of her life, she hid the habit in public so as not to set a poor example for her fans.