Being rich and famous is a dream we have all entertained in our lives, but despite glitz and glamor of it all, many celebrities chose to leave this all behind to start a new life away from the glaring spotlight.
But not everyone left for the same reasons. Some turned their back on Hollywood having already made milions while others decided that being famous just wasn’t for them and said goodbye to Tinseltown after just one role. With that said, here are 30 former stars who now lead regular lives.
1. Jack Gleeson
Everyone’s favorite tv villain was so convincing in his role that he was despised by hardcore Game of Thrones, some of whom seemed to believe that the affable, young Irish actor was the living embodiment of King Joffrey himself!
The hate got so intense that Gleeson reportedly retired from acting after fans berated him on social media. Today, Gleeson has handed in the life of a Hollywood star for a career in academia. He is currently a student at Trinity College, Dublin, where is studying for a degree in philosophy and theology.
2. Charlie Korsmo
Child star Charlie Korsmo had a glittering career in showbiz thanks to his work on Hook and later on Can’t Hardly Wait, where he played a bullied child who transformed into a popular kid. But it seems years earning the big bucks in Hollywood wasn’t enough to persuade Korsmo to stick at the craft as an adult.
Instead, he traded in Hollywood for the law, and after becoming one of the top lawyers in New York City, Charles, as he now goes by, currently works as a law professor at Case Western Reserve University.
3. Shaquille O’Neal
One of NBA’s most lauded players may appear like an unusual inclusion on our list, but everyone’s favorite basketball player has had quite the humble career post-basketball, despite his various appearances in rap videos saying otherwise.
Indeed, Shaq hasn’t shied away from going back to school, so much so that he earned an MBA and then a doctorate in education. He was also made an honorary sheriff’s deputy in Georgia. Pretty cool.
4. Gene Hackman
Despite winning two Oscars for his brilliant performance in the French Connection and the Western epic Unforgiven, Hackman decided to transfer his creative outlets over to the written word.
But rather than prove a one-book wonder, Hackman wrote a further five novels, all published by Simon & Shuster.
5. Al Green
While your grandfather may wax lyrical of Green’s soulful falsettos, Al Green has now retired from the fast-paced world of live performing in favor of spreading the word of Jesus.
Rather than belting out the lines to his hit song Let’s Stay Together in sold-out arenas, Green seems more than happy to live out his days preaching to church-goers in his local congregation at the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Memphis, Tennessee.
6. Angus T. Jones
Starring alongside Charlie Sheen in the hit Chuck Lore series Two and a Half Men practically made Jones an overnight millionaire, and his fame from the show only grew.
However, by working with a-then neurotic Charlie Sheen, Jones witnessed what money and wealth can do to a man, so perhaps with that in mind, he traded a career in the spotlight for one behind the screens at a production company co-owned by P. Diddy.
7. Phoebe Cates
Phoebe Cates sent teenage boy’s hearts racing the moment she hit it big on Fast Times at Ridgemont High. With a career as high-profile as Cates’s, you’d think she would have wanted to stay in tv- but she clearly had other ideas.
Spurring a host of lucrative offers, Cates became a small business owner instead. Her involvement in Hollywood is somewhat alive as she is married to the Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Kline. Her New York-based company is called Blue Tree, which specializes in women’s clothing.
8. Taran Noah Smith
Taran Noah Smith starred as Mark Taylor everyone’s favorite 90’s sitcom Home Improvement but has turned his attention away from acting following a short-lived marriage at just 17 to a woman almost twice his senior.
Reinventing himself as a lifestyle guru, Smith started Playfood, a vegan cheese business based in the liberal utopia of Oregon.
9. Vanilla Ice
Ice, ice, baby might once have been Vanilla Ice’s signature lyric, but today it is a more apt representation of his ever-dissolving career in showbiz. Today, Vanilla Ice doesn’t even have a rap career, and even when he was at the peak of his powers, it was more of a funny kind of appreciation than one built on actual star prowess.
Still, Vanilla Ice got the message that he wasn’t welcome anymore and set up shop in the real estate industry instead. However, his recent woes with money have been well-documented. More embarrassingly for the star was his arrest for stealing a pool table from an unoccupied house. The former star was sentenced to community service for this offense, along with another conviction for grand theft auto.
10. Amanda Bynes
From starring alongside Channing Tatum to being hospitalized under a 72-hour-mental evaluation hold, Amanda Bynes fall from grace is astonishing. In a career that started on the popular Nickelodeon shows All That and The Amanda Show, Bynes successfully made the transition to films up until her arrest in 2012 for driving under the influence. Spending nights in jail cells for said offenses, it was Bynes’ subsequent Twitter activity that again caught the media’s attention.
Acting out of character, the former actress tweeted bizarre and disturbing things, which included a tweet to Rihanna which read, “Chris Brown beat you because you’re not pretty enough.” Another tweet suggested that her father had sexually abused her before later retracting that statement and tweeting that he had not molested her but had however implanted a microchip into her brain that made her make such a serious accusation.
In 2013, and after months of weird tweets, she was arrested again for starting a fire in someone’s driveway which eventually led to a 72-hour mental evaluation hold. Thankfully, the actress appears to be getting better, and has quit Hollywood for a career in fashion.
11. Al Franken
Al Franken was a regular fixture on Saturday Night Live for over twenty years before he set his sights on something totally different. Despite making a great living in the entertainment world Franken wanted to enter politics, and he made significant inroads following his election as a senator for Minnesota in the 2008 election.
The former star survived two subsequent elections and continued to hold the seat.
12. Jeff Cohen
For the older readers, you’ll know Jeff Cohen as Chunk from The Goonies, a child actor from an 80s film who could have quickly gone onto even more success had he stuck with Hollywood.
But Cohen decided to turn his back on acting and pursue a career in law. As well as gaining the necessary qualifications to practice, Cohen became the founding partner at Cohen Gardner LLP, his very own law firm.
13. Jon Gosselin
While many male actors would jump at the chance at being a star on the show Jon & Kate Plus 8, Jon decided it wasn’t for him in the end so walked away from showbiz.
Today, Gosseling works as a cook and waiter in a chain of restaurants in the Pennsylvania area.
14. Peter Ostrum
Peter Ostrum is a shadow of the child star who won that golden ticket in the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. One of the great childhood films, Ostrum’s iconic role could have elevated him to the big leagues but decided to honor his passion for animals and is now a respected veterinarian working in New York.
If that isn’t a cool story to tell your grandchildren, we don’t know what is!
15. Mc Hammer
A short-lived career in the rap game would soon have MC Hammer winding up bankrupt after his song about big butts became an unexpected hit. But rather than becoming a washed-up novelty act Mc Hammer reinvented himself in ways you wouldn’t have imagined.
Starting with the lofty hopes of creating a search engine that could rival Google’s, the former star eventually found work in the industry as an investor and consultant.
16. Josh Saviano
Many may remember Josh from The Wonder Years TV show where he played Paul from 1988 to 1993. When the show ended, Josh enrolled in Law school and is now the Senior Counsel in Morrison Cohen in New York.
Saying of his decision to step out of the limelight, “I wanted to live a ‘normal’ life for a little bit and see where that led me.”
17. Danica McKellar
Another actor from The Wonder Years, Danica was perhaps better known as Winnie Cooper and went on to study Math at college after the show ended. Releasing the best-selling, children’s Math books Kiss my Math, Hot X: Algebra Exposed, and Math Doesn’t Suck, Danica has also done a few individual acting gigs like appearing in How I Met Your Mother and The West Wing as well as the occasional photo shoot.
She also appeared on the reality show, Dancing With The Stars.
18. Mara Wilson
Mara was a big star in the 90s, appearing in Mrs. Doubtfire, Mathilda, and Miracle on 34th Street. When her mother died during the post-production of Matilda, Mara decided to take a step back from Hollywood. Later in life, she became a bit of an internet phenomenon amongst millennials who felt her pithy remarks on growing up, via Twitter, were accurate and hilarious observations on modern life.
Mara has written several young adult novels as well as an autobiography.
19. Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Best known for his role as Randy in Home Improvement, Jonathan Taylor Thomas (JJT) also landed some film roles as Simba’s voice in The Lion King and also Tom and Huck and Wild America. However, when the 90s ended JTT decided to go to college and study Philosophy at Colombia and later History at Harvard.
He’s had a few guest roles crop up since on shows such as Veronica Mars and Smallville but, for the most part, keeps a low profile.
20. Olivia D’abo
Although never quite reaching the heights of being in The Wonder Years, Olivia D’abo did continue her acting career and has worked steadily since.
Appearing in Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Wayne’s World 2, Olivia has also had a reasonable voice acting career and continues to work.
21. Michael Schoeffling
A collegiate wrestler and male model who appeared in such films as Sixteen Candles, Let’s Get Harry, and Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, Michael had a growing family and lack of roles as the 90s rolled around and so quit the profession to find something with steadier pay.
He now owns and works in a woodworking shop in Pennsylvania.
22. Shirley Temple
One of the most popular child actresses of the 1930s, Shirley was unable to transfer her success into older roles despite her face being used to sell various toys and other products across the nation.
With roles disappearing, she retired from acting at the young age of 22 but did not let this hold her back as she took another career path and went on to become a US ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia.
23. Alyssa Milano
Starring in Who’s The Boss? Alyssa Milano went on to have an incredibly successful acting career appearing in Melrose Place, Charmed, My Name Is Earl, Romantically Challenged, and Castle.
She is also one of the few child actors whose career followed well into adulthood. Despite this, Milano realized that acting alone wasn’t enough to fulfill her so she got involved in many political causes. As well as being an advocate of women’s rights and speaking at the 2018 Women’s March, Milano serves as co-chair of the Health Care Voter campaign.
24. Ron Lester
Known for playing Ryan Murphy on the incredibly popular Popular, Ron also had a few successful roles in films like Varsity Blues, Not Another Teen Movie, and Good Burger though those roles could not match the heights he originally reached.
Going on to have duodenal switch surgery, Ron lost a lot of weight and had a motivational radio show because of it but passed away in June of 2016.
25. Dylan Sprouse
The brother’s Dylan and Cole Sprouse were acting from just 8-months-old and appeared in films such as Big Daddy whilst also landing sitcom roles in Grace Under Fire. At 9, Cole appeared as Ross Gellar’s son, Ben, in Friends but the pair became massive stars when they got a sitcom of their own in The Suite Life of Zak and Cody.
In 2013 Cole was working as a server in a restaurant in New York, more as a way of getting out of the house rather than actually needing the money. The pair did college degrees and graduated in 2015 with Cole doing archaeology and Dylan opting for a degree in video game design.
In 2014, he used the degree to his advantage by commentating on Super Smash Bros tournaments whilst Cole, who is currently dating the Hungarian supermodel Barbara Palvin, can now be seen starring in Riverdale.
26. Maia Brewton
An 80s child star who cropped up quite often on television in Parker Lewis Can’t Lose and Adventures in Babysitting. Maia Brewton fully intended to continue in acting and even studied theater at Yale.
However, coming out of college and unable to find work, she tended bars for a while before deciding on a different career path and went back to college, this time, law school and eventually became an attorney.
27. Nikki Blonsky
Discovered whilst in a New York ice cream parlor, Nikki Blonsky went on to star in the smash hit film adaptation of the music Hairspray after which she appeared in episodes of Ugly Betty and Smash.
However, roles fell away after that and in 2011 she became a registered cosmetologist and began working in a salon. She still acts when parts come along but for the most part, works as a makeup artist.
28. Leanna Creel
The tough girl of Saved by The Bell, Leanna Creel went on to star in The Cell but moved way from being on screen and started a production company called Ignite Entertainment which she later sold to Lionsgate.
Now she runs a photography and video production company with high-profile clients such as Disney and The Food Network called Creel studios, so although not on screen anymore she is still firmly a part of the entertainment industry.
29. Karyn Parsons
Although Will Smith would become a superstar post-his sitcom Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Karyn Parsons was less confident of its success and kept her waitressing job until the pilot was picked up. Playing Will’s young cousin Hilary, Karyn went back to school to take courses in writing and film.
Later she would go on to found Sweet Blackberry, a non-profit organization that produces films for children that highlight little-known people in black history.30
30. Kevin Jonas
Despite being a member of one of the most famous boy bands worldwide (the Jonas Brothers), as well as having his own reality show, Kevin decided that the Hollywood life wasn’t for him.
Instead, he left his music and acting careers and followed his passion of becoming a contractor.