Stars who practically vanished from the screen
Fame is notoriously fleeting, but when certain actors and actresses are on top of the world it’s hard to imagine them stepping out of the spotlight. However, celebs leave the limelight more often than you think for a variety of reasons.
Here are some celebrity thespians we hardly ever hear from these days.
After years of starring in the Emmy award-winning hospital drama, Grey’s Anatomy, and as the female lead in Knocked Up, Katherine Heigl seemed destined for continued stardom. However, fans will have noticed she’s been conspicuously absent from the big screen in recent years. That’s not to say she’s retired from acting.
Heigl’s appeared in several independent and limited-release films. She also played Samantha Wheeler in the final season of the legal drama, Suits. Still, we expected to see more from her. Heigl may have ruffled feathers when she criticized Knocked Up, because it “paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.” Hopefully, expressing her opinion didn’t cost her any roles.
Billy Zane is known for his role as the antagonist in Titanic and, unfortunately, not much else. Despite rarely getting any big roles since 1997, he’s managed to stay active (and well paid). He’s appeared in some KFC commercials, Broadway productions and even produced a few movies like the critically-acclaimed documentary Searching for Eddie Running Wolf.
While Zane was excellent in Titanic, his foray into leading roles has never panned out. Fortunately, Billy seems to have a sense of humor about his career, frequently making cameos in which he parodies himself. With a reported net worth of $20 million, he’s got nothing to be ashamed about.
Despite seldom appearing in films anymore, Emilio Estevez is still a household name for his starring roles in numerous classics, including The Outsiders, The Breakfast Club, and The Mighty Ducks.
How come we hardly see him on screen anymore?
It seems he’s decided to pivot from acting in blockbuster films to writing, directing, producing and, occasionally, starring in his own artistic endeavors. So far, his films have been well received — his 2010 film The Way, which stars him alongside his father, Martin Sheen, has a “certified fresh” rating of 83% on Rotten Tomatoes.
For many years, Cameron Diaz was the go-to woman for leads in romantic comedies. She’s appeared in dozens of comedies, dramas, and action films, but perhaps her most notable role was as Mary Jensen in the raunchy 1998 comedy There’s Something About Mary.
Over her 20-plus years in Hollywood, she’s been nominated for four Golden Globe awards, including Best Actress in There’s Something About Mary. Since 2014, she’s essentially retired from acting, stating that she’s more interested in the “landscape of wellness” than film acting. Diaz has written two books on health — The Body Book and The Longevity Book.
In the 1990s, Meg Ryan was the undisputed queen of rom-coms. However, she’s yet to repeat the smash hit successes of When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and You’ve Got Mail in the 21st century. Perhaps this can be blamed on the fact that her performances shifted away from playing the archetypal role that made her popular.
She’s since slowed down on film and television appearances, though she voyaged into the directing and production with 2016’s Ithaca. Ryan has a son with her ex-husband Dennis Quaid, and an adopted daughter from China. Meg Ryan married rock singer John Mellencamp in 2010.
Karyn Parsons is best known for playing Hilary Banks on the classic sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. She appeared in several theatrical films, including Major Payne and The Ladies Man, but after 2002, she became conspicuously absent from television and movies alike.
According to Parsons, decent roles were tricky to come by for actresses of color in the 1990s and her priorities shifted to looking after her kids. It’s rumored that the cast of Fresh Prince may reunite, but nothing is confirmed. In the meantime, Parsons has been running a non-profit company that educates African-American kids on lesser known aspects of black history.
Jack Nicholson has had quite a celebrated career in Hollywood. Over the six decades he’s been active, he’s starred in numerous classics like Easy Rider, Chinatown, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Shining, and The Departed. After such a career it’s hard to fault the guy for wanting to take it easy.
Despite not appearing in any films since the 2010 flop How Do You Know, Nicholson has denied officially retiring, just that he has less interest to “be out there any more.” In 2017, it was reported that Nicholson would star along Kristen Wiig in the upcoming English-language remake of Toni Erdmann, but he’s since backed out.
In the 1980s, Phoebe Cates was a bona fide superstar and sex symbol, predominantly known for her lead roles in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Gremlins. But in 1994 she retired from acting, save for her final appearance in the 2001 comedy-drama film, The Anniversary Party.
Following her abrupt departure from Hollywood, fans were left wondering why such a popular actress would vanish from show business. There’s no juicy reason, Cates simply wanted to spend time with the two children she shares with he husband Kevin Kline. She now owns and runs Blue Tree, a boutique in the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Alyson Hannigan has played several iconic characters in TV and film. She was Willow Rosenberg — the nerdy, shy witch in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Lily Aldrin, the kindergarten teacher and artist in How I Met Your Mother. She’s also well-known for her role as Michelle (band camp girl) from the raunchy American Pie films.
After How I Met Your Mother endded in 2014, Hannigan seemed to disappear. She landed two roles that gained a lot of buzz — More Time with the Family and a remake of First Wives Club — but both were canceled before they aired. Hannigan has since taken another lucrative venture in the real estate market. You can still catch her as host of the reality magic competition show Penn & Teller: Fool Us.
Few actors have played a more despised character than Jack Gleeson. Of course we’re speaking about Joffrey Baratheon, the sadistic boy-king from Game of Thrones. Every week, critics and fans would marvel (and cringe) at the aptitude in which Gleeson brought the hateful character to life.
But when he left the show, he left screen acting too, announcing his retirement from acting at the ripe age of 20 to focus on school. He’s since “gone off that idea,” and founded the Collapsing Horse Theatre Company, in which he also frequently produces and performs.
Jennifer Love Hewitt
Jennifer Love Hewitt got her start the way many popular singers and actresses do — on the Disney Channel. She starred in Kids Incorporated in 1989, later joining the cast of Fox’s Party of Five series. However, she’s probably best-known for her role as Julie James in the popular horror film I Know What You Did Last Summer and its sequel.
After appearing in a few box office bombs, she’s yet to return to the big screen since 2012. However, she has starred in several popular television shows since then, including The Client List, Criminal Minds, and currently 9-1-1. Her memoir and dating advice book, The Day I Shot Cupid, was a New York Times best-seller, and she’s reportedly penning a sequel.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, Kel Mitchell was one of Nickelodeon’s biggest stars. After impressing the producers on the set of All That, they created a new show, starring him and Kel Thompson called Kenan and Kel. The show’s most popular sketch was made into its own hit movie, titled Good Burger.
Kel and stopped appearing on screen with Kenan, leading fans to speculate if the two were feuding. Indeed, the two didn’t speak for years but have recently reconnected, even reprising their beloved old roles together. “We’re close, like we should be,” Kenan Thompson told The Breakfast Club.
In the early 1990s, there was no more recognizable child actor than Home Alone movies star Macaulay Culkin. However, Culkin decided to take a break from acting in 1994 to focus on school and leading a “normal life.” Nine years later, he’d return to the big screen with a radically different role as “club kid” and convicted murderer Michael Alig in Party Monster.
Since then, he’s appeared in mostly experimental and independent films, with the occasional cameo here and there. In 2018, Culkin changed his middle name to ‘Macaulay Culkin’ after fans voted on the name. His full legal name is now Macaulay Macaulay Culkin Culkin.
Mo’Nique is best-known for her critically-acclaimed role as Mary Lee Johnston in the heart-wrenching drama Precious, as well as hilarious stand-up performances at legendary venues like The Apollo. You’d expect to see such a talented artist more often, but since 2015’s award-winning HBO film Bessie, we haven’t seen her land many roles.
This may be because of Mo’Nique’s refusal “to play the game” in Hollywood, which has reportedly earned her a reputation for being difficult to work with. In 2018, she publicly called for a boycott of Netflix, because of an alleged payment disparity between male and female comedians.
While his brothers Nick and Joe had successful music careers post-breakup of the wildly popular pop-rock band the Jonas Brothers, Kevin’s stayed mostly out of the limelight. Other than cameo appearances on reality shows and interviews, he’s been fairly quiet.
However, that’s not due to any poor business decisions on his part. Kevin’s founded the JonasWerner real estate development company, is co-CEO of The Blu Market company, created the food app, Yood, and is a partner of the We Heart It video-sharing app. With the Jonas Brothers reunited in 2019, expect to see and hear a lot more Kevin Jonas.
Entourage was a popular show about a movie star with humble beginnings and his group of friends. Unfortunately, Adam Grenier never achieved the superstar status his character played on TV. Still, after a memorable supporting role in The Devil Wears Prada, it seemed like we’d see him more.
It’s not that Grenier vanished from Hollywood completely — he still appears in films, but nothing as wildly popular as Entourage or The Devil Wears Prada. He’s set to star in an upcoming dramady, Stage Mother, which will hopefully catapult him toward more success.
After decades of hit comedies like Wayne’s World, Austin Powers and Shrek, Meyers’ acting career took a sharp drop in 2008. He can blame this on The Love Guru, a film he wrote, produced, and starred in that was not only panned by critics and audiences, but also called culturally insensitive.
While the film didn’t kill Meyers’ career outright, he’s yet to star in another blockbuster movie (unless you count a voice-acting role in Shrek Forever After). There’s rumors that a fourth Austin Powers film is in the works, but nothing’s been confirmed. Hopefully, he finds his way back on top.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas
In the 1990s, Jonathan Taylor Thomas’s face was everywhere. Home Improvement was one of the most watched sitcoms in the USA. JTT was a fan favorite as Randy Taylor, Tim Taylor’s middle child. He also voiced young Simba in the 1994 animated Disney classic, The Lion King.
When Home Improvement ended, JTT was well into his teens. He took a few more film and television roles until retiring in 2005 to focus on academics.
“I wanted to go to school, to travel and have a bit of a break,” Thomas told People magazine. After getting his degree, Thomas returned to act on The Last Man Standing in 2013 alongside former Home Improvement, Tim Allen.
McGillis is perhaps best known for her role as Charlie in the wildly popular action-drama film, Top Gun, and as Kathryn Murphy in the controversial, yet critically acclaimed The Accused. But, shortly after, she seemed to drop out of the limelight.
She blames the movie Cat Chaser for her departure from Hollywood. McGillis despised working on the film and decided to break from acting shortly after. She’s recently returned to show business, appearing mostly in television shows and small films.
Lori Loughlin’s major presence on ‘Full House’ had everyone expecting her to be a breakout star after the show ended but her career never really hit the peaks most of us thought it would. She’s made several appearances on TV shows such as Summerland, Psych, and Blue Bloods, but didn’t get mass exposure until reappearing on Fuller House.
Now, caught up in scandal, Loughlin is facing time for her hand in college bribes for student admission. She’s getting more attention now than ever before but for all the wrong reasons. Hopefully, we see some good come out of this when it’s all behind her and she can focus on building her career back up to the heights it always should’ve reached.
Paz de la Huerta
Paz de la Huerta rose to fame after appearing in small roles in A Walk to Remember and Choke. A starring role in the psychedelic drama, Enter the Void, earned her critical acclaim. After starring in the hit HBO crime drama, Boardwalk Empire, Paz de la Huerta’s career seemed like it would continue on an upward trajectory.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. She starred in the film Nurse 3D, which she said was so bad she sued the studio for damaging her career. Huerta also claims her career was further damaged by a certain Hollywood producer whose alleged actions sparked the #MeToo movement.
If you’ve paid attention to entertainment news lately, you’ve undoubtedly heard that Eddie Murphy is staging a comeback. In truth, Murphy never vanished completely from the big screen, but his output and popularity definitely waned when compared to his career in the ‘80s, ‘90s, and early ‘00s.
Murphy has two upcoming movies generating a ton of buzz. One is a biographical comedy about comedian and filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore called Dolemite Is My Name and the other is Coming 2 America, which will see Murphy reprise his hilarious role as Prince Akeem from the original 1988 romantic comedy Coming to America.
Ashley Judd has had a long, successful career in show business, with lead roles in A Time to Kill, Kiss the Girls, and Double Jeopardy. While she still lands big roles, it’s difficult not to wonder what her career would have been if she had not been blacklisted by producer Harvey Weinstein.
Fortunately, her career was not utterly destroyed and she’s still able to star in popular feature films like Divergent and A Dog’s Way Home. In addition to film and television acting, Judd is an outspoken political activist who has entertained the idea of running for a senate seat in the past.
Freddie Prinze, Jr.
After a few small roles in movies and television shows, Freddie Prinze, Jr. hit major success with a starring role in I Know What You Did Last Summer (alongside Jennifer Love Hewitt who also appears on this list). Freddie Prinze, Jr. became especially popular among teen audiences after starring in the romantic comedy She’s All That.
According to the man himself, Freddie Prinze Jr., had such a bad experience working on 24 that it put him off acting for some time. To be fair, he often appears in voice acting roles for popular animated shows like Star Wars Rebels and guest stars on live action shows from time to time.
Leelee Sobieski rose to fame in the late ‘90s with roles in Deep Impact and Eyes Wide Shut. The young actress received Golden Globe Award nominations for starring in the television movie Joan of Arc and the NBC miniseries Uprising.
She continued to appear in film until 2016 when she decided to retire. But why would anyone want to leave so much fame and fortune behind?
“I am just focused on my kids. I think that’s mainly why I stopped,” Sobieski told People magazine. “Also, 90% of acting roles involve so much sexual stuff with other people, and I don’t want to do that.”
Rick Moranis is a household name due to his hilarious performances in Spaceballs, and the Ghostbusters and Honey I Shrunk the Kids franchises. However, we gradually heard from him less and less. In fact, he hasn’t been in a theatrically-released film since 1996’s box office flop, Big Bully.
Following the death of his wife, Ann Belsky, in 1991, Moranis decided to slowly retire from show business to spend more time with his kids. Only recently has he begun to make a comeback with a voice appearance in The Goldbergs. As of February 2020, it was reported that he closed a deal to return to the franchise, ‘Honey, I Shrunk The Kids’ with Disney.
Aaron Eckhart stunned audiences with his ability to play a likable, charming, yet sleazy Tobacco firm representative in 2005’s Thank You for Smoking. The actor was justly praised for delivering on such a challenging role, leading to tons of blockbuster film opportunities. His role as Harvey Dent/Two Face in The Dark Knight also earned him considerable acclaim.
But after 2016’s universally panned Incarnate, we’ve yet to see him return to the screen. It’s unclear exactly why he’s been virtually non-active in Hollywood for a few years, but he’s set to return in a big way — the actor is starring in the upcoming World War II epic Midway, slated to release later this year.
Comedian and actor Martin Lawrence demonstrated his impressive ability to play multiple roles in one show after starring in the highly-rated Fox sitcom, Martin. His buddy cop films like Bad Boys and Blue Streak were immensely popular. Despite these successes, we hardly hear from Lawrence anymore.
Unfortunately, this may have something to do with a string of flops, legal troubles, and health issues. That said, Lawrence is set to reprise his role as Marcus Burnett in the third installment of the Bad Boys franchise, Bad Boys for Life.
Wesley Snipes has starred in more action movies than we can count. His status as a fifth-dan black belt in Karate and second dan black belt in Hapkido coupled with impressive acting chops make him the ideal action star. Few actors have performed in a more iconic role than Snipes as the half-vampire protagonist, Blade.
Despite the commercial success of the Blade trilogy, Snipes struggled to put out successful movies in the early 2000s, appearing in a number of B movies on the side. Legal troubles hurt his career further, but he’s making a comeback, with upcoming roles in two Eddie Murphy films.
Maguire is best-known for his starring role as Peter Parker in the Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man trilogy. Maguire rose to fame in the early 1990s, in part due to a friendship with Leonardo DiCaprio — the two would use their connections help each other land roles.
The last major on-screen role for Tobey Maguire was 2013’s The Great Gatsby, where he played narrator Nick Carraway alongside Leo. Since then, he’s had only one acting role, narrating the 2017 animated film, Boss Baby. That’s not to say he’s stayed out of show business completely. Lately, he’s been working as a producer.
Undoubtedly a comic genius, Dave Chappelle seemed to be on top of the world when he signed a contract with Comedy Central and released Chappelle’s Show, a massively successful sketch show with frequent A-list comedian and musical guests. Despite high ratings and critical acclaim, the show ended after only two seasons (plus a Lost Episodes season).
Reportedly, Chappelle left $50 million on the table when he decided to walk. In later interviews, Chappelle said he felt he was being pushed and encouraged to write and perform skits he was uncomfortable with. Fortunately for fans, he’s recently returned with several popular Netflix stand-up specials.