Hollywood is a fickle place, one day you are the "it" actor and the next you are not. Actors and actresses take a risk when taking on roles, that major role could be the break of a lifetime or a major flop. But some TV stars have bigger dreams of becoming movie stars and have succeeded with flying colors like a certain TV doctor, or a major franchise heroine or a certain popular wrestler who has made the move to top A-lister. When a celebrity leaves the hit role that made them popular they take the risk of not quite making the moves they thought they would.
But then there are the others, who took their major roles for granted and walked away at the height of their fame often never came close to the popularity they once had. Set fights, bad behavior, and big egos were the downfalls for some actors whose careers floundered after their mistake. Ohhh were their ego problems, one actor’s uncontrollable behavior got him fired from his hit show where he made millions, while another actress wanted more camera time despite being part of a huge ensemble cast and then dissed her production badly. But there were also many personal issues to take care of and movie opportunities that made celebs step away from their beloved role.
21 Ditched TV For Movie Stardom: George Clooney
George Clooney was one of the breakout stars for ER for five years before he bid adieu to his scrubs for the big screen full time and he’s never looked back. Well, that’s not entirely true as George did come back to the show for several cameos. But he set his sights on the big screen and thrived with movies, like Ocean's 11, Gravity and The Perfect Storm. He’s also taken up directing as well.
George had been a working actor for more than a decade before landing ER which would go on to give him the spark he needed. It was during the first season of the show where George realized the drama would change his life.
"I was walking through the streets of New York halfway through the first season of ER, and I'd been on a lot of TV shows so people would kind of recognize me, 'It's that guy from that thing,'..."
"...And I remember walking down the streets in Manhattan and them going, 'Hey George,' and they knew your name as opposed to your character,’ he told The Hollywood Reporter. "I remember that was a moment where I thought, 'Things have changed.' " But he refused to complain, "Nobody wants to hear anybody complain, so I don't do it. I don't believe in it. But it did become very different, more complicated.”
20 Left Hit Show Too Soon: Katherine Heigl
Katherine Heigl dramatically left the hit show, Grey’s Anatomy that made her famous. She now says that she left the show in 2010 to raise her family in quiet lifestyle she told Good Housekeeping."We had big dreams of expanding our family, moving to the mountains and having a quieter life. Utah is spectacularly beautiful, the people are wonderful and kind, it's an easy commute from L.A. — and there's no traffic!" She was still making a movie which continued to interfere with her duties as a mom and she pulled back from her movie career as well for a few years. "I would come home angry and frustrated that I'd missed everything with my kid that day. I didn't get to wake her up from her nap, or do bath time or bedtime. I'd have to sneak into her room and kiss her when she was sleeping, hoping not to wake her."
While Katherine says he family life was why she stepped back it may really be when she caused a stir after she withdrew her name from the Emmy nominations stating her lackluster storyline that season.
"In an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization, I withdrew my name from contention,"
she said according to the NYTimes in 2008. "In addition, I did not want to potentially take away an opportunity from an actress who was given such materials." Ouch, she later apologized to showrunner Shonda Rhimes and producers but the damage was done.
Katherine never quite recovered from Grey’s Anatomy and admitted in an interview with Howard Stern according to Us Magazine, that she needed therapy." I had never done therapy until a couple years ago. I started going because of the scrutiny. I was not handling it well. I was feeling completely like the biggest piece of [explicit] on the bottom of your shoe," she told Stern on Wednesday. "I was really struggling with it and how to not take it all personally and not to feel that there's something really deeply wrong with me."
19 Ditched TV For Movie Stardom: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson
The Rock’s star has risen from failed football player to WWE Wrestling hero to action star. The major actor reveals he had a tough time transitioning from wrestler to actor."It kind of shook me a little bit because wrestling was all I knew at that time," Dwayne told Oprah. "I wanted to grow as an entertainer. I wanted to reach as many people as possible, not for the box office value of it, but for the connection." Dwayne took acting very seriously and his career took off. "If I made the transition into acting, I wanted to be great. I knew going in, the cards are stacked against me," he says.
"There's a shelf life to a career if I just wanted to get by on popularity. I didn't want to be in that position. I wanted longevity."
He reveals he was hesitant when bringing up his wrestling career at first but has since embraced it. ‘“When I first started in Hollywood I was told at that time by the management I had around me that you have to forget about your past and you can’t bring wrestling up, we have to slowly leave that behind and let’s not refer to yourself as The Rock, let’s make sure everyone’s calling you Dwayne Johnson,” he said according to Metro. "When you’re new in the business as I was, almost 18 years ago, you buy into it and you just don’t know because you want to make it and I was kind of flying by the seat of my pants and bought into that. It was a defining moment in my career when I finally decided I’m not going to be ashamed of my past. I love my past. Pro wrestling isn’t for everybody but it’s my life. You call me The Rock, you can call me Dwayne Johnson, you can call me daddy.”
18 Left Hit Show Too Soon: Shannen Doherty
Shannen Doherty’s rumored tension with castmates followed her from 90210 to Charmed. Shannen and Alyssa Milano had a reported feud while on the show, but Alyssa claims she doesn’t know what happened,“I don’t know if she got fired, we never really found out what happened,” Milano said according to Us Magazine. “I can tell you that we were on the air with her for three years and there were definitely some rough days. Holly [Marie Combs] and Shannen were best friends for like 10 years before the show started so it was very much sort of like high school. I would hope that in our thirties it wouldn’t feel like that anymore ... but it was the best job I’ve ever had in my life and certainly a learning experience.”
Shannen did hint at the feud with Alyssa when she spoke with ET according to Huffington Post…. “There was too much drama on the set and not enough passion for the work. I’m 30 years old and I don’t have time for drama in my life anymore. I’ll miss Holly a lot … she’s one of my best friends and I love her dearly, and there were never, ever, ever any problems between the two of us.”
At the time producers left Shannen to go and pursue other projects after three seasons with Charmed, "We have had a long and prosperous relationship with Shannen and we didn't want to hold her back from what she wanted to do," Spelling TV said in a statement according to ABC. Shannen also walked away from 90210 after a few seasons after a reported feud with Jennie Garth. She never quite gained traction after she left her hit show.
17 Ditched TV For Movie Stardom: Steve Carell
Steve Carell had a cushy job on The Office, but the actor wanted to broaden his horizons so he left Scranton to pursue more movie roles. He has always planned to leave at the end of season seven, Executive producer, Greg Daniels said TV Guide. “Early on, everybody renegotiated and they added a year to their contracts, but Steve didn't. So everybody's contracts went through Season 8 except for Steve. So we knew very early on that he was going to leave at the end of Season 7. He was very upfront about it and he didn't play any games. Certainly, I was happy that he gave us seven years, considering that he became a huge movie star after Season 1 and he could have just made a ton more movies if he hadn't been doing the show.”
Steve reiterated that when he sat down with Ellen according to DailyMail.
"I had been preparing myself because I had known for about a year that I was going to be leaving this season. And, I thought I was emotionally prepared but, I was really surprised at how bittersweet it was..."
"...Everybody was crying. It was nice though. They're my friends. That was the difficult part of it is sort of moving on. I felt like I was senior and everyone else is a junior and I was graduating.” Steve already had a budding movie career with hits like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but he would go on to add Despicable Me, Crazy, Stupid, Love, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues and Minions.
16 Left Hit Show Too Soon: Mischa Barton
Mischa Barton kind of fell off the radar when she abruptly left her hit show, The O.C. Her character Marissa was killed off the show."I think I just got to the point where I was like, 'I'm not sure I'm enjoying this anymore. I just felt like I was in a machine and I couldn't really get off. So it was time to step back. So I went back to England and it was just a year of real self-exploration. In a weird way, it parallels this week and that's made the whole thing like 100 times better," Mischa said according to ABC after being eliminated from Dancing with the Stars in 2016.
Mischa fell victim to the excess of fame and had been arrested driving while using substances in 2007. She left Hollywood and headed to London, where she was born to recoup. “It was one of those times that things culminated for better or worse,” she told People. “So I moved to Europe and was able to take time and really explore who I was and who I wanted to be.” She decided to go back to school and enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. “I needed that time for myself to really do that self-exploration and get back in touch with my roots. I just needed time to be me and be a regular person. That balance is important. I am nothing but happy to have had that time in my life.”
15 Ditched TV For Movie Stardom: Shailene Woodley
Shailene Woodley left The Secret Lives of American Teenagers the second she could saying the show did not align with her integrity. “I didn’t like it because if it started to change, I had no control over it,” she once told Flaunt in an interview. “It's like anything in life, whether you're an actor or you work in an insurance office, if you want to be able to leave your job, it's nice to be able to leave your job. But when you're in a contract, unfortunately, you can't do that.”
But Shailene was grateful for the opportunity that made her popular.
“It was a fantastic five years of my life, but towards the end, morally, the things that we were preaching on that show weren’t aligned with my own integrity..."
"...So that was a bit hard to show up to work every day knowing that we were going to project all of these themes to thousands, millions, of young adults across the country, when in fact they weren’t what I would like to be sending out.” Shailene went on to star "Divergent," and "The Fault in Our Stars" and can be seen in HBO's hit show “Big Little Lies.”
14 Left Hit Show Too Soon: Topher Grace
On the show, Eric would eventually leave Point Place, Wisconsin, taking a teaching job in Africa. But in actuality, Topher left the show to star in Spider-Man 3 as Venom.
13 Ditched TV For Movie Stardom: Jennifer Garner
Alias made Jennifer Garner a household name. sHe had been dipping her toes in movies while filming her hit spy show, but after the show was canceled she was ready to move on she tells Entertainment Weekly.“It feels like the right thing; it feels like we’ve told the story. But I can’t really talk about it without getting sad. Obviously, it’s been such a huge force in my life. [But] we feel like we have done right by these characters, and we’ve done right by the story? [Creator] J.J. [Abrams] tells more story in an episode than most shows do in four. So we really feel like we’ve covered this ground. It feels incredibly respectful and not exploitative to let this end naturally…. It feels like a graduation. Graduation is hard. Imagine your life without these people. Well, this is a year longer than college, and a lot more happened to me during this show than it did during college.”
Jennifer played Sydney Bristow for five seasons as a graduate student by day and a spy at night. She went on to star in Juno, Valentine’s Day, Dallas Buyer’s Club and MOther’s Day. She has three kids with Ben Affleck.
12 Left Hit Show Too Soon: Lisa Bonet
Lisa Bonet was the cool kid on The Cosby Show but after a rumored feud with her TV father she was on and off the show for years. She was even given a part in a Cosby Show spin-off, A Different World and she only lasted one season. But the drama may have all started when Lisa starred in a racy movie called, Angel Heart, she was also in a relationship with musician Lenny Kravitz and was expecting their first child, Zoe during her tenure on The Cosby Show.
Although Lisa never fully explained her departure, she did allude negative energy on set after all those allegations against Bill Cosby came to light recently. "There was no knowledge on my part about his specific actions,” Lisa said according to Newsweek.
"There was just energy. And that type of sinister, shadow energy cannot be concealed. And if I had anything more to reveal then, it would have happened a long time ago. That’s my nature. The truth will set you free."
Lisa Bonet never landed another hit role after The Cosby Show. She is now married to Jason Momoa and they share two children. And her daughter Zoe Kravitz is a rising star in Hollywood.
11 Ditched TV For Movie Stardom: Michelle Williams
Michelle Williams left her teen drama, Dawson’s Creek for a successful career on the big screen. When the series ended Michelle’s character dies so essentially there could be no Dawson’s Creek revamp. Michelle once jokingly said she could come back as a ghost. “I guess I feel neither here nor there about it,” she told Entertainment Weekly.
“If there’s ever talk of a reunion show or something, I’m like… it would be so funny to be a ghost and like show up in people’s dreams.”
The show’s creator Kevin Williamson felt Jen’s passing was necessary for Dawson, Pacey and Joey. “We’ve dealt with so much—what’s the one thing yet to deal with? And that’s the death of one of their own, one of their contemporaries, one of their circle,” he says. “I thought if we [off] Jen that’s going to force our other three into action. If they haven’t made a decision, they’ll be forced to make a decision. Nothing will make you contemplate your future faster than knowing you might not have one. So, I chose Jen as a way for Joey, Dawson, and Pacey to finally pull their lives together. And to thrust them into adulthood once and for all.”
Michelle jumped onto movies after leaving the fan-favorite TV show. She starred in Brokeback Mountain with the late Heath Ledger, with whom she shares a daughter. She has been nominated for four Oscars.
10 Left Hit Show Too Soon: Charlie Sheen
Charlie Sheen didn't exactly leave his show Two and A Half Men as he was fired. The show would continue for a few seasons with Ashton Kutcher, but it lacked the spark that Charlie brought to the role. In 2011 Warner Brothers decided to let the actor go after almost 8 years on the show. “After careful consideration, Warner Bros. Television has terminated Charlie Sheen’s services on Two and a Half Men effective immediately,” according to Deadline. Charlie was fired after his erratic behavior became too much for the studio.
At the time the Two and a Half Men studio Warner Bros. sent Charlie’s attorney Marty Singer a letter according to EW, “Your client has been engaged in dangerously self-destructive conduct and appears to be very ill. For months before the suspension of production, Mr. Sheen’s erratic behavior escalated while his condition deteriorated. His declining condition undermined the production in numerous and significant ways. Warner Bros. would not, could not, and should not attempt to continue ‘business as usual’ while Mr. Sheen destroys himself as the world watches.” Charlie threatened to sue Warner Brothers over his firing, but the case was eventually settled.
Sheen did get another chance with the show Anger Management, but it only lasted two years. He has yet to reclaim his old notoriety.
9 Ditched TV For Movie Stardom: Melissa McCarthy
Melissa McCarthy became a movie star right before our eyes. She went from Gilmore Girls and Mike and Molly to movie star. But when Melissa was still sad when Mike and Molly came to a shocking end in 2016. “I was shocked and heartbroken when @CBS canceled #MikeAndMolly. I would have shot this show for 50 more years. I'll miss my 2nd family," wrote on Twitter.
The show ’s executive producer Chuck Lorre had only sweet things to say for the cast according to CBSNews,
"I'm sad. It's a great group of people. We had a six-year run, which is a very honorable experience in television, but I wasn't ready for it to end. So, it's hard. It's a little bittersweet..."
"...It's a great, great ensemble led by, perhaps, the greatest comic actress of our time in Melissa McCarthy. It's just heartbreaking. I've not quite wrapped my head around the idea that it's going to be over." Since leaving the show has found major movie success even though she managed a few hits like Bridesmaids, Spy, The Heat, Ghostbusters, and Identity Theft while on the show. Melissa made a cameo in the Gilmore Girls revival and has hosted SNL a few times, but her main gig now is A-list movie star.
8 Left Hit Show Too Soon: Lecy Goranson
When Lecy Goranson ditched Becky Conner and her Roseanne family for college, the show had no choice but to recast the integral character. Lecy played Becky for five seasons before heading to Vassar College in 1992. "They said, ‘How much money do you need?’ And I said, ‘It’s not about that,’ and they said, ‘Really?’ And I said, ‘No, it’s not,’” At the time, I wanted normalcy," Lecy told HuffPost. "I wanted to be around my peers. I wanted to be in an intellectual environment. ... I would have, like, five English papers due on Monday, and they'd want me to fly to Disney World and shoot a show there over the weekend, and I said, 'I just can't feasibly do this.'" In the 2013 interview Lecy said she didn’t regret her decision, “Honestly, I had moved on. I’m sure there are people that want to hang around their college town for the next seven years after they graduate, but I’m not one of those people,” she said.
Lecy was replaced by actress Sarah Chalke who played the character for season 6 and 7 when Lecy came back, but she left for season 8 and Sarah took over.
Both Becky’s are back for Roseanne Revival, but Lecy plays Becky while Sarah plays Andrea, a woman who wants Becky to be her surrogate. Lecy has kept a lower-profile since her original departure from the show.
7 Ditched TV For Movie Stardom: Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper’s career took off after landing the role as Sydney Bristow’s best friend/ journalist, Will Tippin on Alias. He was one of the main actors on the first two seasons of the show, But towards the third season, his character storyline was cut back significantly after he was reportedly placed on the Witness Protection Program, on the show of course. Bradley once told GQ, “I would only work three days a week. And then for the second season, I got even more sidelined. I was like, ‘Ugh.’ And then next thing you know, I was like, ‘I [want to leave this place].’ ” He says he was told not the quit since he had no other jobs lined up but he followed his gut and asked to be written off the show. “J.J. was like, ‘Okay.’ He probably would’ve fired me, anyway.” He ended up with an injury and made a home on his couch for the next year before landing Wedding Crashers.
But don't worry about Bradley he’s done well since leaving TV like in 'Silver Linings Playbook', 'The Hangover', 'American Sniper' and 'American Hustle'.
And he even earned an Oscar nomination for Silver Linings Playbook, American Sniper, and American Hustle and was also nominated for a few Golden Globes.
6 Left Hit Show Too Soon: Colton Haynes
Colton Haynes left the show Arrow, a little too soon, but it wasn't over a cast feud or to move over to movies, he actually suffers from anxiety he revealed in a statement according to EW, “I asked to step away because I cared more about my mental and physical health than my career at the time. I’ve had terminal anxiety my entire life. Physically ill, fainting. I’m 27 years old, and I have an ulcer. I had to step back.”
Colton further explained issue on Instagram, “I’ve talked about this before but I can’t stress enough how important it is to seek help when your feeling down or in your darkest moments. I’ve struggled with anxiety & depression since I was in the 5th grade & it’s not something that should go untreated or uncared for. I know a lot of people don’t understand mental illness & pass it off as ppl being dramatic…but it’s a chemical Imbalance that no one wants to struggle through. It’s not easy.”
5 Ditched TV For Movie Stardom: Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp gained fame as the baby-faced undercover cop on 21 Jump Street. But did yo know the actor wanted off his hit show. “I tried to be fired because I felt I was in a prison creatively. I was stuck in a box," Johnny said according to CelebNewsNow. "I’m not “blockbuster boy.’ They created this image, this monster and they were selling it to the world.”
Johnny actually did not want to do TV shows after starring in Nightmare on Elm Street and Platoon.
“I didn’t want to do a television series,”
4 Left Hit Show Too Soon: Dan Stevens
Dan Stevens upset many fans when he left Downton Abbey. “It is very strange to make it official especially since we are talking about it in the future perfect,” he tells The Telegraph. “I am not sure exactly what tense it is, but it is something very weird. We were always optioned for three years. And when that came up it was a very difficult decision. But it felt like a good time to take stock, to take a moment. From a personal point of view, I wanted a chance to do other things.It is a very monopolizing job. So there is a strange sense of liberation at the same time as great sadness because I am very, very fond of the show and always will be.” Dan just wanted to do something different. “It is a desire for freedom really. I don’t see money or a particular status as an actor as a goal but I want to do the best work I can in as interesting a range of roles as I can. And I think a moment like this is quite unique and presents those opportunities more than ever before.
Dan may have thought that his star would catapult after his departure he had a little trouble getting away from his Downton character, Matthew Crawley. It was in 2017 that Dan was able to land the role of a lifetime in Beauty and the Beast. He played the Beast.
3 Ditched TV For Movie Stardom: Jennifer Aniston
Jennifer Aniston didn’t exactly leave TV for movie stardom, her hit show Friends came to an end after 10 years. The group wanted to leave the show on a high note, especially since they were each making $1 million per episode. Matthew Perry aka Chandler once commented he wishes they could have done the show longer he said while hosting Piers Morgan Tonight according to EW in 2013,
“I find myself sort of reminiscing about how much fun the show was. If I had a time machine, I would like to go back to 2004 and not have stopped, you know?”
And Jennifer agreed when she was asked about Matthew’s comment, “We’re all sorry,” Jennifer told Access Hollywood according to Entertainment Weekly, “I think it ended at the right time, and it ended when people still wanted more.” And di you know that Jennifer almost lost her role as Rachel since she was already on another show, which coincidentally was canceled after just a few months. “Friends came when I was off doing Muddling Through,” Jennifer said according to People. “So there was a period where I had to stand out of the photographs for the group shots, and I had phone calls from girlfriends saying, ‘I’m auditioning for your part in Friends.’ They just took the chance that Muddling Through would fail after the two episodes they picked it up for. And so I just started doing this back-and-forth from Sony to Warner Bros. for two weeks.”
Despite the success of Friends Jennifer had bigger dreams of continuing her movie career, like in Horrible Bosses, Office Christmas Party and 2009’s He's Just Not That Into You.
2 Left Hit Show Too Soon: Jason Priestley
Jason Priestley stuck around longer than Shannen Doherty did on 90210, but he would eventually depart before the show was over. He admitted in his book "Jason Priestley: A Memoir" that he may have left the show too soon. "I felt that the character of Brandon had kind of run his course. I had explored everything I wanted to explore with him," Priestley told CNN. "In retrospect, I do regret leaving. Understanding what I do now about story and character, I believe that [Aaron Spelling] was pushing the story in a direction that would have had Brandon and Kelly end up together at the end of the show and I think I probably should have stuck around to its fruition." He added that he thinks he hurt Aaron Spelling feeling when he left. "I think my departure also hurt Aaron's feelings. Aaron and I had worked very closely together for a number of years. He gave me a lot of opportunities, and I feel like my departure hurt his feelings and I never meant to do that."
Jason never found his second act after Brandon Walsh, but he has ventured into directing, which he put on on his directing hat for episodes of 90210 among other shows like 7th heaven and The Secret Lives of American Teenagers.
1 Ditched TV For Movie Stardom: Kristen Wiig
It was a sad day when Kristen Wiig left SNL, but she always knew she would give them 7 years and then head to Hollywood for a full-time movie career."I know a lot of people probably assume, 'Oh, she's leaving because she is going to be doing movies now and things like that,' which I will be. But I just always knew it was going to be seven and that was it," Kristen told Marie Claire,
"I think maybe if I were 22, I could see myself staying a little bit, but it just felt like the right time. But the departure was very emotional. I just wanted to get through it without breaking down in every sketch. Because nothing says comedy like breaking down."
Kristen was even was given a warm goodbye for her time on the show, "It was a very surreal moment. You have all this stuff going on in your head, like, 'I can't believe seven years have gone by, and I'm going to miss all these people.' And I'm like, 'Oh, by the way, Mick Jagger is to my right, and I just danced the waltz with him.' So there's that."
She co-wrote and starred in the hit comedy "Bridesmaids" and she’s got a major movie lined up---the Wonder Woman sequel.
References: THR, Good Housekeeping, NY Times, Us Magazine, Oprah, Metro, Us Magazine, HuffPo, ABC, TV Guide, DailyMail, ABC, People, Flaunt, TheThings, HuffPo, EW, Newsweek, EW, Deadline, EW, CBSNews, HuffPo, GQ, EW, Instagram, Variety, CelebNewsNow, The Guardian, Access, Telegraph, EW, People, CNN, Marie Claire
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