Celebrities give us normal people so much to love. Famous actors and actresses give us award-winning, dramatic, and memorable roles in our favorite movies. Beloved singers and songstresses give us music to make us feel better, make us smile, and make us dance! Even our reality television stars give us something to laugh or cry about (looking at you, Bachelor series).
But, despite these wonderfully memorable moments that so many lovable stars give us, sometimes us fans forget that stars are people, too! And life in the spotlight as a celebrity is many things, but it definitely is not always rainbows and butterflies. Sometimes it can be hard and stressful, and difficult to maintain, leaving some stars to leave the spotlight completely. Whether it be due to illness, death in the family or straight up falling out of love with being in Hollywood all together, these 15 celebs definitely had the right mindset to get out while they could. Of course, there’s one celebrity on the list that the fame was too much for and she couldn’t recover, we hope for the other 14 on the list get the help they need and deserve.
Below we outline 15 celebrities who, heartbreakingly enough, had to leave the spotlight and the surprising reasons why they did.
15. Mara Wilson: Matilda Star Fell Out Of Love With Acting
Mara Wilson is best known for her role as the intelligent, sassy, and sweet Matilda in the 1996 movie of the same name. Not far behind the success of that role, Wilson is also pretty famous for playing the youngest child, Natalie, of Daniel Hillard in the classic 90’s comedy, Mrs. Doubtfire along side Robin Williams and Sally Field. As Wilson got older, however, she started taking less and less roles in the film industry. She notes that this is because she fell out of love with acting due director’s and their constant “stifling” of her “creative freedom”. Her last known role was voicing a character for four episodes on BoJack Horseman in 2016, but she has done nothing significant since the critically-acclaimed Matilda came and went on the big screen. This is heartbreaking, as she had so much potential to bring to life so many wonderful characters. Either way, at least we have Matilda reruns to marvel at her talent!
14. Amanda Bynes: Child Star Gone Bad
As fans, we got so many great roles out of Amanda Bynes before she decided to take a dive off the deep end in a really big way. We got great TV shows like All That! and The Amanda Show on Nickelodeon to What I Like About You with Jennie Garth and we saw her comedic chops in movies like She’s the Man and What A Girl Wants. Everyone was absolutely sure she was not like the rest of our child stars who went down a bad path (we see you, Lindsay Lohan) and was on her way to movie stardom. However, that was short-lived, as she started to repeatedly get pulled over for driving under the influence, was arrested several times, and tweeted ridiculously weird and insulting things to other stars. She even started a fire in her neighbor’s driveway in L.A.! Thankfully, her parents took over her conservatorship in 2012 and she has (hopefully) been well taken care of since. Unfortunately, the heartbreaking reason for her end to fame was mental health issues and terribly sporadic and dangerous behavior. But some of us are still holding out on an Amanda Bynes comeback!
13. Rebecca Gayheart: Vehicular Manslaughter Butchers Her Career
In the late 90’s, Gayheart was a star on the rise with a small role in Scream 2 before landing a leading part in the teen hit Jawbreakers alongside Rose McGowan, Julie Benz, and Judy Greer. Everyone thought she would be the next Hollywood starlet. Then, in June 2001, Gayheart swerved around stopped traffic and hit a 9 year-old boy who was jaywalking. The stopped traffic was allegedly allowing the boy to walk across the street which is why it was unmoving. The boy died shortly after the accident. In November of that year, Gayheart was charged with three years of probation, a fine, and community service. In this instance, the heartbreaking incident was enough to ruin her career, as Gayheart hasn’t had any leading roles since then.
12. Rick Moranis: Raising His Kids As A Single Dad
All of the celebrities on this list have heartbreaking reasons for leaving the business, but this one may be the most heartbreaking of all. Rick Moranis, famous for his roles in the 80’s hits Ghostbusters, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and Spaceballs, left acting in 1997 when his wife died from breast cancer. He decided to focus all of his time on raising his children, even turning down a role in the Ghostbuster remake last year. His last known role, according to IMDb, was in 2007. He did voice a lot of cartoon characters between 1997 and 2007, but he made no public appearances for them. Kudos to Moranis for leaving the business, albeit for a very sad reason.
11. Michael J. Fox: Parkinson’s Disease
Our lovable actor Michael J. Fox rose to fame as Alex Keaton in the sitcome Family Ties, before starring in the famous Back to the Future movies as Marty McFly. In the late 90’s, he even starred in the lead role of the popular show Spin City. However, he had hid his diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease for nearly eight years before finally announcing it in 1998. His tremors, a significant symptom of the disease, grew worse and worse, so he retired from acting and began the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research, raising hundreds of millions of dollars. In recent years, he has gone back to acting, starring as Louis Canning on the CBS show The Good Wife, alongside Julianna Margulies. Even though his diagnosis did not completely deter his career, he has had to take a significant step back from it in order to properly take care of himself.
10. Renee Zellweger: Professional Obligations
Our Bridget Jones sweetheart took a major break in acting between 2010 and 2016, coming back with a bang in the third sequel Bridget Jones’ Baby last year. In an October 2016 interview with People, Zellweger notes that her creative opportunities that should have been exciting and should have brought her loads of happiness just became professional obligations that began to wear her down. In short, she wanted to make time for things she wanted, a person to share things with, and places she wanted to explore– things in which she had no time for when working so much. Lucky for us, it really did some good and now she is back with a vengeance. She has a new movie out called Same Kind of Different as Me and two movies out next year as well. What a poetic America’s Sweetheart comeback!
9. Whitney Houston: Addiction Takes A Life And Career
Whitney Houston rose to fame with her powerful pipes in the 1980’s with hits like How Will I Know and I Wanna Dance With Somebody (probably still one of the catchiest songs of all time). In the early 90’s, she famously married Bobby Brown and stars in the hit movie The Bodyguard, proving she was even more talented than the world suspected. In the 00’s, Houston’s life starts to go downhill, getting busted for marijuana and admitting to using cocaine and prescription drugs. She enters rehabilitation in 2004 and is in and out until 2011, divorcing Brown in the process. In 2011, it seemed she was planning a comeback starring in another movie, a remake of Sparkle. However, she was found dead in a bathtub in February 2012 at a Los Angeles hotel after overdosing on prescription drugs– a sad and heartbreaking end to a incredibly successful and glowing life for the famous Hollywood singer.
8. Dave Chapelle: Creative Differences
Back in 2004, comedian Dave Chapelle left his popular and still growing sketch comedy show, The Chapelle Show, on the network channel Comedy Central. There was a lot of speculation as to why he walked away from millions of dollars. Some say it was because the fame was getting to him and he stepped away because he wanted to be the best family man and father he could be. Others speculate there were drug abuse issues. Most know, however, that there were creative differences with Chapelle and the director of The Chapelle Show. Simply, Dave Chapelle just wanted to tell his jokes and also have some family time, but things were getting a little out of hand on the show with the skits people were trying to get him to do. In retrospect, Chapelle states that he is happy he had time with his kids, but sometimes questions his decisions back then.
7. Kevin Jonas: Big Brother, Small Chance of Stardom
Kevin Jonas was known for being the oldest one-third of the hit 2000s band The Jonas Brothers. (Who has not been to the Year 3000, because you need to go listen to that song right now if you have not!) After the band split up in 2013, each brotherly member went their separate ways. Nick Jonas, the youngest, was the first one to admit he wanted a solo career before their last tour started. He went on to make a household name for himself with very popular pop singles. Even Joe Jonas, famous for his dating record, went on to join a band called DNCE and have a few hit singles. Kevin, however, did not find stardom as an individual artist. He got married, had some kids, and is now a building contractor. This is sad, though, because we never will know what could have been of his entertainment career if his brothers decided to stick it out with him. It looks like he is happy with the way things turned out, however.
6. Lark Voorhies: Forced Retirement Due to Mental Health Issues
Lark Voorhies stole our hearts as the lovable and spunky Lisa Turtle on the hit series Saved by the Bell from 1989-1992. She went on to reprise the role in the series Saved by the Bell: The College Years and the TV movie Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas. After this, she kind of disappeared out of the spotlight, only to resurface many years later with plastic surgery, weird makeup, and claims that she suffers from mental health issues. Her last known role was in 2012 and she has disappeared once again since those small roles proved ultimately unsuccessful. How sad for Voorhies, as she was young and could have went on to really make a name for herself.
5. Kel Mitchell: Keenan and Kel Can’t Get Along
Back in the 90’s and 00’s, we knew Keenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell for many things on our favorite children’s channel Nickelodeon, but most importantly, we knew them together. Keenan and Kel. Kel and Keenan. Who loves orange soda? They were the best! But now, a couple decades later, Mitchell states that Thompson often avoids seeing him or doing any press/interviews with him, noting that Thompson probably wants to make a name for himself, separate from their Nickelodeon reputation. After their show ended in 2000, Mitchell decided to leave acting and go down a different path. In fact, people were so confused by his sudden disappearance in the spotlight, a hoax about his death went viral in 2006! However, Mitchell is still alive and well, but it is kind of sad to think he and Thompson aren’t speaking and no longer friends. No reunion will be happening with these two, folks!
4. Christopher Reeve: Superman Paralyzed
Christopher Reeve was made famous in the 1970’s when he played Superman, among many other roles in the last 30 years, including a busy and popular stage career in London, England. However, in late May 1995, Reeve was riding a horse in an equestrian competition when he was thrown from the horse, landing on his head. He suffered fractures in his higher vertebrae and spinal cord, paralyzing him for the rest of his life. In fact, the accident proved to be almost fatal. Unfortunately, this abruptly halted his successful acting career. His most recent roles included a guest spot on The Practice in 2003 and a two-episode arc on Smallville (a modern Superman drama on The CW) in 2004 until his heartbreaking passing in October 2004 of heart failure at the age of 52.
3. Brian Wilson: Beach Boys’ Star Needed A Break
Brian Wilson was born in 1942 and rose to fame as one-fourth of the famous 1960’s band the Beach Boys. However, the incredibly stressful fame from writing, singing, and touring took its’ toll on Wilson and he became depressed and addicted to drugs, seeking psychological treatment in 1968. He stopped touring with the band and just became a songwriter for them before finally returning to perform in the late 1970s at a 15th anniversary concert. In the early 80s, a psychiatrist named Dr. Landy was hired to help Wilson with his continuous drug addiction. From this point forward, Wilson stopped making music and began writing an autobiography, officially ending his once-famous career. It is tragic that drugs and fame-induced depression caused the end to his career; however, Wilson did receive the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001, so he is clearly still very respected in the musical community.
2. Gary Busey: Motorcycle Accident That Altered His Life
Gary Busey rose to quick fame and stardom in 1978 when he played Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story, which earned him an Academy Award nomination. He had many other roles since his breakthrough role and, just ten years later in late 1988, Busey suffered serious head injuries after crashing his motorcycle in California. The largest detail coming from the incident is the fact that Busey was not wearing his helmet at the time of the crash. He had emergency surgery, but did suffer severe– and permanent– brain damage. Since then, he has continued to score roles, but the brain damage caused Busey to act impulsively, often making headlines for disappointing words or bold statements. Busey heartbreakingly suffered from drug addiction problems which affected his career as well.
1. Magic Johnson: HIV Positive
Almost 26 years to the day, we remember so vividly Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s announcement to the world that he was HIV positive. This came in 1991 when HIV was still seen as a disease that only gay men could contract, so it completely shocked the world when a straight African-American man announced his diagnosis. He also decided to retire from the Los Angeles Lakers, the team that indeed propelled the athlete to stardom. Since his announcement, his basketball career has essentially ended, albeit with a brief coaching stint and return to playing in the mid-90’s. Now, almost 30 years later, he is a spokesperson for AIDS awareness proving that the disease is in fact manageable, but we will never forget the heartbreak felt around the world when he announced his retirement way back when.
Sources: The Atlantic, People, IMDb, E! Online, Washington Post, ABC News, CNN, The Telegraph, History Channel
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