Actors Who Basically Disappeared From Hollywood

The following article includes brief references to mental health issues and abuse allegations.

On the surface, making it big in Hollywood is a dream come true, and don't get us wrong, it definitely is. Fame, fortune, and all of the benefits that come with it? Sign us up! However, being a successful Hollywood actor is still a job that requires putting in a lot of time and energy. On top of that, while the paychecks are super sweet, actors run the risk of putting out a project that can lead to some pretty intense criticism of their skills and talents. Even worse, sometimes a movie doesn't come together exactly as planned, and it can leave a stink that will follow an actor for the rest of their lives. Not fun.

So some screen stars end up making the decision to ghost on the glitz and glamour of Tinseltown either after getting a glimpse at how quickly it can turn on them or after realizing that there's more to life than waiting around for someone to yell "Action!" Here are some actors who basically disappeared from Hollywood.

Joe Pesci

If you grew up in the '90s, then there's a pretty good chance that you know Joe Pesci from his role as one of the main villains in the holiday classic "Home Alone." But if you're also a fan of great cinema, then you know that Pesci was a veritable acting force who collaborated with legendary director Martin Scorsese on such classic films as "Raging Bull," "Goodfellas," and "Casino." Pesci also proved himself as a strong leading man with his commanding performance in "My Cousin Vinny." His career was the kind most actors only get to dream about, but Pesci couldn't have cared less about the trappings of fame, and in 1999, he walked away.

According to Complex, the reasons for Pesci's early retirement are murky. While it initially seemed like he decided to pursue a career in music, a look back at Pesci's interviews over the years shows a man who wasn't entirely feeling Hollywood and seemed apathetic about his successful film career. Granted, Pesci has popped up in a small handful of films over the past 20 or so years (and an odd appearance in a Snickers commercial), but the actor seems reluctant to relive his glory days. In fact, he's probably the only person who has no problem telling off Martin Scorsese. (We won't repeat the words Pesci used.)

Pesci reunited with Scorsese for his 2019 film "The Irishman," and signed on to play the grandfather of Pete Davidson's character in the 2023 Peacock series "Bupkis."

Meg Ryan

She became the rom-com queen with such hits as "When Harry Met Sally," "Sleepless in Seattle," and "You've Got Mail," and also starred in the smoldering drama "City of Angels" back when Nicolas Cage was still lighting up the cineplex. But in 2000, Meg Ryan became the focus of intense tabloid scrutiny when reports began surfacing that she was having an affair with her "Proof of Life" co-star, Russell Crowe, who was taking Hollywood by storm after his breakout role in "Gladiator." While Ryan continued to work sporadically in Hollywood, her roles were never the same after the affair, and she waited eight years to address the scandal in a 2008 interview with InStyle.

According to Ryan, the affair definitely happened, and even though it affected her public image, she described it as liberating after years of allegedly being cheated on by her husband at the time, actor Dennis Quaid. With her side of the story finally out there, Ryan attempted to bounce back with "The Women," a film about a cheated-on spouse, but audiences and critics just weren't feeling it. 

Since then, Ryan has mostly ditched Hollywood (save for a handful of roles here and there) for New York, where she's focused on her children and navigating the pitfalls of love with rocker John Mellencamp — with whom her on-and-off engagement officially ended in 2019. As of this writing, her sophomore directorial effort "What Happens Later," which she also co-wrote and will star in, is in post-production.

Mike Myers

For a while, it seemed like former "Saturday Night Live" star Mike Myers was the king of the comedy world. After the blockbuster success of the "Wayne's World" movies and "Austin Powers" franchise, there was no way Myers' Hollywood star could shine any brighter. And then he became "Shrek" — Myers was unstoppable! Until he wasn't.

In 2008, "The Love Guru" hit theaters, and it was a huge misstep. With a Rotten Tomatoes rating of just 13 percent, it was the first sign that Myers was no longer a sure-fire hit at the box office. Outside of a brief cameo in "Inglourious Basterds" and 2010's "Shrek Forever," Myers seemingly vanished from Hollywood. Was it all because of that one terrible movie?

In a 2014 interview with GQ, Myers talked about his escape to New York, noting that his absence had nothing do with "The Love Guru," of which he's actually proud of making. What really happened is this: Myers remarried and welcomed two children with his second wife. He's also been working on small passion projects that he's in no rush to complete. However, he said he had five very specific movie ideas that he was kicking around, but he wanted to let them "percolate." One of those ideas resulted in his 2022 Netflix conspiracy-comedy series "The Pentaverate." Myers also appeared in 2018's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and 2022's "Amsterdam," and reunited with fellow "SNL" alum Dana Carvey in 2021 to revive their "Wayne's World" characters in an Uber Eats ad campaign.

Gene Hackman

Thanks to a career stretching all the way back to the '60s, Gene Hackman has starred in at least 79 movies, and those films include such classics as "Bonnie and Clyde," "The French Connection," "Hoosiers," "Unforgiven," "Crimson Tide," and a slew of others that have stood the test of time. Plus, who can forget Hackman's iconic role as Lex Luthor matching wits with Christopher Reeve's Superman.

In 2001, Hackman gave one of his most beloved performances in "The Royal Tenenbaums," despite the fact that he was reluctant to do the film, particularly after learning that director Wes Anderson wrote the part specifically for him. So it came as a complete surprise when Hackman starred in the 2004 lackluster comedy "Welcome to Mooseport" and chose that to be his final film. While Hackman never officially announced his retirement, he confirmed he was done with acting in a 2008 interview with Reuters. "I really don't want to do it any longer," he explained. And though he admitted that he did miss acting, Hackman noted, "The business for me is very stressful."

However, this fan-favorite is not finished with the creative world yet, and the former actor is doing a formidable job trying to "hack" it as a writer. (Yup, that joke happened.) He also narrated a couple military documentaries in the late 2010s and appeared in the 2021 docuseries "Clint Eastwood: A Cinematic Legacy." In March 2023, Hackman, then 93, was seen making a rare public outing while some running errands in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Rene Russo

With only a few acting credits to her name, Rene Russo seemingly came out of nowhere and planted herself as a steady fixture in such quintessential '90s movies as "In the Line of Fire," "Outbreak," "Tin Cup," "Ransom," and the hot and steamy remake of "The Thomas Crown Affair" with Pierce Brosnan. When the 2000s rolled around, Russo's output became less consistent, and then, just like that, she vanished for six years after wrapping production on 2005's "Yours, Mine, and Ours." She wouldn't appear on the big screen again until 2011's "Thor," where she played Chris Hemsworth's Viking goddess mom, Frigga — a role she'd reprise two years later in "Thor: The Dark World" and in 2019's "Avengers: Endgame." As of this writing, the latter flick is her most recent onscreen role.

While rumors began to spread that Rene Russo disappeared because of her bipolar disorder, the actor set the record straight in 2014 by telling Showbiz 411 that managing her mental health wasn't the reason for her temporary absence from the big screen. She said she just genuinely needed a break after acting since age 9. As for what Russo did during her six years off? Gardening. (Hey, when you gotta prune, you gotta prune.) She also added, "And being with my daughter. It was time."

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Rick Moranis

After making a name for himself on "SCTV," Canada's answer to "Saturday Night Live," Rick Moranis became a staple of '80s comedy classics, starting with a small little movie called "Ghostbusters." After that, Moranis had starring roles in "Little Shop of Horrors," "Spaceballs!" and the Disney franchise "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids." He also continued to steadily work in the '90s, which included landing the plum role of Barney Rubble in the 1994 live-action remake of "The Flintstones." It seemed like this guy was going to be a Hollywood mainstay for years to come. And then he was gone.

By 2015, Moranis had virtually vanished from Hollywood for nearly 18 years, save for quietly taking on some voice-acting roles, but when word got out that he wouldn't reprise his role as Lewis Tully in the 2016 "Ghostbusters" reboot, he granted a rare interview to The Hollywood Reporter to explain where he'd been. We hope you have some tissues ready. 

In 1997, Moranis' wife, Anne, died of breast cancer. While he originally planned to take a small break, Moranis ultimately devoted himself to raising their two young children, and the actor couldn't be happier be with the decision. "I was working with really interesting people, wonderful people," Moranis said. "I went from that to being at home with a couple of little kids, which is a very different lifestyle. But it was important to me. I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever. My life is wonderful."

Dana Carvey

Comedian Dana Carvey rose to prominence in the early '90s thanks to his breakout performances on "Saturday Night Live," which included his famous Church Lady character and impressions of then-President George H.W. Bush. Carvey also starred in a notable sketch you might have heard of: Wayne's World. Alongside Mike Myers, Carvey became the classic sidekick Garth Algar in two hit "Wayne's World" movies. However, while Myers went on to even bigger showbiz success, Carvey didn't fare so well.

In 1997, Carvey's first attempt at a comedy series bombed on ABC, and he began having chest pains, which required bypass surgery on his heart. Afterward, something wasn't right. Carvey was still having chest pains because the doctor reportedly bypassed the wrong artery. Per ABC News, Carvey successfully sued the surgeon for millions and donated the money to charity. By that time, Carvey had moved his family away from Hollywood to what he described to The Daily Beast as a "small town with trees," and that's where the comedian decided to put his focus after his grueling heart ordeal. 

During a 2015 appearance on Pete Holmes' podcast (via Uproxx), Carvey dubbed his disappearance from Hollywood as a "half-way Rick Moranis." He has done some work of late, such as voicing the basset hound Pops in 2016's "The Secret Life of Pets," impersonating President Joe Biden on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," and guest-hosting "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" in 2022. While the "SNL" alum is toying with making a comeback, he seems content focusing more on his kids, who are up-and-coming comedians themselves. Party on.

Bridget Fonda

Thanks to her famous dad, Bridget Fonda made her first acting appearance at age 5 in the 1969 classic "Easy Rider," but it would be a few decades until the actor became a Hollywood fixture. In the early '90s, she made a big splash in "Single White Female," but despite working steadily in notable flicks such as "Point of No Return," "Singles," and "Jackie Brown," Fonda's career didn't fare so well in the 2000s.

For starters, Fonda had made a name for herself as a film star, so when the lead role for a television series came her way, she turned it down. That show ended up being the smash hit "Ally McBeal," which rocketed Calista Flockhart to fame. In 1999, Fonda told the New York Post, "I refused to read the script for fear I might really like it. I've never wanted to do TV. I love feature films too much." She added, "I'm not kicking myself for having passed on 'Ally McBeal,' even though it's a huge hit. I've been acting long enough to know it could have been a complete dud with me in it."

Fonda starred in the 2001 box-office bomb "Monkeybone," and a year later, she quit acting altogether after starring in the forgettable Hallmark channel movie "Snow Queen." (Think super low-budget "Frozen.") But Fonda had a good reason to walk away from Hollywood after a solid body of work. She started a family with husband and famous film composer Danny Elfman, and she hasn't looked back.

Cameron Diaz

After a breakout role as Jim Carrey's love interest in "The Mask," Cameron Diaz rocketed to Hollywood "It" Girl status with "There's Something About Mary" and continued to be a steady force at the box office with "Charlie's Angels," "Shrek," and a respectable turn in the indie flick "Being John Malkovich." But in 2014, Diaz went on hiatus after starring in a critically panned remake of "Annie." By 2018, rumors began to swirl about the movie star's retirement. 

According to the Daily Mail, Diaz's best friend and fellow actor Selma Blair said at Vanity Fair's Oscars pre-party that Diaz retired from acting to focus on starting a family with her rocker husband, Benji Madden, and was serious about not coming back to Hollywood. (The couple quietly welcomed their daughter via surrogate in 2019). Blair later claimed in a since-deleted tweet that she was just joking. Diaz and her team wouldn't confirm nor deny these reports, apart from Diaz quipping to Entertainment Weekly, "I'm literally doing nothing. ... I'm semi-retired, too, and I am actually retired." In 2020, Diaz finally shed some light on the perplexing situation.

"It's so intense to work at that level and be that public and put yourself out there," Diaz told pal Gwyneth Paltrow in an interview for Goop. "... I stopped, I really looked at my life, and I saw what I had been [missing]." At the time of this writing, however, Diaz is set to make her highly anticipated return to acting alongside Jamie Foxx in Netflix's aptly titled movie "Back in Action."

Jack Nicholson

The epitome of Hollywood royalty, for decades Jack Nicholson could be seen front and center during each year's Academy Awards — sporting his signature Ray-Bans, of course. The Oscars, in fact, had long been Nicholson's domain — not surprising, considering he's been nominated for 12 of them, and won three. Known for indelible performances in such film classics as "Chinatown," "Easy Rider," "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "The Shining," and many more, Nicholson abruptly brought his career to a halt; the most recent entry in his IMDb credits is the 2010 feature "How Do You Know."

While Nicholson, who was born in 1937, never officially announced his retirement, that appears to be what's taken place. In 2017, fans were hopeful for a return to the screen when Variety reported Nicholson was set to star in a U.S. remake of German comedy "Toni Erdmann," but the star reportedly exited the project the following year. He didn't disappear completely, though; in the decade-plus since his last film, Nicholson continued to maintain his presence courtside to watch his beloved Los Angeles Lakers, last spotted (as of this writing, that is) attending a game in October 2021. 

While there's been no official reason behind Nicholson's retirement, sources told Radar in 2013 that he allegedly decided to step away from acting due to memory loss; a subsequent Radar report offered unsubstantiated claims of dementia. In early 2023, sources alleged to the Daily Mail that the then-85-year-old actor would no longer leave his Beverly Hills mansion, with friends reportedly fearing he'll "die a recluse [after] leading such a colorful life."

Shelley Duvall

Jack Nicholson's co-star in "The Shining," Shelley Duvall's onscreen credits also include Robert Altman's acclaimed "Nashville," co-starring opposite Robin Williams in "Popeye," and starring in her 1980s TV series "Faerie Tale Theatre." Duvall continued acting throughout the 1990s until exiting Hollywood completely after appearing in the 2002 feature "Manna from Heaven." 

Duvall reappeared in 2016 — not in a film, but in an episode of "Dr. Phil," revealing her struggles with her mental health. "I'm very sick, I need help," she said in a clip (via USA Today). Five years later, she told The Hollywood Reporter she regretted that appearance. "I found out the kind of person he is the hard way," Duvall said of Dr. Phil McGraw. "My mother didn't like him, either. A lot of people, like [my partner] Dan [Gilroy], said, 'You shouldn't have done that, Shelley.'"

In 2022, Duvall made a long-overdue comeback, when the trailer dropped for the indie horror movie "The Forest Hills." As Duvall told People in a February 2023 interview, her protracted absence from Hollywood began when she returned to her native Texas after her brother was diagnosed with cancer. "It's the longest sabbatical I ever took," she explained, "but it was for really important reasons — to get in touch with my family again." However, the then-73-year-old star also indicated that she was ready to restart her acting career. "[Jessica Tandy] won an Oscar when she was 80," Duvall mused. "I can still win."

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Geena Davis

Known for roles in such big screen hits as "Beetlejuice," "Thelma & Louise," "A League of Their Own," and "The Accidental Tourist" (winning a best supporting actress Oscar for the latter), Geena Davis' onscreen credits have been sporadic in recent years. During the 2010s, she starred in the short-lived TV series "The Exorcist," appeared in a recurring role on "Grey's Anatomy," guested in several 2019 episodes of Netflix's "GLOW," and appeared in the 2020 feature "Ava," starring Jessica Chastain. 

While Davis may have scaled down her acting, that hasn't necessarily been by choice. As she told The Guardian, roles became scarcer after she entered her 40s. "I fell off the cliff. I really did," she admitted. Speaking with Interview magazine in 2016, Davis said she'd prefer to wait for a good, meaty part than take whatever's offered, simply to have a job. "It's okay if it takes two or three years for something really good to come along, but I don't want to wait 10 years for something great to come along," she said, while also admitting how she wasn't thrilled with the way it had been working out. "It's maddening," Davis said. "It's so frustrating. It's completely embarrassing."

However, Davis has other irons in the fire beyond acting. In 2004, the mother of three founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender Media, with a mission to work within the entertainment industry to promote greater gender balance. Then, in 2015, she co-founded the Bentonville Film Festival, championing female, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ filmmakers.

Randy Quaid

Randy Quaid was in his early 20s when he co-starred with Jack Nicholson in "The Last Detail," his performance landing him an Oscar nomination. After that, Quaid became a sought-after character actor, whose many credits include "Midnight Express," "Independence Day," and "National Lampoon's Vacation" and its many sequels. In recent years, however, Quaid has been AWOL from Hollywood; his latest credit, as of this writing, is the 2018 indie "All You Can Eat." A decade prior, it was a direct-to-video comedy called "Balls Out: Gary the Tennis Coach."

As the New York Post recounted, 2008 was the same year Quaid's allegedly abusive behavior toward his fellow actors while performing in a Seattle play resulted in an $81,000-plus fine and a lifetime ban from Actors' Equity. That incident seemingly initiated a downward spiral when, in 2009, he and wife Evi were arrested after checking out of a California hotel without paying their $10,000 bill. After reportedly missing several court dates related to that incident, the pair were again arrested, ultimately settling the case. In 2010, Reuters reported they were booked again, this time for allegedly squatting in a home they once owned. Later that same year, per CTV News, Quaid and his wife were arrested once more, this time in Vancouver, where Quaid asked Canadian immigration authorities to give him refugee protection from "Hollywood star-whackers" he claimed were out to assassinate them. 

In 2015, they were arrested in Vermont as alleged fugitives, but were ultimately released. Later that year, the couple settled in Burlington, Vermont, where, in 2022, they purchased a home.

Frankie Muniz

As a child actor, Frankie Muniz broke through as star of the 2000 film "My Dog Skip," and, later that same year, Fox sitcom "Malcolm in the Middle." By the time the latter concluded its seven-season run in 2006, Muniz had also starred in a few movies, including "Big Fat Liar," "Agent Cody Banks," and its sequel, "Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London."

Post-"Malcolm," however, Muniz shared the experience of many former child actors when roles dried up as he grew from kid to teen to adult. Reduced to the occasional TV guest spot, Muniz eventually turned to reality TV, competing on "Dancing with the Stars" in 2017 (which led to hosting the short-lived spinoff "Dancing with the Stars: Juniors"), and appearing in a 2022 revival of "The Surreal Life." 

In January 2023, Muniz took to Instagram to reveal he was officially embarking on a whole new career as a NASCAR driver, having previously dabbled in professional racing in the late 2000s. "Ever since childhood, it's been my dream to pursue racing in NASCAR," Muniz said in a statement (via USA Today). "I look forward to not only demonstrating my ability on the track and just how serious I am in progressing in my racing career, but also showing my son and family what it is to chase your dreams and re-invent yourself," he added. Muniz subsequently made his debut at Daytona, where he placed 11th. "Holy moly!!! That was the most insane thing I've ever done," he tweeted in part about the experience.

Jack Gleeson

Jack Gleeson experienced some success as a child actor before landing the role for which he's come to be best known: Joffrey Baratheon, the sadistic teenage king of Westeros on HBO's mega-hit "Game of Thrones." After his "GoT" character's death in 2014, Gleeson stepped back from acting; his only screen credits post-"Game of Thrones" are two episodes of the British TV comedy "Out of Her Mind," and the 2021 indie film "Rebecca's Boyfriend."

In fact, Gleeson was still starring in "Game of Thrones" when he made clear his intention to quit acting. "It was always a recreation beforehand, but when I started doing 'Game of Thrones' perhaps the reality was made too real for me," he said in a 2013 interview with "The lifestyle that comes with being an actor in a successful TV show isn't something I gravitate towards."

Nearly a decade later, Gleeson hadn't much changed his stance, but maintained his ties to "Game of Thrones" by appearing at fan conventions. In fact, during one such convention in 2022, held in Los Angeles, Gleeson shot down a rumor that he was constantly being assailed by angry viewers of the show who expressed hatred for both him and his loathsome character. "Thankfully, I've never had any negative fan experiences or anything," he said during a Q&A, as reported by Entertainment Weekly. "There's still a chance, if anybody wants to throw a punch," he jokingly added.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas

Jonathan Taylor Thomas remains best known for playing Randy on the hit ABC sitcom "Home Improvement," the youngest son of star Tim Allen's Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor. Thanks to the success of the show, Thomas' stardom extended to the big screen with the films "Man of the House" and "Tom and Huck" (both released in 1995), the 1998 holiday movie "I'll Be Home for Christmas," and supplying the voice of young Simba in Disney's animated classic "The Lion King." 

While "Home Improvement" concluded in 1999, the teen idol left a year early to focus on his education (a decision that admittedly annoyed Allen at first). Thomas then appeared in guest spots in such TV series as "Ally McBeal," "Smallville," "8 Simple Rules," and "Veronica Mars." After co-starring in the 2006 short film "The Extra," Thomas' only other screen credit since has been "Last Man Standing," the sitcom featuring former "Home Improvement" co-star Allen, in the mid-2010s.

Thomas' eventual exit from Hollywood, he admitted in a 2013 interview with People, had been a long time coming. "I'd been going nonstop since I was 8 years old. I wanted to go to school, to travel, and have a bit of a break," explained Thomas, who studied at Harvard, Columbia, and Scotland's St. Andrew's University after stepping away from the spotlight. "I never took the fame too seriously," he added. "It was a great period in my life, but it doesn't define me. ... I focus on the good moments I had, not that I was on a lot of magazine covers."

Josh Saviano

Josh Saviano was just 12 years old when he was cast in "The Wonder Years," playing Paul Pfeiffer, the best friend of series protagonist Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage). When the series ended in 1993, so did Saviano's acting career. Instead of pursuing auditions, Saviano instead went to college. According to his LinkedIn profile, Saviano attended Yale, graduating with a BA in political science before getting his law degree, and was admitted to the New York bar in 2004. After more than a decade with the NYC law firm Morrison Cohen LLP, in 2015 he founded Act 3 Advisors, a celebrity and entrepreneur brand consulting firm. Three years later, Saviano co-founded Spotlight Advisory Group, lending his expertise to help actors, artists, and other creative types monetize their talents; as of this writing, he currently serves as the organization's president.

Back when Saviano was still a freshman at Yale, he became aware of a bizarre rumor making the rounds that he and shock-rocker Marilyn Manson were the same person. While he initially had no idea who Manson was, he eventually found the whole thing to be hilarious. "It became a progressively more entertaining storyline amongst me and my friends," he said in a 2013 interview with Yahoo!'s "The Yo Show," recalling that he'd considered — but ultimately nixed — a plan to jump onstage during one of Manson's shows to prove the hearsay wrong. 

In 2014, Saviano briefly resurrected his acting career while paying homage to his law degree by playing a defense attorney in three episodes of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."

Phoebe Cates

Phoebe Cates catapulted to instant stardom in the early 1980s thanks to her performances in hit movies like "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," "Gremlins," and "Private School." She subsequently starred in the 1984 TV miniseries "Lace," and its 1985 sequel, with additional starring roles in the 1988 feature "Bright Lights, Big City," 1991's "Drop Dead Fred," 1993's "Bodies, Rest & Motion," and "Princess Caraboo" in 1994. After that, Cates' next film role wasn't until 2001, in "The Anniversary Party," with more than a decade until her next credit, a small voice role in the 2015 video game "Lego Dimensions."

A big part of why Cates retreated from Hollywood has to do with her family. In 1989, Cates wed actor Kevin Kline, 16 years her senior; having met while auditioning for "The Big Chill" in 1982, the couple reconnected a few years later while both were rehearsing for different plays at New York Public Theater. The pair welcomed son Owen in 1991 and daughter Greta in 1994, which shifted Cates' focus from acting to motherhood. "We have agreed to alternate so that we're never working at the same time," Kline explained to Playboy in 1998 (via Entertainment Weekly). "[But] whenever it's been her slot to work, Phoebe has chosen to stay with the children."

In 2005, Cates branched out into the world of retail when she opened her gift boutique, Blue Tree, situated in New York City's Upper East Side.

Craig Kilborn

Craig Kilborn came to prominence while anchoring the late-night edition of ESPN's "SportsCenter," a gig he held from 1993 until 1997. In 1996, he was tapped to host Comedy Central's new offering, "The Daily Show," remaining until 1998, when he was replaced by Jon Stewart. When host Tom Snyder parted ways with "The Late Late Show" in 1999, Kilborn stepped in, hosting more than 1,900 episodes before deciding to leave in 2004. "I didn't leave to do anything else, I left to leave," he told the Los Angeles Times in 2010, admitting he'd become disenchanted with the five-nights-a-week grind. "... I achieved my goals, and it wasn't all it was cracked up to be."

Meanwhile, Kilborn dabbled in acting, appearing in such films as "Old School," "The Shaggy Dog," and "Benchwarmers" — his most recent credit, as of this writing, is a 2020 episode of the sitcom "United We Fall." 

In 2010, he made a brief return to the talk-show format with "The Kilborn File," which was cancelled after a six-week trial run. Nearly a decade later, Kilborn opened up even further about why he exited late night. "The main reason I left 'The Late Late Show' was — creatively I lost interest," he told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2019, revealing his primary focus was now social media. "I just developed a specific, aristocratic comedic sensibility that didn't mesh with late night," Kilborn explained. "Fortunately, I have an outlet for it with my personal life. And now, it appears, Instagram."

Greta Garbo

When it comes to walking away from Hollywood, no star has managed to top the disappearing act pulled by screen icon Greta Garbo. After starring in several European films during the 1920s, the Swedish actor was lured to Hollywood to make her first American movie, 1926's "Torrent." Garbo ultimately made more than two dozen Hollywood movies, including such classics as "Mata Hari," "Grand Hotel," "Anna Karenina," and "Ninotchka." Garbo's films made so much money for MGM that she was able to demand — and receive — a new contract that not only gave her unprecedented creative control, but also reportedly paid her a whopping $270,000 per picture

In 1941, she starred in "Two-Faced Woman." It would be her final film before her retirement at age 35 — not just from acting, but from public life. She exited L.A. and moved to New York, where she eschewed the spotlight for the rest of her days. She never acted again. "I have made enough faces," Garbo famously quipped, per Town & Country.

Despite the brevity of her Hollywood career — a mere 15 years — public fascination with Garbo never waned. According to Variety, "Garbo-watching" became an obsession for paparazzi, who would stake out her apartment building in hopes of snapping a rare pic of the elusive star. When she died in 1990 at 84, her steadfast privacy had left her so shrouded in myth and mystery that she transcended mere celebrity to become a legend.