When it comes to occupations, few are as precarious as being a celebrity. Indeed, one minute the famous can be riding a wave of public adoration, while the next they’re scraping a living through reality TV appearances. It’s no wonder, then, that so many stars have decided to quit the business altogether and trade in the high life for something a little more stable. And through their own volition or not, these 40 former stars are now working the nine-to-five, just like the rest of us.
40. Vanilla Ice
Vanilla Ice was once the next big thing, but now he’s flourishing in a new career in real estate. After the success of his ’90s hit “Ice Ice Baby,” in fact, Ice – a.k.a. Robert Van Winkle – wisely invested in property. And in 1998 he went into real estate full time, which he credits with having given his life meaning after his career as a musician ended.
39. Tony Danza
During the 1980s, Tony Danza was one of TV’s most famous sitcom stars thanks to roles in Taxi and Who’s the Boss? Two decades later, though, he traded in stardom for the even tougher job of teaching high-school English. Based in Philadelphia, Danza has since published a book detailing his experiences and his concern for the American education system.
38. Nikki Blonsky
Despite making her film debut as leading lady Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray, Nikki Blonsky hasn’t found similar success after her 2007 hit. And since 2011 the former one-to-watch actress has – somewhat aptly – been working at a salon in Great Neck, New York. Nevertheless, she still finds time to audition for screen roles and remains optimistic that stardom will return.
37. Peter Ostrum
Following an acclaimed role as Charlie in 1971’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Peter Ostrum decided that fame and fortune wasn’t for him. In fact, he even declined a three-film deal in order to maintain a normal life. Instead, Ostrum pursued a career as a veterinarian – and he maintains a practice in Glenfield, New York, to this day.
36. Taran Noah Smith
Taran Noah Smith is best known as Tim Allen’s dorky son in Home Improvement, but the fledgling star actually quit acting following the show’s 1999 demise. Afterwards, the young actor reinvented himself as an entrepreneur and used his TV earnings to launch his own vegan food company and restaurant. Unfortunately, though, the latter was closed down by the City of Los Angeles in 2009.
35. Michael Schoeffling
After his part in 1984’s Sixteen Candles, Michael Schoeffling was set to become one of that decade’s biggest hunks. Unfortunately, fatherhood and a shortage of acting jobs forced the star out of the spotlight, and he eventually quit showbiz in 1991. Schoeffling now works as a carpenter in Virginia, where he keeps a pretty low profile.
34. Danny Lloyd
Danny Lloyd gave film fans everywhere nightmares when he appeared as creepy, psychic namesake Danny in 1980’s The Shining. Despite his start in horror cinema, though, Lloyd went on to enjoy an altogether more genial career after giving up acting aged 14. Indeed, the former child actor can now be found in Louisville working as a biology teacher.
33. Lisa and Louise Burns
There must have been something in the Overlook Hotel’s air to make The Shining’s actors quit the business. Indeed, like co-star Danny Lloyd, Lisa and Louise Burns – who played the ghoulish Grady twins – also stepped away from the limelight shortly after the film’s release. Now the pair both have incredibly impressive careers: Lisa works as a lawyer, while Louise is a microbiologist.
32. Jon Gosselin
Since divorcing his wife Kate in 2009, reality star Jon Gosselin has fallen on pretty hard times. Following his departure from Jon & Kate Plus 8, in fact, he’s worked several odd jobs, including fitting solar panels and waiting tables. However, he’s since failed to find steady employment and in 2014 was even let go from a serving job for tardiness.
31. Brittany Ashton Holmes
After starring as Darla in 1994’s The Little Rascals, Brittany Ashton Holmes grew disgruntled with fame. What’s more, the former actress has insisted on her MySpace profile that her performance in that movie is “really embarrassing to watch.” Now 27, Holmes works at a Starbucks in Los Angeles while studying for a political science degree.
30. Michael Maronna
Many ’90s kids who grew up with Nickelodeon’s The Adventures of Pete & Pete may be wondering what happened to lead Michael Maronna. Well, while he may not appear on screen, he still works in showbiz – as an electrician. And, when he’s not busy wiring, Maronna also makes guest appearances with Pete co-star Danny Tamberelli’s group, ManBoobs Comedy.
29. Jonathan Bennett
Without a doubt, hunky Jonathan Bennett was the fetchest thing about 2004 hit Mean Girls. Since playing Regina George’s ex-boyfriend Aaron, though, he’s somehow slipped out of the spotlight. In fact, his profile has dropped so much that he’s been spotted moonlighting as a cycle instructor in a Los Angeles gym.
28. Dylan Sprouse
Two years after the end of his sitcom The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Dylan Sprouse shocked fans in 2013 when he was found working in a restaurant. But, rather than admit defeat, the former Disney star insisted on his blog that he held the job solely to “feed [his] over-bountiful video game addiction.” Whatever you say, Dylan.
27. Karyn Parsons
While Hilary Banks – Will’s self-centered cousin in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – rarely lifted a finger for anyone but herself, actress Karyn Parsons couldn’t be more different. Following her final film role in 2002, Parsons left showbiz and founded the non-profit organization Sweet Blackberry. She currently acts as the charity’s president.
26. Maia Brewton
Despite starring in hits like Adventures in Babysitting, Maia Brewton soon grew tired of life in front of a camera. After the end of her sitcom Parker Lewis Can’t Lose in 1993, in fact, the actress looked for a change in career. Subsequently, she earned a degree from Yale and began working as an attorney. Smart move.
25. Mike Vitar
Former The Sandlot star Mike Vitar couldn’t settle on just playing heroes on the big screen. In 1997, then, he began training with an ambulance crew and went on to become a cherished firefighter with the Los Angeles Fire Department. But though he’s since saved many lives, the former actor courted controversy for an October 2015 assault that could see him imprisoned for a four-year stretch.
24. John Cassisi
While co-stars Scott Baio and Jodie Foster went on to have shining Hollywood careers, Bugsy Malone’s John Cassisi traveled a more down-to-earth road. Indeed, as an adult he became a construction exec at Citigroup – where he began to resemble his Bugsy gangster character Fat Sam in one nefarious way. Back in 2015 the former star was jailed for a minimum of two years for netting $500,000 in kickbacks.
23. Steven Anthony Lawrence
Steven Anthony Lawrence may be best known as Beans from Even Stevens, but in 2015 he was spotted playing a very different role: that of Santa’s helper at a California mall. Yet while that may appear to be a shocking change of career path, Lawrence appeared both unembarrassed and all too happy to pose for photos with fans. “I don’t know how people even barely recognize me,” he had told The Huffington Post in February that year.
22. Susan Boyle
Despite her 2009 debut album shifting 14 million units, Susan Boyle apparently fancied a change of direction back in 2014. In fact, according to staff, the “I Dreamed a Dream” singer inquired about a minimum pay position at a Scottish betting store. “We were all in shock,” the store’s manager told The Sun at the time. Not, perhaps, half as much as Boyle’s fans were…
21. Chris Owen
You may remember Chris Owen as American Pie’s “The Shermanator,” the self-announced “sophisticated sex robot” with coital claims beyond his stature. However, it seems that Owen’s fortunes haven’t been as favorable since his 1999 hit. In 2012, for example, the actor began waiting tables at LA’s Sushi Roku. Let’s hope, then, that he can turn things around.
20. Julia Stiles
Julia Stiles was massive during the 1990s, but she didn’t revel in her new-found fame. She told NME magazine in 2020, “I guess I ended up taking a break just as my career was taking off. It was good to slow things down a bit in my 20s.” She still acts, but focuses most of her attention on two important jobs: philanthropy and being a mom.
19. Jack Gleeson
How do you follow a role like King Joffrey on Game of Thrones? Jack Gleeson decided that he couldn’t – or at least, he wouldn’t. After his gloriously horrible character was killed off on the show, Gleeson went to university to study philosophy and theology. He occasionally does a bit of wacky off-Broadway stuff, but he’s said his ultimate goal is to become a philosophy professor. A long way from Joffrey, then.
18. Charlie Korsmo
Back in 1991 Charlie Korsmo played Peter Pan’s son in the hit movie Hook. But as he grew older he left the world of acting behind. Now he’s a lawyer and an academic, and a very successful one at that. In 2011 none other than Barack Obama nominated him for the Board of Trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. Oh, and he also has a degree in physics.
17. M.C. Hammer
M.C. Hammer’s iconic hit “U Can’t Touch This” was everywhere back in the 1990s. And then suddenly the tunes of the parachute-pants-wearing singer were gone. Worse, so was his money. Hammer went bankrupt in 1996, but luckily he was able to bounce back. These days he lectures about technology at universities, invests in start-ups, and – delightfully – officiates the odd wedding.
16. Carrie Henn
Not everyone knows the name Carrie Henn, but they definitely know her character – she was Newt in Aliens. She was only nine when she was cast, but she had a great time on set, despite being menaced by drooling aliens. She’s now a teacher in California, and she still keeps in touch with her co-star Sigourney Weaver.
15. Rajiv Surendra
Rajiv Surendra played Kevin in the beloved teen comedy Mean Girls. But in later years he discovered he had a talent beyond acting: calligraphy. He now runs a company dedicated to the art, Letters in Ink. Surendra’s also published a book, The Elephants in My Backyard about his (ultimately failed) attempt to win the lead role in the film Life of Pi.
14. Andrew Shue
Actor Andrew Shue played Billy Campbell on the soap opera Melrose Place. Once it ended he could have pursued professional soccer – it was his side gig – but in the end he became an internet entrepreneur. He’s the co-founder of the website CafeMom, and thanks to that he’s now worth an impressive $100 million.
13. Mara Wilson
Little Mara Wilson was the title character of Matilda. But she doesn’t act much anymore – instead, she’s a writer. In 2016 she told radio show Weekend Edition Sunday, “I feel like I’m sort of in control of my own story and my own narrative… Making up stories and telling stories, and telling true stories, has always been what I wanted to do.”
12. Phoebe Cates
Phoebe Cates hasn’t done any live-action acting since 2001. In 2015 she provided a voice for the video game Lego Dimensions, but that was it. So where did she go? Well, she opened a boutique in New York and seems very happy with it. She also works with diabetes charities, as her son Owen has the condition. And because she’s married to Kevin Kline, she can still be spotted at Hollywood shindigs.
11. Lark Voorhies
Lark Voorhies played Lisa Turtle on Saved by the Bell. Sadly though, her mental health deteriorated once she got older. She later confirmed that she was struggling with a diagnosed illness, thought to be bipolar disorder. Though it doesn’t seem like she’s returning to acting, she has written three self-published books.
10. Melody Anderson
Actress Melody Anderson was big in the 1980s. She was Dale Arden in Flash Gordon, for a start. But she ended up turning her back on the bright lights of Hollywood. Instead, she became a social worker and addiction therapist. In 2012 she told website The Fix, “My clients are mainly people in the entertainment world, because I understand that the industry is very trying.”
9. Ariana Richards
When she was a child Ariana Richards played Lex in the iconic blockbuster Jurassic Park. As an adult she became a successful artist, but she’s up for returning to acting if the right role comes along. In 2020 she told website Amblin, “Even though I’ve been focusing on art for a long time, since I was in college and made that such a focus and priority, I absolutely adore acting.”
8. Josh Saviano
Josh Saviano was Paul Pfeiffer in The Wonder Years, and achieved a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for his performance, but as he grew up he decided to pursue other things. Instead of an actor, he became a lawyer. He hasn’t completely stopped acting, however. In 2015 he was in a few episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit… albeit as a lawyer.
7. Andrea Elson
Andrea Elson of ALF met her future husband Scott Hopper on set. These days they’re still married, but Elson has given up acting and started a new career. Her Facebook page announces, “You may remember me as Lynn Tanner from the TV show Alf. I am now a wife, mother and world-traveling yoga instructor.”
6. Danica McKellar
Danica McKellar spent a lot of her adolescence playing Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years. But after that she discovered her true passion in life: mathematics. She has a degree in the subject from UCLA, and now writes books for children to make math more accessible for them. She’s had a very successful second career.
5. Jeff Cohen
Jeff Cohen played one of the most iconic characters, Chunk, in hit movie The Goonies. But after his stint as a child actor he went on to become a successful lawyer with his own firm. He now looks very, very different to how he was as a kid – and he’ll only do the Truffle Shuffle if you buy him drinks first.
4. Meg Ryan
Meg Ryan was a household name back in the 1990s. She appeared in hit movies When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail and more. But she considers that the R-rated sexual thriller In The Cut put an end to her career. Sick of the acting industry, she stopped taking major roles and now works as a film writer instead.
3. Freddie Prinze Jr.
One-time teen heartthrob Freddie Prinze Jr. has had a switch of career. The I Know What You Did Last Summer movie star is now more of a chef – and indeed, that was his original plan for his life before he turned to acting. In 2016 he released a cookbook titled Back to the Kitchen and seems to have successfully transitioned his career now.
2. Rick Moranis
Rick Moranis retired from acting for a sad reason – his wife Ann Belsky passed away from cancer. Moranis decided that he would stop taking movie roles and become a full-time single father to their two kids. After 23 years of that ordinary but difficult job, Moranis announced in 2020 he would be returning to do at least one more major movie: a sequel to his hit Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
1. Gene Hackman
Gene Hackman was a truly revered actor. He had two Academy Awards and a very impressive CV. Yet in the 2000s he retired from acting and became a novelist instead. In 2020 he told Empire magazine, “I think it was a natural transition. One asks oneself questions as an actor like, ‘Where am I coming from? Where am I going? What do I want?’… As a writer, you can start the same way.”