Actors Who Quit Acting and Completely Switched Careers

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Show business is widely regarded as one of the world’s most glamorous and exciting industries. However, several high-profile stars of the stage and screen have decided to leave the limelight for more conventional careers.

Below Newsweek takes a look at the high profile former actors who have decided to ditch the drama and completely switch careers.

Freddie Prinze Jr.

Wrestling Producer

Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar. The actor became a WWE wrestling producer
Getty Images/Jamie McCarthy/WireImage

Freddie Prinze Jr. at the turn of the millennium appeared as one of Hollywood’s hottest talents.

The actor proved particularly popular in heartthrob-ready roles including I Know What You Did Last Summer and She’s All That.

However, Prinze Jr. then surprised many fans when he made an abrupt career change to work alongside Vince McMahon in his World Wrestling Entertainment; the first from 2008 to 2009 on the creative team, and then from 2010 to 2012 as a producer and director.

Frankie Muniz

Racing Car Driver

Frankie Muniz
Frankie Muniz during 30th Anniversary Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race – Qualifying Day at Streets of Long Beach in Long Beach, California. The actor is now a racing car driver
Jason Merritt/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Malcolm in the Middle made the teen comedy show’s main actor Frankie Muniz a huge star while it aired from 2000 to 2006.

But when the show ended, the actor decided on a career U-turn and race on the Atlantic Championship formula race circuit.

Gene Hackman


Gene Hackman
Gene Hackman during “Runaway Jury” Press Conference with Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, John Cusack and Rachel Weisz at the Wyndham Hotel in New Orleans, LA. The actor is now an author
Vera Anderson/WireImage/Getty Images

Gene Hackman is a revered two-time Oscar-winning actor with lauded performances in movies including Unforgiven, Bonnie and Clyde and The French Connection.

However, staring in the poorly received 2004 movie Welcome to Mooseport purportedly influenced Hackman to make the very serious decision of retiring from acting.

Hackman, now 91 years old, is now a co-author of three novels: Escape From Andersonville, Justice for None and Wake of the Perdido Star.

Kal Penn

Government Employee

Kal Penn
First lady Michelle Obama greets actor Kal Penn on stage during preparations for the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 3, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The actor is now a government employee
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Kal Penn, the actor who starred in the comedy Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, made a surprising career switch in 2009.

This saw him land the very serious role as the Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement under then-President Barak Obama.

Audrey Hepburn

UNICEF Ambassador

Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn poses for her publicity photo to promote the film Sabrina. Hepburn became a UNICEF Ambassador
Bettmann/Getty Images

Audrey Hepburn is recognized as one of Hollywood’s most successful actresses and one of the world’s greatest beauties.

Hepburn arguably reached the peak of her career for her iconic performance as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, for which she received her third Oscar nomination.

Then, after announcing her retirement, she became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1989, where she worked with vulnerable children and to raise awareness for the charity’s programs until her death in 1993.

Cary Grant

Member of Several Boards

Cary Grant
Actor Cary Grant became a member of several buiness boards
Herbert Dorfman/Corbis/Getty Images

The English-American actor’s debonair demeanor helped Cary Grant become one of classic Hollywood’s definitive leading men during the 1940s and 1950s.

Then in 1966, aged 62, he retired from acting and began working as a board member of several companies.

After he was established as a member of the board of Faberge. He received a salary of only $25,000 a year, but the perks included the penthouse at New York’s Hotel Warwick and the use of two jets for his private use.

Mara Wilson


Mara Wilson
Mara Wilson attends the premiere of Lionsgate’s “Knives Out” at Regency Village Theatre on November 14, 2019 in Westwood, California
Alberto E. Rodriguez/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Mara Wilson is best known for her childhood roles in 1990s movies Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda.

However, the star surprised many when she retired from acting at age 13 after altering her aspirations.

Wilson has since then become an acclaimed author, with one book an autobiography about her child star status.

Ariana Richards


Ariana Richards
Sam Neill covers the mouth of Ariana Richards in a scene from the film ‘Jurassic Park’, 1993. Richards is now an award-winning impressionistic painter
Universal/Getty Images

Ariana Richards shot to movie stardom following her breakout role in 1993’s dinosaur blockbuster Jurassic Park.

Yet despite continuing to sporadically work the industry, Richards is now an award-winning impressionistic painter.

Cameron Diaz

Self-Help Author

Cameron Diaz
Cameron Diaz attends a photocall for “Sex Tape” at Corinthia Hotel London on September 3, 2014 in London. Cameron Diaz is now a self-help author
Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

Movies including The Mask and There’s Something About Mary made Cameron Diaz one of the hottest actors in Hollywood during the 1990s.

Then, after announcing her retirement from acting in 2014, Diaz has since has written two best-selling self-help books, as well as supporting several causes advocating environmental concerns and education.

Amanda Bynes

Fashion Designer

Amanda Bynes
Amanda Bynes is seen on August 25, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. The former actor reportedly intends to work in the fashion industry
Getty Images/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

After breaking through in TV show All That and movies such as She’s The Man, Amanda Bynes suffered very public mental health episodes.

Fortunately, the former child star turned her life around, enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in 2014 and reportedly intends to work in the fashion industry.

Danny Lloyd

Biology Teacher

Danny Lloyd
American actors Jack Nicholson and Danny Lloyd on the set of The Shining, based on the novel by Stephen King, and directed by Stanley Kubrick. Danny Lloyd is now a biology teacher
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty Images

Danny Lloyd is a former child actor best known for his iconic role in the 1980 horror movie The Shining.

Soon afterwards he retired from acting, reportedly due to the trauma of filming the horror movie while aged six, and Lloyd is today a biology professor at a community college in Kentucky.

Shirley Temple

Government Employee

Shirley Temple
Film star Shirley Temple Black on a visit to London in 1965. Temple became a government employee
Victor Blackman/Express/Getty Images

Shirley Temple achieved worldwide fame as the sunny child actress who featured in more than two dozen movies in the 1930s.

However, box office success began to elude her as she grew up and she officially retired from show business by the age of 22.

Shirley Temple then followed her husband into public service and eventually worked as the U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia for three years.

Peter Ostrum


Peter Ostrum
Peter Ostrum Poses at The Hollywood Show – Day 2 at Westin Los Angeles Airport on July 20, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Ostrum became a veterinarian
Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images

After playing the titular character Charlie in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Peter Ostrum decided to quit show business.

Then when still a child, Ostrum met a veterinarian visiting his home and he was so inspired he decided to follow in their footsteps and currently practices out of New York.

Jeff Cohen


Jeff Cohen
Actors Corey Feldman, Jeff Cohen and Robert Davi attend the screening for “Goonies” during the Entertainment Weekly CapeTown Film Festival Presented By The American Cinematheque & Sponsored By TNT’s “Falling Skies” at the Egyptian Theatre on May 5, 2013 in Hollywood. Cohen is now a lawyer
Entertainment Weekly/Getty Images

Jeff Cohen rose to fame as a child actor after starring in Steven Spielberg classic 1985 movie The Goonies.

Then after deciding not to pursue the profession as an adult, Cohen used Hollywood connections for business opportunities before setting up the successful entertainment law firm Cohen & Gardner.

Greta Garbo

Art Collector

Greta Garbo
Swedish actress Greta Garbo photoshoot, circa 1940. Garbo became an art collector
Bettmann/Getty Images

1930s movie star Greta Garbo enjoyed a stellar career until she abruptly retired from acting aged just 35 due to contract disputes with her movie studio.

She then decided to embark on a new career collecting art, which eventually grow to become worth millions of dollars.

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