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Where are they now? It’s the age-old question that seems to come with many celebrities unless you’re one of the rarities like Dolly Parton, Brad Pitt, or Willie Nelson, who never seem to go out of style. Nevertheless, careers in the entertainment industry are not 100 percent foolproof, and success can quickly come and go. With that, there are many occasions where some of our favorite singers, actors, and musicians are suddenly gone from our radar, some destined to return and some not.
Here are 25 celebrities who disappeared from the spotlight. Which do you miss the most?
1. Amanda Bynes
Amanda Bynes was the sweetheart of Nickelodeon for years, starring on All That before beginning her own hit sketch-comedy, The Amanda Bynes Show. Then, she blasted her way into film with starring roles in the hit films Big Fat Liar, What a Girl Wants, and She’s the Man. Bynes had the world at her fingertips, but then she announced her indefinite hiatus in 2010. While she studied fashion for a while, she was cast back into the spotlight two years later after being arrested for driving under the influence.
2. Jim Carrey
A comedic genius with such presence in such films as The Mask, Bruce Almighty, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Jim Carrey has been a beloved actor by many, which is why when he seemed to slow down suddenly, fans wondered what might happen. He seemed to answer that in April 2022 when he announced his consideration to retire. “I have enough. I’ve done enough. I am enough,” he said. He further added, when asked if he’d ever come back, “It depends. If the angels bring some sort of script that’s written in gold ink that says to me that it’s going to be really important for people to see, I might continue down the road, but I’m taking a break.”
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3. Josh Hartnett
While teen heartthrob Josh Hartnett, best known for films like Halloween H20: 20 Years Later and Pearl Harbor, hasn’t fully disappeared from the spotlight, he is definitely landing fewer high-profile roles as the years go on. His last significant role was more than a decade ago when he appeared in 30 Days of Night in 2007. While he did make a slight comeback portraying Ernest Lawrence in Oppenheimer (2023), only time will tell if it is enough to get his career in the mainstream spotlight going again.
4. Jessica Simpson
Jessica Simpson was the diva of pop music in the 1990s and early 2000s, famed for such songs as “Where You Are,” “Sweetest Sin,” and “With You.” It didn’t hurt that she had a hit reality show alongside her ex-husband, Nick Lachey, called Newlyweds during this period, either. Nonetheless, once her first marriage fell apart, it seemed that she got further and further from the mainstream spotlight. Although she’s remained active as a fashion designer and actress, her music has lessened. It didn’t help when her sister, Ashlee Simpson, had that lip-syncing scandal, either. While her name made headlines again with the release of her memoir Open Book (2020) and the many bombs it dropped, even that has died down again.
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5. Rick Moranis
Rick Moranis was the king of comedy in the 1980s and ’90s, but tragedy led to him becoming one of the celebrities who disappeared from the spotlight. The former Spaceballs star left the spotlight in 1991 after his wife sadly died from cancer in order to become a full-time single father to their son and daughter. He has, however, obtained a few more film credits with voiceover work in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys (2001), Brother Bear (2003), and its sequel (2006).
6. Lindsey Lohan
Lindsey Lohan, who initially won hearts as she took on the role of twins in the Disney remake of The Parent Trap (1998), may be trying to make a comeback in recent years, but let’s face it. After Herbie: Fully Loaded came out in 2005, things seemed to be going downhill fast for the former Freaky Friday star. With constant career interruptions thanks to her struggles with drugs and alcohol, it’s hard to see if we’ll ever be seeing the Mean Girls (2004) alum back in a significant role on the big screen again.
7. Mara Wilson
Mara Wilson charmed as a child actress with starring roles in Mrs. Doubtfire, Miracle on 34th Street, and Matilda, suggesting that the world better keep an eye out. Then, she dropped a bombshell in 2000, taking a 12-year hiatus from acting. Even though she has worked on many web series since returning to acting in 2012, very few of them have gained much prominence. Fun fact: she’s the cousin of conservative podcaster Ben Shapiro.
8. Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Sometimes, child stars are just that, child stars. Such is the case for Home Improvement’s Jonathan Taylor Thomas. He was the heartthrob of the three boys on the show, but once Thomas decided to leave in order to focus on school, he was never able to regain the momentum he started with. In fact, in the last ten years, the only thing he’s appeared in is a few episodes of Last Man Standing, but a part of us can’t help but think that it’s because his former TV dad, Tim Allen, is the star.
9. Freddie Prinze Jr.
Here is yet another 1990s and early 2000s teen idol heartthrob on our list of celebrities who have disappeared from the spotlight in recent years. It began with his multiple box office flops, including Delgo. Then, in 2008, he seemed to turn to the world of video games, joining the creative team of World Wrestling Entertainment and only delving into acting as a voiceover for various video game characters in Lego Indiana Jones, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Mass Effect 3.
10. Brendan Fraser
In the 1990s and the early 2000s, it seemed every other movie trailer included a starring role by Brendan Frasier, whether it was The Mummy series, George of the Jungle, Dudley, or Journey to the Center of the Earth. Then, it all just seemed to stop, primarily because of the many unknown film roles he took as well, choosing not to be as selective as some actors. Perhaps he’s making a comeback, however, as he did win the Academy Award for Best Actor in a leading role in the 2022 film The Whale.
Actress and singer Raven-Symone seemed to be a force to be reckoned with as she first came to fame when she was just 4 years old, starring alongside Bill Cosby in The Cosby Show as Olivia Kendall. Then, her self-titled show on the Disney Channel seemed to be icing on the cake. However, in recent years, that has all seemed to change as she has only been in some direct-to-video films that never received much critical acclaim. What hasn’t helped either is the main spotlight she has had has been for the negative as she has refused to identify herself as an African-American or gay, saying she is simply “American” and a “human who loves humans.”
12. Gene Hackman
Gene Hackman was one of the most prime actors throughout the mid-to late-1900s, with roles in The French Connection (1971) and Unforgiven (1992) among his most well-known. It seemed as though that was all going to continue through the new millennium once he starred in Welcome to Mooseport alongside Ray Ramano in 2004. He, however, had other plans. Soon after the film, he announced his retirement and since has been quietly penning novels, in particular three historical fiction novels with Daniel Lenihan, an undersea archaeologist. He did tell GQ in 2011 that there was only one way he would come out of acting retirement. “If I could do it in my own house, maybe, without them disturbing anything and just one or two people.”
13. Leelee Sobieski
Like another entry on our celebrities who disappeared from the spotlight list, Never Been Kissed actress Leelee Sobieski decided to choose family over fame, officially retiring from acting in 2012. Four years later, she confirmed her retirement to US Weekly, saying, “I don’t do movie stuff anymore. I am just focused on my kids. I think that’s mainly why I stopped. … Also, 90 percent of acting roles involve so much sexual stuff with other people, and I don’t want to do that.”
14. Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy is one of the great comics of our generation, bringing to life the hysterical characters of Mushu in Disney’s Mulan and Donkey in the Shrek franchise, among several other iconic roles like The Nutty Professor and Dr. Dolittle. Then, in the 1990s, he seemed to find himself on a decline, with very few hits and a whole lot of criticism, with famed director Spike Lee even criticizing him for not “using his status to help Black actors break into film.” He seems to truly be making a comeback now, with a massive resurgence in his career in 2019 when he returned to Saturday Night Live for the first time since he first garnered attention for being a cast member in the 1980s.
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15. Cameron Diaz
When she made her film debut alongside fellow list entry Jim Carrey in The Mask, it was clear that Cameron Diaz was the next big Hollywood starlet to look out for. She went on to appear in several hit films over the next two decades, from Charlie’s Angels (2000) to Shrek (2001) and In Her Shoes (2005) to The Holiday (2006). Then, in 2014, she abruptly announced her retirement from acting following the release of Annie, later stating that she was “tired of traveling for filming.”
While Diaz didn’t wholly become one of the celebrities who disappeared from the spotlight, releasing a health book and serving as a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 7, she was significantly less seen out and about. She did announce in June 2022 that she would come out of retirement to star in Back in Action with Jamie Foxx.
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16. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were the “it” twins for years after making a name for themselves as babies, sharing the role of the youngest Tanner daughter, Michelle, in the hit sitcom Full House (1987-1995). Then, they took the world by storm with several films, television shows, books, CDs, a clothing line, and more, even hitting the big screen in 2004 for their movie New York Minute. Then, it seemed as though it all stopped. While they’re still prominent in the highly active fashion scene in New York with multiple successful lines of clothing and perfume, they keep a relatively low profile otherwise. It was most noticeable when neither twin rejoined their former castmates for the Netflix reboot Fuller House.
17. Kevin Jonas
What teen girl didn’t know who the Jonas Brothers were in the early 2000s? The three brothers were significant stars thanks to Disney Channel, catapulting them into superstardom as the next great boy band. But, when the group split in 2013, the eldest Jonas Brother, Kevin Jonas, seemed to take it as an opportunity to step out of the spotlight. Instead of going on to make films and solo music like his brothers, he founded JonasWerner, a real estate development and construction company. He did come back into the original fold in 2019 when the Jonas Brothers reunited, and they remain firm in that much-anticipated reunion.
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18. Phoebe Cates
Gremlins has become one of the greatest cult classics ever made, and Phoebe Cates is a big part of that. So, how come she basically disappeared from the spotlight in 1994 only to appear in “The Anniversary Party” in 2001 as a favor to a friend? She wanted to make being a mom a priority. She stepped away from acting to focus on raising her children, Owen and Greta.
19. Macaulay Culkin
Where would the world of Christmas movies be without Macaulay Culkin and the Home Alone franchise? That’s why it has been a shock for fans to realize that he has done little to nothing since the 1990s, minus a few independent films and guest appearances. Although he’s dabbled in music, it’s only recently that he’s seemed to have a career resurgence with his recent role in American Horror Story: Double Feature.
20. Emilio Estevez
Once again, we have a former heartthrob who ends up on our list of celebrities who disappeared from the spotlight. Emilio Estevez charmed audiences as a young actor in the infamous Brat Pack, starring in such films as The Outsiders (1983), The Breakfast Club (1985), and The Mighty Ducks (1992-1996; 2021). So, how come he gave all that up? Well, actually, he didn’t. Estevez has only disappeared from being in front of the camera. Instead, he’s living life behind the camera, directing in various television projects, including CSI: NY, The Guardian, and Close to Home.
21. David Bowie
While David Bowie was as well-known as ever when he sadly passed away in 2016, there were about ten years between 2003 and 2013 when the world briefly forgot who the “Black Star” singer was. In fact, his lack of releasing music during that time led to many rumors that Bowie was near death from some mysterious illness.
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22. Syd Barrett
Syd Barrett, like others on our list of celebrities who disappeared from the spotlight, has drug problems as the root of their fate. His struggles with drugs and mental illness caused his removal as the leader of Pink Floyd, and he was quickly replaced by David Gilmour in 1968. While he briefly went after a solo career, Barrett eventually retired and remained what could only be described as a recluse until his 2006 death. He will be remembered, though, with “Wish You Were Here” remaining his tribute song.
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23. Meg White
Sometimes it’s just a matter of being a shy person when it comes to those on our celebrities who disappeared from the spotlight list. Meg White stayed true to herself once the White Stripes parted ways. Her shy and private tendencies became her reality, and we haven’t heard much from her since.
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24. Taylor Lautner
Taylor Lautner was the millennial generation’s teen heartthrob as he brought Jacob Black to life in the highly popular Twilight Saga of films from 2008 to 2012. When all was said and done, it seemed as though everyone was waiting to see what role he would bring to life next, only to be disappointed, seeing as he’s only appeared in a handful of projects since that didn’t get much momentum. He’s not entirely out of the spotlight, though, as he hosts a podcast with his wife called “Taylor Lautner x2.”
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25. Halle Berry
She made history when she became the first Black actress to win an Academy Award for Best Actress for her 2001 performance in Monster’s Ball, and she’s starred in a slew of other films, including making an appearance as a Bond girl in Pierce Brosnan’s final film, Die Another Day. Grant, it’s probably one of the worst of the franchise, but that’s another discussion. Ever since, she’s only appeared in a handful of films, none of which have had much box-office success.
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