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Chris Hemsworth is stepping away from acting: These stars did the same thing

These talented folks bowed out at the peak of their fame. Why?

During episode four of his new Limitless series on Disney Plus, Chris Hemsworth learned that he has a “strong” genetic predisposition to developing Alzheimer’s disease as he gets older. Apparently, both of the Thor actor’s parents carry the APOE4 gene, which is said to lead to an increased risk of the memory-losing disease. As a consequence, Hemsworth announced he’s stepping away from the screen for a while to spend time with his wife Elsa Pataky and their three kids.

Chris Hemsworth speaking at the 2019 San Diego Comic Con International, for Thor- Love and Thunder, at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California.
Gage Skidmore

While this will likely be a temporary retirement — Hemsworth himself has said as much — this is not the first time that a Hollywood actor has stepped away from acting at the top of their game. Chris Hemsworth’s Alzheimer’s disease scare has given him a different perspective on life, but not every actor’s retirement has been for so dramatic a cause. These actors all retired early for a number of reasons. Let’s find out why some of them walked away.

Terrence Howard
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Terrence Howard

Actor Terrence Howard is case in point about why fans should be wary when actors claim to be retiring. After Howard told Extra reporter Cheslie Kryst that he was “done with acting” and “done pretending”  after Empire wrapped in 2019, it was less than a year later that the actor announced a new television project.

Cinema Blend reports that Zero Gravity Management, the group responsible for the Netflix hit Ozark, had tapped Howard to star in its Delta Blues project. The movie was billed as a one-hour drama relating the story of the father of the blues, musician and composer William Christopher (W.C.) Handy. Howard was attracted to the project not only because of a script that described the “uncomfortable truths” about the history of the Black American music, but also by the opportunity to direct for the first time. Curiously, however, there has been no news about any streaming service or distribution company picking up the show. In fact, beyond the announcement, there’s very little chatter as to what happened with Delta Blues. Perhaps Howards will stay retired after all.

Gene Hackman in The Conversation
The Directors Company

Gene Hackman

In 2008, the then-78-year-old iconic actor hung up his spurs after an acting career lasting more than 60 years. From legendary films like The French Connection in 1971 and Hoosiers in 1986 all the way to his roles in The Royal Tenenbaums in 2001 and Welcome to Mooseport in 2004, Hackman captured audiences with a sly smile and indomitable acting chops.

While this retirement was a surprise, Hackman had his reasons. First, in 2008, Hackman had already moved on to a new artistic avenue: Writing. While promoting his third novel, Escape from Andersonville, Hackman announced to Reuters that he was hanging up his spurs.

“I haven’t held a press conference to announce retirement, but yes, I’m not going to act any longer. I’ve been told not to say that over the last few years, in case some real wonderful part comes up, but I really don’t want to do it any longer,” Hackman said to the news organization.

In a 2009 interview with Empire, Hackman revealed the second factor: His health.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back was actually a stress test that I took in New York. The doctor advised me that my heart wasn’t in the kind of shape that I should be putting it under any stress.”

What was he doing in his off time between writing? Spending much of his time fishing, like any good retiree.

Cameron Diaz
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Cameron Diaz

After exploding onto the screen as a gorgeous and irascible blonde starlet in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Cameron Diaz quietly slipped away from Hollywood in 2014. In a 2018 EW interview, the star of Something About Mary and Charlie’s Angels told fellow actress Gwyneth Paltrow that she was done giving up her life to make movies.

“It’s so intense to work at that level and be that public and put yourself out there,” Diaz explained. “When you’re making a movie . . . they own you . . . . For months on end, you have no time for anything else . . . . I had to basically take it back and take responsibility for my own life.”

Four years later, MSNBC reported that the 49-year-old actor has had enough of the easy life and is coming out of retirement to join Jamie Foxx in a new Netflix original film called Back In Action. This would be her second time acting with Foxx since Annie. Production was slated to begin this year but has not yet.

Daniel Day-Lewis
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Daniel Day-Lewis

Hailed by many as one of the greatest actors to ever grace the screen, Daniel Day-Lewis’s 2017 announcement seems to have stuck. In June 2017, Variety broke the story that the 60-year-old Gangs of New York actor had officially announced his retirement.

“Daniel Day-Lewis will no longer be working as an actor. He is immensely grateful to all of his collaborators and audiences over the many years. This is a private decision and neither he nor his representatives will make any further comment on this subject.”

In 2012, Day-Lewis became the first actor to take home three leading man Oscars when his win for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln in 2012, which followed 2007’s There Will Be Blood and 1989’s My Left Foot.

According to Vanity Fair, this wasn’t the man’s first foray away from making films. The notoriously selective actor retired onstage during a 1989 performance of Hamlet in London. After shooting The Boxer in the 1990s, Day-Lewis left to pursue his second love — woodworking. Since Day-Lewis made the decision during the filming of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread in 2017, however, there have been no rumors of any plans to return for the celebrated actor.

Peter Ostrum
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Peter Ostrum

“Who the heck is Peter Ostrum?” you might ask. We all know the man as the boy who played Charlie Bucket in the timeless 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. After starring in the classic flick, Ostrum famously decided to snub Hollywood’s call and retire from the industry at just 14. He chose to be a veterinarian instead. Though Ostrum said “the pay was paltry” for the film in a 2014 interview with Express UK, he became interested in healing on set.

“It was during filming that I really became interested in medicine,” Ostrum said. “So I bought my first horse with my earnings, and that started my current career path as a vet. I will always cherish my memories of making the movie, but I feel I won the golden ticket by becoming a vet.”

Rick Moranis
Photo by Alan Light via Wikipedia. Image used with permission by copyright holder

Rick Moranis

After starring in the late 1970s and early 1980s sketch comedy classic SCTV (Second City TV) alongside Schitt’s Creek actors Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, Moranis, like many of the show’s stars, went on to 1980s fame. The geeky actor starred in Ghostbusters, Little Shop of Horrors, and, later, in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

When his wife tragically passed away from cancer in 1991, Moranis stepped away from Hollywood to raise his son, Mitchell, and daughter, Rachel. Though industry friends continued to try to lure him back, the lovable nerd told USA Today in 2005 that he had never really considered returning.

“I’m a single parent, and I just found that it was too difficult to manage raising my kids and doing the traveling involved in making movies,” Moranis said. “So I took a little bit of a break. And the little bit of a break turned into a longer break, and then I found that I really didn’t miss it.”

In 2018, Moranis did agree to join his SCTV pals for a Martin Scorcese-directed Netflix special, but, per social media posts, the project never came together. Fortunately, you can still catch a number of the old school sketches on SCTV’s YouTube channel.

Matthew Denis
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Matt Denis is an on-the-go remote multimedia reporter, exploring arts, culture, and the existential in the Pacific Northwest…
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