Hollywood Stars Who Threatened to Quit the Biz

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Brad Pitt is the latest Hollywood star to threaten to leave the spotlight and has given a three-year timetable to make his exit. The actor — fresh off some stellar reviews for his role in Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life — wants to adopt more of a producer’s role. “I am really enjoying the producing side and development of stories and putting those pieces together. Getting stories to the plate that might have had a tougher times otherwise,” he recently told Australia’s 60 Minutes. Pitt’s already found his place in the producer’s chair, working behind-the-scenes on Malick’s movie and past efforts like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, as well as the upcoming World War Z and Steve McQueen’s Twelve Years a Slave. It’s hard to imagine a Hollywood without the likable actor. If he does follow through on his word, we hope he’ll still make an appearance every so often. History proves, however, that the acting bug is a pesky one and most screen stars renege on their promises to quit for good. Click past the break for a history of other actors that wanted to say goodbye.

Angelina Jolie

Just last year, Angelina Jolie told Vanity Fair that she wasn’t far from leaving acting behind for good.

“It’s not the most important thing in my life. Acting helped me as I was growing up. It helped me learn about myself, helped me travel, helped me understand life, express myself, all those wonderful things, so I’m very, very grateful, it’s a fun job. It’s a luxury. Look, I’m at work today in the middle of Venice. But I don’t think I’ll do it much longer.”

The Mr. & Mrs. Smith actress has been talking for years about cutting back on her schedule so she can spend time with her six children and hubby Brad Pitt (looks like he’ll be around more soon … ). She told the BBC in 2008, “I’m ready to do a few things now and fade away and get ready to be a grandma one day … I won’t work again probably for another year, so maybe it’ll be once a year, then maybe it’ll be once every three years.” It seems as though The Changeling star has already put the beginnings of that plan into motion, judging by her upcoming filmography — but it also buys her some time to change her mind.

Family life and her involvement with humanitarian work sounds like a more fulfilling path to travel, which we applaud, but we’re curious to see if the actress will continue to step behind the camera like she did for the upcoming In the Land of Blood and Honey. A recent emotionally intense trailer for the movie — about the relationship between a Muslim woman and a Serbian man during the Bosnian War — shows the beginnings of what could be a promising directorial career. Whether the call to family wins out remains to be seen.

Joaquin Phoenix

“This will be my last performance as an actor. I’m not doing films anymore … I’ve been through that. I’ve done it … I’m dead serious,” Walk the Line actor Joaquin Phoenix announced in 2008. Two Lovers was reportedly going to be his last movie, so the Gladiator star could focus on his hip-hop music career. Phoenix seemed to vanish for a little while until he emerged in 2009 for a series of bizarre TV interviews, most notably an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman looking like Grizzly Adams and behaving mostly mute. A spot on Dave’s show a year later revealed (though everyone had already figured it out for the most part) that his retirement was a hoax for the mockumentary, I’m Still Here — a confusing piece of cinema that still left people wondering if Phoenix had actually suffered a public breakdown. Others found it genius.

Now the actor is set to appear in Paul Thomas Anderson’s post World War II drama, The Master, as a former alcoholic who is mentored by a charismatic, L. Ron Hubbard-like figure — a somewhat eerie role for Phoenix who has struggled with alcoholism and lives with the specter of addiction that plagued his brother River’s life. He also may or may not be contributing his voice to his deceased brother’s movie, Dark Blood — a 1993 drama that River was filming right before he died. Phoenix is far from the typical performer and has his own agenda when it comes to his career. It feels like he has so much more to do on screen, but it wouldn’t shock us to read another Dear John letter in the near future — this time for real.

Nicole Kidman

“I have to say I’m not that interested in making films any more,” Rabbit Hole actress Nicole Kidman told the Telegraph in 2008.

“I know I’m not meant to say that, but that’s where it is for me now. I’m 41 years old and very happy being in Tennessee with my baby and with my husband. I obviously have creative blood in me and it needs to come out in some way, but I just don’t have that burning desire any more. I’m not saying I’m never going to work again, but I’m at peace with whatever happens … ”

We’re not buying what she’s selling since The Hours’ star has ten projects in development right now that would keep her busy well into 2014. Still, Kidman has hinted many times in the past that she’s comfortable with passing the torch. Four children and New Zealand country music singer Keith Urban are undoubtedly enough to keep her pining for family life, but the actress has some interesting upcoming projects on the horizon that may reignite her Hollywood flame — including a role in The Danish Girl as Lili Elbe, the world’s first postoperative transsexual.

Alec Baldwin

We’ve been seeing more of Alec Baldwin on the small screen in 30 Rock where he’s appeared since 2006, but in 2009 the best Baldwin brother announced plans to walk away from it all when the popular show calls it quits. “I’m done in 2012. In March 2012, I’ll wake up and say, ‘What am I going to do now? Am I done?’ I think I will be done. I may finish a play or something, but I’m retiring at the wrap party,” he told Playboy. With two film projects in development — including an untitled Adam Shankman movie with Steve Martin — and a keen interest in stepping into the political spotlight, 2012 will hardly be the last we see of the actor. We suspect his preference for the public eye won’t be upstaged by his “silly fantasies” about getting re-married and having more children, but crazier things have happened.

Ryan Gosling

“I’ve been doing this since I was 12 … I don’t want to act much longer; I can’t do one thing my whole life. I know there are only so many characters I’ll be able to play. It will be over whenever the inspiration dries up,” Ryan Gosling told Brit paper The Times just a few months ago. We’d be sad if the Drive actor hung it up at a young 31, but good news came recently when it was announced that Terrence Malick would feature Goose in his upcoming Lawless, alongside Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett. The actor will also reunite with Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn for action piece Only God Forgives and a remake of Logan’s Run. Blue Valentine’s Derek Cianfrance wants in on the group hug, and asked Gosling to come back to him for period crime drama Gangster Squad. With names like that feeding Gosling’s creative brain, we’re pretty hopeful that we won’t have to embarrass ourselves by singing this any time soon …

Diane Lane

Going into semi-retirement at 19-years-old was much needed after Unfaithful actress Diane Lane made a few bad flops following her critically acclaimed role in A Little Romance at 13-years-old. Slowly, but surely, the actress revived her career, until 2008 when she announced that she would let husband Josh Brolin’s acting take center stage. “I’m going to be the missus who comes and visits and says, ‘Hi, honey. How’s it going?’ This is what is so amazing about being a wife … ” Lane’s mostly kept her word, but couldn’t resist returning to the screen for a part as Ma Kent in Zack Snyder’s 2013 Superman flick, Man of Steel. She’s also been attached to Laura Lippman’s Every Secret Thing. The down-to-earth actress shows no signs of leaving the limelight permanently — and after such a resilient career, why should she?

Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Governator has retired from two careers before and returned to both at points in his life: bodybuilding and acting. The action icon left political office in California earlier this year and announced he would be considering several new film projects, including sequels and other retellings of his most famous movies, like The Terminator. After an infidelity scandal and divorce rocked his bank account, Schwarzenegger once again put a halt on his return to the movies. “I’ll be back,” is part of his vernacular, however, and Arnie is in the ring once more working on new action-thriller, The Last Stand. Just the other week, he was Tweeting photos from the set dressed in his Sheriff’s uniform. He’ll also have a bigger role in The Expendables 2, where he’ll be in good company with other action vets. Sometimes it’s good to go back to basics and do what you know best … sometimes … maybe?

Amanda Bynes

Everyone wondered what Kool-Aid What I Like About You star Amanda Bynes was drinking when she randomly Tweeted last year that, “Being an actress isn’t as fun as it may seem.” She continued by stating, “If I don’t love something anymore, I stop doing it. I don’t love acting anymore, so I’ve stopped doing it. I know 24 is a young age to retire but you heard it here first … ” Not long after she Tweeted, “I’ve unretired,” and plugged her film Easy A, which hit theaters that September. The Hairspray actress’ reason for leaving in the first place? “I’ve never written the movies and TV shows I’ve been a part of. I’ve only acted like the characters the producers or directors wanted me to play.” There’s a profound message hidden in her clumsy delivery, so many found it hard to blame the 25-year-old for wanting to duck out of the rat race. A star since childhood, long hours and pressures about image had to overwhelm her. Problem is, after her seesaw retirement plans Bynes’ dance card is empty — but perhaps she’s just enjoying that much needed break. Now she has more time for Twitter!