Actors That Fell From the Limelight in the 2010s

By Jake Schroeder
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Photo Courtesy: Dominique Charriau/Le Film Francais/WireImage/Getty Images

Throughout the 2000s, the entertainment industry saw the emergence of some of the most skilled and versatile actresses and actors in the history of modern film. While many have thrived into the 2010s, some stars have spent the last decade taking a step back and shuffling out of the limelight.

Whether they were forced out by Hollywood or intentionally retreated, many formerly successful stars have lost their relevance in entertainment. These are celebrities that have disappeared from film screens within the last decade.

Amanda Bynes

Amanda Bynes was one of the most popular young actresses of the 2000s, especially when it came to young adult networks. She was respected enough to host The Amanda Show on Nickelodeon, and starred in films such as She's The Man, Big Fat Liar, Hairspray and Easy A.

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Photo Courtesy: Nickelodeon/IMDB

Unfortunately, the trials of fame caught up with Bynes. She struggled with mental illness and addiction. After her behavior grew more erratic, agencies became less interested in representing her. In 2010, she tweeted, "I don't love acting anymore so I've stopped doing it."

Sarah Michelle Gellar

Whatever happened to Buffy? At the start of the 21st century, Sarah Michelle Gellar had numerous acting gigs on her plate. While she is best known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she also captivated audiences in horror films such as I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Grudge and Scream II.

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Photo Courtesy: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

However, by the early 2010s, Hollywood lost interest in its once-central star. Due to the fame surrounding Buffy, Gellar had problems being typecast in similar roles. The former star has seemingly steered clear of acting since 2014.

Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay Lohan was a defining figure of the 2000s, showing versatility in her acting since she was a teen. After starring as the two leading characters in The Parent Trap, Lohan's career skyrocketed, landing her roles in Freaky Friday, Herbie: Fully Loaded and of course Mean Girls.

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However, Lohan, like many other young actresses, became suffocated by her success. She turned to drugs and alcohol to cope. After several stints in rehab, she struggled to land roles that were as notable as her previous ones. Still, the star might be working on a comeback.


Jim Carrey

Jim Carrey had a fruitful career from the 90s to the early 2010s, acting as a charming and often cartoonish figure in the world of entertainment. Dumb and Dumber, The Truman Show, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, A Series Of Unfortunate Events and Mr. Popper's Penguins are only a few of his successful films.

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Still, Carrey was a comedic character, and he struggled to overcome preconceptions about his abilities to land serious roles. As the 2010s progressed, he withdrew from Hollywood, focusing instead on pursuing inner-peace, political activism and art. These days, Carrey loves to paint and frequently shares his art on Twitter.

Taylor Lautner

When he played Jacob in the Twilight series, Lautner likely had no idea that the young-adult role would define the rest of his career. After getting his start on Sharkboy and Lava Girl, Lautner became an icon in Twilight, and his success helped him land starring roles in films like Valentine's Day.

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However, although he stole the hearts of teen girls, he couldn't keep the attention of the entertainment industry. Many of the roles he landed post-Twilight didn't further his career, nor did they experience commercial success. His last film, Run The Tide, was in 2016.

Cameron Diaz

Diaz's stellar performances, gorgeous smile, and ability to play both "the girl next door" and vicious villains made her highly sought after in 2000s Hollywood. Bad Teacher, Charlie's Angels, My Sister's Keeper and The Other Woman showcased time and time again just how skilled Diaz was.

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All this considered, it's unsurprising that her exit from Hollywood was intentional. In 2019, she told InStyle, "The way I look at it is that I’ve given more than half of my life to the public. I feel it’s OK for me to take time for myself now."


Catherine Zeta-Jones

During the peak of her career, Catherine Zeta-Jones was a highly sought-after actress in the entertainment industry. The brunette bombshell stole the show in films like The Mask Of Zorro, Ocean's Twelve and Chicago, leaving a lasting mark on Hollywood in the 90s and 2000s.

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However, after appearing in No Reservations in 2007, Zeta-Jones decided to remove herself from the spotlight to deal with her mental health. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression, both of which impacted her ability to score roles. While she's starred in smaller projects in the 2010s, she hasn't relaunched her career full-force.

Brendan Fraser

At one point, Fraser was one of the biggest hunks in Hollywood. His good looks are likely what landed him many of the roles he excelled in, such as The Mummy, Blast from the Past and Journey to the Center of the Earth. Unfortunately, bitter abuse inflicted on Fraser by his ex-wife sent him spiraling.

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While Fraser was uber-successful in the early 2000s, his appeal began to wear off. His solution? Star in as much as he could until he landed a killer role. Unfortunately, he spent the next two decades acting in box-office flops, and his career didn't recover.

Jennifer Love Hewitt

From an early age, Jennifer Love Hewitt pursued life as an actress. As a child, she starred in several national commercials and became a cast member in the Disney series Kids Incorporated. As she grew older, her career evolved, launching her into Scream Queen status in I Know What You Did Last Summer.

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Still, while Hewitt was once a captivating force onscreen, the 2010s were unkind to her. Her last film, Jewtopia, took place in 2012 and was met with an onslaught of negative reviews. Hewitt hasn't taken on any notable projects since Hot in Cleveland ended in 2015.


Freddie Prinze Jr.

In the early 2000s, Freddie Prinze Jr. was a heartthrob for the ages. His career was launched through horror flicks like I Know What You Did Last Summer, yet he became an idol in romance films, lovey-dovey comedies and other young-adult flicks, typically playing a romantic interest or a dorky teenager.

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However, as the 2000s neared to a close, Prinze stepped away from acting. The reason? Prinze told ABC News that he grew to resent Hollywood after starring in 24. "It was terrible. I hated every moment of it … And I just wanted to quit the business after that."

Frankie Muniz

As a child, Frankie Muniz crushed the acting scene. In addition to his many years on Malcolm in the Middle and The Fairly OddParents, Muniz also claimed the leading role in several successful films, including Big Fat Liar, Agent Cody Banks and Racing Stripes.

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His career hasn't exactly done a nosedive, yet the majority of his roles in the 2010s have been in smaller, less significant films and shows. What keeps him from pursuing larger parts? Considering that he is now happily married, he may be more content focusing on his family than his career.

Miranda Cosgrove

Miranda Cosgrove was first popularized as the hilarious little sister on Drake and Josh, yet her skills soon manifested into a whole show dedicated to her talents. iCarly brought Cosgrove fame in the 2000s. The show ran for five seasons, allowing Cosgrove to further her acting skills, gain exposure and mature in her artform.

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However, after iCarly concluded, Cosgrove fell out of the acting spotlight. She lent her voice to the Despicable Me franchise and produced several songs along the way, yet she has avoided live-action films and television shows like the plague.


Taylor Momsen

On Gossip Girl, Taylor Momsen played a teenage drama queen fighting for popularity, glamor and glitz. Her sudden, gothic departure from the show came as a surprise. After announcing her retirement in 2011, Momsen adopted a goth style, joined a band called The Pretty Reckless, and threw her life into her music.

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Momsen told Elle, "I quit acting, actually. I quit 'Gossip Girl' and now tour and am in a band, and that's pretty much all I want to do. Hopefully I'll be able to only do that for the rest of my life."

Jamie Lynn Spears

While Jamie Lynn Spears could've easily sunk into the shadow of her older sister, Brittney, she launched a career in acting that gave her a reputation of her own. She is best known for her role as the starring character in the television show Zoey: 101. However, a major life event caused her to step back from her young stardom.

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At the age of 16, Spears found out that she was pregnant. When her child, Maddie Briann Aldridge, was born in 2008, she decided to take time off to raise her. Her last major project ended in 2008.

Geena Davis

Geena Davis was one of the most versatile actresses of the 80s and 90s, becoming a famous figure in every genre of film. From her spooky role in Beetlejuice to her sweet character in Stuart Little, Davis scooped dozens of roles under her belt. However, in the 2010s, she took a noble hiatus from acting.

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Instead of acting, Davis wanted to protest gender inequality in the media and focus her attention on her charity organization, the Geena Davis Institute. As a result, she fell out of the limelight. While she grabs occasional roles, her focus remains on her activism.


Rupert Grint

Fans of the Harry Potter series know Rupert Grint, who played Harry's loveable best friend, Ron Weasley. Despite only starring in school theater productions, his emotional audition at the age of 11 won over casting directors and secured him the role of Ron.

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Still, while Harry Potter launched the careers of Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliff, it seems to have been the limit of Grint's. The peak of Grint's acting career came with the franchise. However, Grint continues to take on projects, so a return might be in the cards for him. Either way, he isn't bitter, as he now runs an ice cream truck: one of his childhood dreams.

Jack Gleeson

This young actor's career is built on a fairly villainous reputation. You may not know Jack Gleeson, but if King Joffrey Baratheon rings a bell, you're likely Game of Thrones fan — who hates this actor’s cruel character. After leaving the show in 2014, 21-year-old Gleeson decided to quit his acting career.

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What made him bring his career to an end so early? He wanted to focus on his education rather than acting. "I enjoyed it," he told Entertainment Weekly. "When you make a living from something, it changes your relationship with it … it’s just not what I want to do."

Jonathan Taylor Thomas

In the series Home Improvement, Jonathan Taylor Thomas established himself as a young actor with a bright career ahead of him. For nearly eight years, Thomas rocked the role of Tim Allen's son and seemed to be preparing for a long-term stay in Hollywood.

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Instead, Thomas ditched acting in the early 2000s to pursue an education, first at Harvard, then Colombia. The smart young man enjoyed a successful education but never moved back into the sphere of mainstream popularity. His most recent acting endeavor was in a few seasons of Last Man Standing between 2013 and 2015.


Dylan Sprouse

While his brother, Cole, became one of the starring characters on the teenage show Riverdale, Dylan Sprouse hasn't enjoyed as much success. After starting their careers on The Suite Life of Zach and Cody and Suite Life On Deck, Sprouse and his brother decided to ditch Disney and attend NYU.

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Although both brothers continued to pursue art, Dylan Sprouse seemed to put his acting career on hold. Between 2011 and 2017, he didn't take parts in any films or television shows. His return to acting in Dismissed received mixed reviews and didn't seem to restore his celebrity status.

Dave Chappelle

In the early 2000s, there was no comedian quite as beloved as Dave Chappelle. On Comedy Network, he hosted Chappelle's Show, a hilarious sketch show. However, after the third season in 2006, Chappelle abruptly broke ties with Chappelle's Show.

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After traveling to Africa, Chappelle didn't resume his show. He was happy for the break from fame. He told CBS, "I have actual relationships with my kids. I've been all over the country, touring all my life. But I never saw anything. Now I've seen everything."

Eddie Murphy

At one point, you couldn't go to the theater without an Eddie Murphy film playing there. However, starting in the 2010s, there have been fewer films featuring the star. The ones he has made have not enjoyed the same degree of commercial success as his previous movies, such as Nutty Professor, Beverly Hills Cop and Trading Places.

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In the last decade, Murphy completed only four films, with large time gaps between them. Why hasn't he worked more? On Ellen, he shared that he is becoming pickier about the scripts he chooses. His most recent flick, Dolemite Is My Name, is currently on Netflix.


Hilary Swank

Hilary Swank was once one of the most promising young actresses in Hollywood. In the 2000s, she played starring roles in several insightful films such as Freedom Riders, Million Dollar Baby and You're Not You. However, as the 2010s progressed, she began to lose her popularity in the industry.

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Despite her emotionally raw performances (and two Oscars to show for it), her career seemed to peak in the '90s and 2000s, and the films she's starred in since have received less recognition. Fortunately, Swank isn't bitter about her lack of roles. She focuses her time on charity work.

Alex Pettyfer

Alex Pettyfer has been acting since a young age, and in his teen years, he became a common face in film. Pettyfer became popular for both his attractive image and his captivating talent in I Am Number Four, Magic Mike and Beastly.

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However, Pettyfer lost his teenage heartthrob status as he took on more adult roles. As a result, he became a less frequent face in theaters, filling parts in films that didn't make it to the big screen. Although he continues to participate in lesser-known films, he hasn’t maintained the same presence in the industry.

Tobey Maguire

To some Marvel fans, Tobey Maguire is one of the best (and most emotional) Peter Parkers in the Spider-Man franchise. However, Peter Parker seemed to be one of the only substantial roles he could land. After his departure from Spider-Man, he struggled to remain relevant in the world of acting.

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Now that Tom Holland has shone as the young Spider-Man, people have forgotten the legacy of Tobey Maguire … including casting directors. Although he's appeared in projects throughout the 2010s, none have put him back on the map, and he hasn't scored any successful feature roles since The Great Gatsby.


Mischa Barton

The early 2000s were a great time for actresses seeking breakout roles. Mischa Barton was lucky enough to score one such job. Barton landed a part in the teen-centric Orange County-based show The O.C. It brought her fame, yet, after leaving, she didn't remain relevant for long.

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After three seasons on The O.C., Barton decided to drop out and pursue a career in film. Unfortunately, she didn't have much luck with the films she was cast in; many were poorly rated or forgettable. She landed a role in an O.C. spinoff, The Hills, butit was canceled after one season.

Craig Kilborn

When it comes to late-night show hosts, they all owe a hat tip to one of the greats of the genre, Craig Kilborn. He was the original host of The Daily Show as well as CBS's The Late Late Show. However, he left it all behind in 2004.

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For several years, Kilborn did nothing but participate in friends' small films. In 2010, he started up a new talk show, The Kilborn File, which enjoyed far less success than his former gigs. While he lent his voice to BoJack Horseman, his real-life persona is no longer so well-known.

Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis has enjoyed an incredible career in acting, often spending months or years preparing for his roles and receiving high critical acclaim for his work. Still, after playing the lead in Phantom Thread in 2017, Lewis announced his retirement from acting for good.

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He told W, "I need to believe in the value of what I’m doing. The work can seem vital. Irresistible, even. And if an audience believes it, that should be good enough for me. But, lately, it isn’t." He has kept clear of the spotlight ever since and is hopefully enjoying some well-deserved relaxation.


Mike Myers

In the '90s and 2000s, Mike Myers was an unstoppable force in entertainment. The SNL comedian had secured the role of Austin in Austin Powers, kicking off the start of a glorious career. From Wayne's World to Shrek, Myer's managed to maintain his success for nearly two decades.

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However, after 2010 (and his appearance in Shrek Forever), Myers seemed to drop off the face of the earth. What happened to the once-popular actor? He remarried, had kids and moved to New York. Although he had a brief role in 2018's Bohemian Rhapsody, he was nearly unrecognizable in the part.

Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson is best known for his devastating performance in The Shining in 1980, yet he continued to act into the 2000s, starring in The Departed, How Did You Know and The Bucket List, among other films

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What drove him away from acting? He was over the artform. In an interview with The Sun, Nicholson admitted, "I'm not going to work until the day I die...there's a part of me that never really liked being out there."

Macaulay Culkin

No true fan could ever forget the iconic disaster scenes that Macaulay Culkin created while playing young Kevin in the Home Alone series. Culkin is one of the most successful child actors of all time, not only because of Home Alone, but also for his roles in My Girl and Richie Rich.

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Despite his youthful success, he began to lose touch with his acting career in the mid-1990s. He took an almost decade-long break between Richie Rich and Party Monster, with his last genuinely successful film being Saved! in 2004. Culkin has participated in a few smaller, underrated films since.