15 Famous Actors Who Quit After One Movie

Barbara Merkley

Table of Contents

I, too, would never act again if the director hypnotized me.

For any actor, making it big with your very first role would be a dream come true. For many, it would mean the start of an illustrious movie career, but for some, that one experience in the spotlight is enough.

Here are 15 actors who made it big with one movie and then called it quits:

1.

Carrie Henn played Newt in Aliens in 1986, but she stopped acting afterward because her family moved from London back to the US.


20thcentfox / ©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

She initially booked the part after meeting costar Sigourney Weaver, and they continued to keep in touch as Henn, who’s now a teacher, grew up. 

Her only other acting credit is a voice role in the 2020 animated movie Thunder Island.

2.

After starring as Charlie Bucket in 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Peter Ostrum turned down a three-movie deal, and his life went “back to normal.”


Paramount Pictures Courtesy Everett Collection

Instead of an actor, he became a veterinarian.

However, in a virtual reunion with other former child stars to mark the movie’s 50th anniversary, he gave his approval for the upcoming prequel Wonka, starring Timothée Chalamet. He said, “Anything that talks about Wonka is good for the Wonka story. It’s a great story and it needs to be retold, regardless of who’s producing it or who’s making it.”

3.

Though singer Gwen Stefani has been in several movies and TV shows as herself, the only movie character she ever played was Jean Harlow in 2004’s The Aviator.


Miramax / ©Miramax/Courtesy Everett Collection

She also did voice work as DJ Suki in Trolls.

4.

In 1984, Tami Stronach played the Childlike Empress in The Neverending Story, but, after a brief venture into music and an onslaught of unwanted attention, her family decided that she wouldn’t pursue acting anymore.


Warner Bros / ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

When she grew up, Stronach became a professional dancer and theater actor.

5.

Emmanuel Schotte, a former soldier, starred in the 1999 French film L’humanité as Pharaon de Winter, and even though he won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival, he chose not to pursue a film career.

6.

In 1971, Dennis Wilson, cofounder of The Beach Boys, made his one and only onscreen appearance as the Mechanic in Two-Lane Blacktop.


Universal Pictures courtesy Everett Collection

7.

In 1966, model Dorothy McGowan starred as the titular supermodel in the French film Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? and then disappeared from the public eye.


Lmpc / LMPC via Getty Images

Director William Klein approached her about being in the film, and they had a great working relationship. 

McGowan told Harper’s Bazaar, “It was fun working with Bill because he was like my older brothers, who were just as good-looking and just as tall and just as full of hell. But he really had crazy ideas. And I was free enough to express them. I couldn’t express myself as well to other people because they didn’t understand me.”

After the film released, however, she stopped both acting and modeling in order to start a family.

8.

Maria Callas, a famous opera singer, only ever starred in one movie — the 1969 Italian production Medea, in which she played the titular role.


Pier Paolo Pasolini Courtesy Everett Collection

Surprisingly, she didn’t sing in the movie.

9.

In 2003, Robert Tsai played Lawrence in School of Rock, and afterward, he went on to study at Dartmouth College.


Paramount / ©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

He also continued playing piano.

10.

In 1987, Sarah Pickering played the titular character in the Charles Dickens adaptation Little Dorrit and then disappeared from the entertainment world to live a quiet life.


Cannon Films / ©Cannon Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

11.

Eleonora Duse, an accomplished stage actor, only made one film — 1917’s Cenere, in which she played Rosalia Derios.


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12.

In 1967, Nadine Nortier gave her only onscreen performance as the titular character in Mouchette.


UGC / CFDC Courtesy Everett Collection

Director Robert Bresson was notorious for casting non-actors.

13.

In 1991, Amber Scott played Maggie Banning in Hook, but she never took on any other movie roles.


TriStar Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

In 1995, she did voice work for the TV documentary series American Experience. 

She briefly returned to the entertainment industry in 2019, producing the short film Cannonball. 

14.

Stefan Güttler‘s only acting credit is Huttenbesitzer in the 1976 film Heart of Glass, in which he was hypnotized by director Werner Herzog.

15.

And finally, Sonja Skiba, whose only acting credit is Ludmilla in Heart of Glass, was also hypnotized during her performance.


Werner Herzog Filmproduktion courtesy Everett Collection

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