Daniel Day-Lewis announced his official retirement from acting last week. His final appearance (for now) will be in Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming film about the 1950’s New York fashion scene. The latest reports even indicate that Lewis has decided to put the extensive research he did for his final role to good use and make dressmaking his new profession. While abruptly switching from Hollywood’s most respected character actor to high-end dressmaker is something no one could have predicted, Lewis’ exit from acting is undoubtedly a graceful one.
Daniel Day-Lewis’ track record is virtually spotless. He’s played every role to perfection and turned out multiple iconic performances—any one of which an actor would be lucky to get once. Who knows whether Lewis’ retirement from acting will stick (given time, he may end up being the Steven Soderbergh of actors), but whether he eventually decides to come out of his self-imposed retirement or not, he's setting an incredibly high standard by going out at the same point where a hundred other respected actors have hacked their careers into the ground.
Hollywood has no shortage of players who would do well to follow Lewis’ example. It may be a bit unfair to tell any artist that it’s time to throw in the towel, but given the number of actors who have squandered their reputations with phoned-in performances or too many cash-grab roles, it’s hardly a crime to suggest that we’ve got some rusty cogs in the Hollywood machine. With that in mind, here are 15 Actors Who Should Have Retired From Acting (and one who should seriously consider it in a year or two).
16 Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro has had a handful of interesting roles in the late era of his career (most recently as real-life Wall Street con-man Bernie Madoff in HBO’s The Wizard of Lies), but they don’t justify the onslaught of half-assed, head-scratching performances in a slew of more recent duds. If there’s any high-profile actor who’s earned a retirement, it’s De Niro.
It may also be just a bit too soon. De Niro is set to reunite with longtime collaborator Martin Scorsese for the 2018 Netflix joint The Irishman, a prospect just exciting enough for us to be glad he hasn’t hung it up yet. But between his insufferable Meet the Parents sequels and cringe-inducing turn as Zack Efron’s Dirty Grandpa, there’s still plenty of reason for De Niro to call it quits when his Scorsese team-up is done.
15 Steven Seagal
Everyone’s favorite B-action movie meathead will probably never quit. Steven Seagal is a bonafide force of nature, taking every chance that comes his way to engage in cinematic buttkicking. Between his much publicized personal escapades and regular straight-to-DVD output, there’s no telling when Seagal is ever going to slow down, let alone retire. But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have already.
Seagal will probably have a devoted fanbase as long as he’s alive. His films cater to a thriving niche market, and he’s anchored in a brand that’s all his own. Had he retired from Hollywood earlier in his career, his martial-arts-meets-80s-gunplay persona might have avoided becoming self-parody. Plus, he’d have been able to focus his attention on that real-life Deputy Sheriff thing he's always talking about.
14 Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda is an iconic actress from an iconic Hollywood family. She’s been everything from counter-cultural sexpot to accomplished dramatic player, but as of late, her career has consisted mostly of cheesy mom roles in low-grade romcoms. Her former sex-symbol status is often played for cheap laughs, and her once towering screen presence and talent is pretty much wasted. Maybe Fonda should have bowed out gracefully before this cringe-inducing part of her career kicked in.
Right now, Fonda is starring alongside in Lily Tomlin in Netflix’s Gracie and Frankie, a series about two aging women whose husbands leave them for each other. Critical reception of the show has been a bit more mixed than the reactions to the performances of both Tomlin and Fonda, which have been unanimously hailed as great. Too bad the series is only a small spark in an otherwise dull downward trajectory for Fonda.
13 Jack Black
Jack Black was brilliant in Richard Linklater’s 2011 dark comedy Bernie, but he hasn’t really done anything truly funny since then. In fact, most of his roles can only be described as insufferable. Black is a modern comedy legend, which is why he probably should have gone the way of Rick Moranis a few years back, before he became a little too hacky for his own good.
Jack Black has plenty of standout comedy roles under his belt, but the last five or six years of his career have resulted in nothing but duds. From Goosebumps to one too many Kung Fu Panda sequels, there’s just not a lot there to promise a return to form. If only he had retired before the upcoming Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, where he’ll be playing a teenage girl trapped in a Jack Black-esque video game character’s body. Yikes.
12 Lindsay Lohan
Every step Lindsay Lohan has made to revitalize her career after nearly a decade-long stint of bad press has only further sullied her reputation—from Paul Schrader’s trash-terpiece The Canyons to the infamous made-for-TV Liz Taylor biopic. Many of Lohan’s post-Disney-problem-child projects will be monuments to the trashiest corner of trashy cinema in the future. Yes, Lohan is still young, but an Amanda Bynes-style early retirement probably would’ve saved her a lot of grief.
In recent years, Lohan has been lobbying hard for a Mean Girls 3. Great though Mean Girls is, it’s hard to imagine a reunion sequel being anything but a modest disaster. If early retirement wasn’t on the table for Lohan before the early days of her career slump, it definitely should be before Mean Girls 3 sees the light of day.
11 Danny Glover
Another A-list actor turned straight-to-DVD schlock star, Danny Glover is an ideal candidate for this list, cashing in on his iconic action roles from the 1980s in far less worthy fare. Glover had a couple stand out roles in the 2000s—most notably in the Wes Anderson classic The Royal Tenenbaums—but he hasn’t really done anything since then to justify his active status.
When actors fall into the straight-to-video vortex, there’s usually little chance of them coming out of it (other than the occasional role in a cinematic release here or there), and there’s certainly little chance that Glover will surprise us in this regard. In fact, anyone who hasn’t seen one of Glover’s many low-budget appearances will probably assume the actor is retired anyway. Perhaps actual retirement would have been a more graceful exit from the public consciousness.
10 Demi Moore
It’s difficult to propose a middle-aged actresses retirement without sounding pretty chauvinistic—especially in an age where interesting roles for older actresses are becoming more prevalent. That being said, there’s not really much in Demi Moore’s more recent filmography to suggest she’s headed for Big Little Lies territory.
Despite her talent and taste for interesting roles in her early years, Moore’s output has been lackluster for quite a while now. An early retirement would have suited her reputation just fine, and it probably still would. Otherwise, she may just be resigned to play moms in tween dramas and villains in action B-movies for another 10 to 15 years. But hey, there’s always the possibility of a really subversive G.I. Jane 2, right?
9 Al Pacino
Al Pacino is set to reunite with his Heat co-star Robert De Niro in the upcoming Netflix/Scorsese movie The Irishman, but like De Niro, that’s hardly enough to justify Pacino’s meandering career for the past decade or so. Pacino’s unparalleled acting chops haven’t necessarily waned, but they seem to have spun off in some strange caffeinated mumble arena. Even his Golden Globe nominated performance in Danny Collins reeks of an actor flying on the seat of his veteran status.
Pacino is an impenetrable legend. He’ll be remembered for The Godfather, Serpico, Scarface, and Glengarry Glenn Ross no matter how many bad movies he does in his old age. But it’s a shame he didn’t retire before that leathery tan took hold.
8 Jim Carrey
Jim Carrey’s output has already been pretty sporadic over the last few years, so retirement from acting wouldn’t be a huge stretch. The actor’s classic schtick has gotten pretty tired lately—his most notable recent comedy being the uninspired Dumb and Dumber sequel. Since then, Carrey has turned to a couple more dramatic roles (also not new territory for the multi-talented actor), but nothing to signify a renaissance of any sort.
Most recently, Carrey has served as executive producer on the Showtime comedy series I’m Dying Up Here. The show is kind of a slice of Carrey’s own life, taking place in L.A.’s 1970s comedy scene, and it’s garnered enough critical acclaim to assume that Carrey’s brightest future might be in producing full time.
7 Sigourney Weaver
Neil Blomkamp’s canceled Alien sequel would have been the perfect swan song for Sigourney Weaver. Set to feature her return as Ellen Ripley—a role she’s already triumphantly revisited multiple times—Blompkamp’s Alien was the perfect opportunity for Weaver to exit the stage with a bang. But alas, the film wasn’t meant to be, and the actress has been left with the thankless task of playing a caricature of herself in mediocre movies.
Weaver already had a steady run of supporting roles throughout the 2000s, and a very respectable filmography before that. Retirement after the success of Avatar would hardly have been out of the question. Weaver is still a great actress, and who knows when another project will come along that fully utilizes her talents (fingers crossed that The Defenders is deserving of her), but for now, it still looks like retirement might have been the right move for her.
6 Halle Berry
For well over a decade, Halle Berry’s career has been about as hit-or-miss as they come. She never fully recovered from her textbook post-Oscar career dive (nor the Razzie award she received for Catwoman), and her semi-steady work since then has largely been in mediocre thrillers. Her Oscar-winning performance in Monster was hardly a fluke, so it’s a real shame Berry hasn’t been able to replicate its success.
Retiring directly in the wake of her post-Oscar disaster probably would have been a bad move. At the same time, Berry retiring now would barely register with the public at large. But neither do most of Berry’s projects at this point, so maybe retirement is the best option for now--if not a few years ago.
5 John Cusack
No one could have predicted that John Cusack would find a home in the straight-to-DVD thriller market. But for nearly a decade now, that’s where he’s shown up the most. Despite a brilliant performance as Brian Wilson in the 2014 Beach Boys biopic Love & Mercy, Cusack is still hanging out in the discount DVD bin with no sign of leaving.
A bunch of lame straight-to-DVD thrillers is a small price to pay for something as great as Cusack’s performance in Love & Mercy. Nevertheless, it would have been even better to see Cusack come out of a self-imposed retirement for the role, rather than surprise everyone in a sea of tired, cash-grab projects. Here’s hoping the next time Cusack shows up for something great, it’ll be after a long, healthy absence.
4 Adam Sandler
There are obviously enough die-hard Adam Sandler fans out there to keep his signature comedy brand a financially viable enterprise, but that doesn’t mean a little Sandler doesn’t go a long way. His current run with Netflix—a deal that has already resulted in multiple movies with the streaming service in a single year—marks some sort of '90s nostalgia apocalypse. If only Sandler had retired after his winning turn in P.T. Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love.
Adam Sandler is an accomplished movie producer, and his deal with Netflix has been pretty fruitful. Perhaps he’d be of better use producing Netflix movies from up-and-coming comedians, instead of the pale imitations of his '90s hits that he’s resorted to. Just because you can star in a bunch of movies on Netflix doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
3 Nicolas Cage
Nic Cage could have retired five years ago and he'd still be thriving today in meme form. No other actor is so simultaneously loved and mocked quite like him. Even his most critically acclaimed roles have been exploited for maximum internet hilarity. The online church of Cage has become so big, in fact, that any movie role he took at this point would be dwarfed by all the memes and jokes. Perhaps retirement is the best option, since Cage's face is sure to live on for years in internet form.
When it comes to Nicolas Cage, you won't find many fence sitters. He's got big fans and even bigger detractors. There's not really much the actor can do to change his reputation. His best option may be to retire from acting altogether, and let the legend of Cage live on without him. There'll be a lot more people looking up Nic Cage compilation videos on Youtube than there will be people lining up for his next movie.
2 Bruce Willis
No other A-list Hollywood actor is more worthy of retirement than Bruce Willis. The guy is pretty much a hollow, dead-eyed action figure at this point, phoning in cash-grab roles like his life depended on it. Nobody looks more bored being a movie star than Bruce Willis. He’d probably be doing himself and everyone else a favor if he retired, like, yesterday.
The two most recent Die Hard sequels pretty much sum up most of what Willis has done for the past decade. They superficially call back to something that used to be fresh, with no semblance of passion or life in the execution. With or without Bruce Willis, we’ve got plenty of boring bald white guys starring in half-decent action sequels. Willis finally throwing in the towel would be a welcome relief, even if it’s only putting a bandaid on an open wound.
1 Honorable Mention: Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford is in the middle of a reunion tour with all of his iconic '80s roles. In 2015, he revived Han Solo (only to kill him off in the process), and this year, he’ll be returning for Blade Runner 2049 as Rick Deckard before donning the fedora once again for 2020’s Indiana Jones 5. At this rate, one can’t help but wonder when Ford will be playing an octogenarian Jack Ryan or making an extended cameo in Working Girl 2.
It was great to see Han Solo again in The Force Awakens, and revisiting Deckard in the Blade Runner sequel is sure to be interesting (especially under the direction of Denis Villeneuve), but it’s hard to imagine that Ford will be doing anything worthwhile after his '80s nostalgia run comes to an end. Indiana Jones 5 may be just the right note for Ford to end his career on.
So what do you think? Are there any actors that badly need to hang it up that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments.
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