It’s easy to forget sometimes that actors are human beings just like us. And, just like us, they get sick. Sometimes they recover from these sicknesses and diseases, and other times they sadly do not.
There are several actors that are still living today who are either far too sick or far too old to still be working as actors.
Some of these actors retired long ago, while others have never officially announced their withdrawal from the acting world. Then one time-traveling star who has become an activist for the sickness that has tried to destroy him: Parkinson’s Disease.
While we likely haven’t heard of some of these actors in a while, many were some of the best and brightest stars in their day and age— perhaps that’s part of what makes it all so sad.
Whatever these incredible actors are up to now— hopefully relaxing or recovering— we wish them the best of luck in the future. Sickness and disease is hard, and we miss seeing their shining faces show up on our screens. But like we said, actors are humans just like the rest of us, and are therefore subject to the same life obstacles that we are.
Here are the 15 Loved Actors Who Are Sadly Too Sick To Work Anymore.
15 Michael J. Fox
The iconic Michael J. Fox, star of everybody’s favorite time-travel franchise, Back to the Future, was diagnosed with early on-set Parkinson’s Disease in 1992. He has not starred in any box office film in at least a few years, although he has made several appearances in documentaries, and still attends some award shows.
Notably, in 2006, Fox was in a campaign ad for a Democrat politician, Claire McCaskill, who was running against the Incumbent Republican for the position of Senator in the state of Missouri. Voicing his support for her stance on stem-cell research, the campaign ad is said to have affected the results of the election – McCaskill won the seat.
Although Fox doesn’t do much acting anymore, it’s amazing to see the change he is affecting as an advocate, despite the pain and discomfort he likely experiences every day.
14 David Prowse
David Prowse blessed us with his great performance as the fearsome Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, and we will forever treasure him for that. Although George Lucas felt the need to replace Prowse’s West Country accent with the deeper voice of James Earl Jones, Prowse is who we think of when we think of the OG Darth Vader.
Sadly, in 1990, Prowse’s arthritis symptoms, which he had not felt since he was a teenager, returned. In 2001, he suffered from an attack of septic arthritis, which paralyzed both his arms, and required intensive surgery. In 2009, he revealed to the public that he was battling prostate cancer.
He has not acted since 2010, as he fights against the various and terrible diseases he has been diagnosed with.
13 Tim Curry
If you are a part of the Rocky Horror Picture Show cult following, then you might know Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter from the original 1975 film, as well as from the original London, Roxy, and Broadway live productions. Otherwise, he probably gave you nightmares in the IT miniseries from 1990.
Curry has also starred in some celebrated classic romantic comedies and children’s movies like Charlie’s Angels and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
In 2012, Curry suffered a severe stroke that put him in a wheelchair and affected his speech abilities. He has not starred in any films since that time, although was awarded the Actors Fund of America Artistic Achievement Award in 2015.
We hope that Curry continues to be recognized for his past acting achievements, in spite of his physical state since the time of his stroke.
12 Jack Osbourne
You will probably remember Jack Osbourne from the hit MTV classic reality television series The Osbournes, as the son of the famous heavy metal rockstar Ozzy Osbourne.
In the series, Jack Osbourne was typically portrayed as a rebellious teenager who would get in fights with his sister and party too hard. During his time starring on the reality television series, he also made appearances on That 70’s Show and Austin Powers.
In 2012, Osbourne was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. While it has so far not fully hindered his physical abilities, he does feel tingling in his limbs at times, and must be very careful about the food he consumes and the exercise he conducts. Having already suffered from severe depression and addiction when he was younger, Osbourne is much more careful now about how he takes care of himself.
He does not seem to currently be acting, and appears to be living happily with his wife and kids, taking it one day at a time as he faces the unpredictability of the disease.
11 Shelley Duvall
Shelley Duvall is most famous for portraying Wendy Torrance in the bone-chilling Stanley Kubrick film, The Shining. She was also in Annie Hall and starred alongside Robin Williams in Popeye.
Sadly, Duvall’s acting career ended in 2002 when she chose to retire from public life. There are a variety of rumours surrounding the star’s mental health, although none have ever been confirmed.
In 2016, Duvall had a televised interview with Dr. Phil that demonstrated that maybe something just wasn’t right. As sad as it was to see Duvall’s transformation, it was much sadder to see her troubled personal life be exploited so mercilessly on national television.
All we can hope for is that Duvall is happy, and that she gets all the help that she wants and needs.
10 Nichelle Nichols
Nichelle Nichols rose to prominence for her role as Lieutenant Uhura, the communications officer on the USS Enterprise in the 1960s Star Trek installment.
Nichols is one of the very first African-American actors in American television who portrayed a character that was not in the background or a stereotypical servant. Nichols received attention from the minister and civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., when he asked her to stay on the show upon her announcement that she was thinking of quitting.
Nichols also starred in many Star Trek films. In 2015, the then-82-year old suffered a stroke, affecting some speech abilities. Although she has starred in small roles in a few films since that time, she has generally moved away from the acting world.
9 Rachel Miner
The beautiful Rachel Miner is known for the Woody Allen film Alice, and for her well-received role in the film Bully. She also starred in the early-2000s classics Penny Dreadful and The Black Dahlia.
Of course, though, she is most famous for her recurring role as Meg Masters in Supernatural. In 2013, however, Miner revealed that she had multiple sclerosis, a very serious disease that attacks the central nervous system of a body.
Now, while Miner no longer participates much in the acting world, on top of taking care of her mind, body, and soul, she also dedicates herself to her activism work. She takes on projects and causes that speak to her, such as the environment and multiple sclerosis research initiatives and awareness campaigns.
8 Shannen Doherty
The stunning Shannen Doherty starred as Heather Duke in the iconic 1980s dark comedy Heathers, and then as Brenda Walsh in Beverly Hills: 90210. She also had a starring role in the witchy WB drama, Charmed.
In 1999, Doherty was diagnosed with the Crohn’s disease. Following this, in 2005, she was diagnosed with breast cancer that has spread elsewhere in her body. To fight the cancer, she underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. She has since announced that the cancer is in remission.
Although she is currently not acting, we can only hope that one day Doherty will be well enough to act again. And if that’s not what she wants, we can only hope that Doherty will continue to fight and lead a very happy life.
7 Michael Gambon
Michael Gambon is famous in the United Kingdom for his television roles as Philip E. Marlow in the BBC’s The Singing Detective and as Jules Maigret in the BBC’s Maigret.
But of course, Gambon is more famous internationally for his performance as Album Dumbledore in the Harry Potter film franchise - starting with the third film, after the death of the original Dumbledore, Richard Harris.
Although Gambon has had a part in a variety of small roles in recent years, he publicly announced in 2015 that he would be giving up live theater due to the increasingly lengthy amount of time it was taking him to memorize lines.
At 76, we would be hard-pressed to find someone who did not struggle with some memory problems.
6 Angela Lansbury
As a British-Irish-American actress, Angela Lansbury successfully has dabbled in the world of film, television, and live theatre in both the United States and the United Kingdom. You'll know her face from Murder, She Wrote or recognize her voice from the original animated Beauty and the Beast - she played Mrs. Potts!
As of the 1990s, Lansbury has suffered from severe arthritis, and since that time has undergone some pretty intensive surgical operations— hip replacement surgery in 1994 and knee replacement surgery in 2005.
Now, at the age of 91, Lansbury doesn’t do a whole lot of acting anymore. While she was scheduled to return to live theatre for The Chalk Garden, it was announced a little time after that she would not, after all, be performing. Even so, despite her age and her struggle with arthritis, Lansbury will play a small part as the ‘Balloon Lady’ in Mary Poppins Returns, scheduled to hit theatres in December 2018.
5 Kirk Douglas
Kirk Douglas is the actor who brought us the iconic Midge Kelly in Champion (1949)—the character got Douglas his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. He starred in several other well-received classic films in the 1950s, including The Bad and the Beautiful and Lust for Life.
In 1996, after a long and fulfilling career, Douglas sadly suffered a severe stroke that affected his speech abilities. Since that time, much of his speech has recovered, but it never went back to what it was, thus inhibiting his ability to act anymore.
At the ripe age of 100, while Douglas no longer participates in the acting world, he does at times write articles for Huffington Post— this makes him the oldest celebrity blogger in the world!
4 Carol Channing
Carol Channing is an actress, singer, dancer, and comedian who has starred in film and television, as well as live theater. She starred in Broadway musicals for most of her life, including live classics such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Hello, Dolly!
She has been recognized with a number of prestigious awards, including being inducted to the American Theatre Hall of Fame, receiving a Lifetime Achievement Tony Award, and being awarded several Tony Awards and a Grammy Award.
Although she did marry her childhood sweetheart at the ripe age of 82, he sadly died eight years later in 2011. While she remains young at heart, Carol Channing's age of 96 keeps her from taking the stage anymore.
3 Nanette Fabray
Those familiar with classic American sitcoms will likely recognize Nanette Fabray from iconic TV shows like The Carol Burnett Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. In light of these achievements, many viewers would be surprised to know that Fabray was considered legally handicapped throughout the majority of her adult life.
Early in her career, Fabray suffered from a conductive hearing loss that diminished her ability to transmit sounds from her outer to inner ear.
Despite this setback, Fabray managed to continue acting for decades while also championing for handicapped rights, for which she has won a number of awards. Fabray continued acting into the late 1990s before retiring due to further hearing loss. In spite of her disability, we can safely say that Fabray has had a long and fulfilling career.
2 Terry Jones
You might know Terry Jones as the diverse Welsh-man who is an actor, writer, and comedian. To the hard-core fans, though, of course, we know Terry Jones for his membership in the Monty Python comedy group! Jones impressively was also the co-director of a true Monty Python classic, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Much to the dismay of family, friends, and fans everywhere, Jones was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia in 2016, which is a form of dementia. The disease has halted many of his interviews, as he is no longer able to speak in a fluid way.
It is devastating to hear that such a bright mind is slowly deteriorating, but we will forever remember Terry Jones as the man who brought us Monty Python.
1 Olivia de Havilland
If you’ve seen Gone with the Wind, then you’re bound to know the stunning Olivia de Havilland, who portrayed the sweetly infuriating Melanie Hamilton - Scarlett O’Hara’s friend and nemesis, way back in 1939.
Nowadays, at age 101, Olivia de Havilland is no longer acting. Although health ailments have never been expressly stated, it’s safe to say that age likely influenced her choice to retire from the acting world.
Despite no longer acting, de Havilland still impressively has the energy to conduct a law suit against Ryan Murphy, who cast Catherine Zeta-Jones to portray her in his television show Feud without receiving consent from de Havilland.
Maybe it’s small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, but we have to give de Havilland credit for her incredible determination. We can only hope we’ll be that strong when we’re her age.
Are there other actors who've had to retire (even temporarily) due to health? Share their stories in the comments!