It’s probably a bit of a cliche to say that celebrities are just like us, but it’s true. They have to eat, sleep, and do the rest of the stuff that every other person has to do. Unfortunately, that also means that they get sick, and sometimes they get so sick that they can’t work anymore. Although it may seem like acting is an easy job, it actually requires a lot of standing, and often means working long hours. For sick actors, it can be almost impossible to work the hours necessary to keep up a career.
For every actor and star that’s too sick to work, there are others who have battled with an illness and managed to recover from it. Although they may still have some sort of chronic illness, their treatments have meant that they can continue working in whatever capacity they were working before. Medicine gets better every day, which means people can work longer than they have before. For many stars, their health is a crucial part of their success. Without it, they wouldn’t have the endurance required to be famous.
With all that in mind, here are 9 A-Listers Who Can't Work Due To Health Struggles (And 7 Who Recovered).
16 Too Sick: Stan Lee
Stan Lee is a legend, but he’s also pretty old. Although he’s still making cameos in every Marvel film, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to do that forever. At the age of 95, Lee is finally starting to show signs that he may not be around forever.
Recently, Lee has been struggling with pneumonia - a serious illness, especially late in life.
Lee explained in a video that he had been struggling with the illness, and said that he believed he had some of the best fans in the world. Lee may be able to pull through and continue making public appearances. At Lee’s age, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to keep doing this indefinitely, and it’s frankly amazing that he’s been able to keep it up as long as he has.
15 Too Sick: Michael J. Fox
Although Michael J. Fox was a star in his younger years, his struggle with Parkinson’s has also been well-documented. The actor doesn’t work much these days, understandably. He’s fighting an illness that is incredibly debilitating, especially for an actor, who makes a living by using his body.
Fox has had the illness since 1991 and announced that he was sick after having surgery to control his shaking in 1999.
Fox still makes fairly regular public appearances, but the disease has clearly taken its toll on him.
Fox is a hugely talented actor, and watching him go through this kind of debilitating illness has been horrifying. Fox no longer has the ability to act as frequently and as well as he once did.
14 Recovered: Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks is one of the most widely acclaimed performers alive today, but many may not know that he also has type 2 diabetes. Hanks explained that he was “an idiot,” and ignored medical advice from doctors who told him he should change his diet in order to avoid health issues. Hanks didn’t make the adjustments that would have been necessary, and he ended up with diabetes as a result.
Although diabetes isn’t the kind of disease that can be cured, it is very treatable, and Hanks has certainly had plenty of work since he first started discussing the disease in 2013. In fact, he’s given some of his very best performances in the years since in films like Captain Phillips and The Post. Hanks is still going strong.
13 Too Sick: Michael Gambon
Michael Gambon isn’t sick, exactly, but he has semi-retired as a result of his age. The actor, famed for his work on stage and as Albus Dumbledore in the later Harry Potter films, forced himself to work less after he found that it was taking him longer and longer to memorize all of his lines. Gambon expressed that he was slightly terrified by that fact, as most people would be. After all, memory is part of what makes us human.
There are few actors who would be brave enough to admit that age is catching up with them, but Gambon seems willing to admit that he’s no longer as sharp as he once was. There’s nothing wrong with getting older, even if it means that Gambon has to work less than he once did. Maybe it’ll ultimately be a good thing for his life outside of his job.
12 Recovered: Shannen Doherty
Shannen Doherty is an actress most well-known from her work on shows like 90210 and in films like Heathers. In recent years, Doherty has had to stop working almost completely as a result of her battle with cancer. Doherty battled the cancer for almost two years before announcing in April of 2017 that she was in remission.
Doherty has been able to return to work and has gained much of her strength back.
Doherty said that her battle with the disease has given her a new perspective on life. A year later, Doherty is still in remission, but she remains painfully aware that her cancer could return. That’s part of being in remission -- cancer can always return, and that means each day counts even more.
11 Too Sick: Tim Curry
Tim Curry was an iconic actor in his prime. His performance as Franke-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show is still iconic, and he’s had plenty of other great roles as well. In recent years, Curry has almost completely disappeared from public life after he suffered a debilitating stroke that left him confined to a wheelchair.
When Curry does go out in public, as he did while being honored at the Tony Awards recently, he seems to be in good spirits.
Curry’s speech has slowed a bit, but his outlook on life seems to be quite positive, and outlook is a huge part of the battle when dealing with any illness. Curry may not be able to work much anymore, but he’s still grateful for what he has.
10 Recovered: Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez’s battle with lupus has actually been fairly well documented. After she was diagnosed, Gomez went out of her way to shine a light on the many debilitating symptoms of the illness, including lower energy, joint pain, and kidney failure.
Although lupus is a disease that requires ongoing treatment, Gomez’s condition was improved considerably after she received a kidney transplant from Francia Raisa, a close friend of hers. Although lupus is a serious illness, Gomez has recovered enough to continue releasing music and taking on a variety of acting roles.
Gomez is lucky to have started treatments at such a young age.
She’s still resilient enough to be able to move past the disease and get back to working and living the rest of her life.
9 Too Sick: Regis Philbin
Regis Philbin was the kind of television personality who was a staple for many people of an entire generation. His distinctive voice and unique perspective made him impossible to ignore. For many, he was the kind of person who was interesting, regardless of what he was actually saying.
In recent years, Philbin has made fewer and fewer public appearances, and that’s understandable.
He’s retired now, after all. While Regis doesn’t have any deeply pressing concerns about his health at the moment, he’s had a number of heart issues in the past, and his withdrawal from public life has given him more time to focus on his health. After all, Philbin isn’t a young man, and he’s justifiably concerned that living his life in public may worsen his health in unnecessary ways.
8 Recovered: Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie is much less present in front of the camera than she used to be, but she’s still working quite hard behind the scenes. All of that work is in spite of her fears about cancer. Jolie found that, after genetic testing, she had a gene called BRCA1 which made cancer more likely. As a result, Jolie had preventative surgery.
Jolie was clear that the tests revealing the gene were not the only reason she had the surgery, but they did play a significant role in her decision. The mutation that Jolie had made her chance of having cancer in her lifetime well over 50% and Jolie made the brave decision to prevent cancer from ever being a possibility.
7 Too Sick: Rachel Miner
Rachel Miner has been a part of many Supernatural fan’s lives for years. She played Meg, a demonic ally who occasionally helps out the Winchester brothers. Eight years ago, Miner was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease that eats away at the protective coating around the nerves, and has no known cure.
Miner has sought treatment for the disease, and it’s given her a new outlook on what strength means.
Since her diagnosis, Miner has had to step away from acting to focus on her health, which is completely understandable. MS can be a debilitating illness that leads to pain, and Miner has devoted time not just to her own treatment, but also to raising awareness about the disease across the country. Miner may not act much anymore, but she’s still fighting.
6 Recovered: Ian McKellan
Ian McKellan has originated a number of iconic roles, perhaps most notably Gandalf in the three Lord of the Rings films and the three Hobbit films. McKellan is still working, but there was a time when it seemed like his days as a professional actor were numbered. A few years ago, McKellan revealed that he was diagnosed with cancer.
Although McKellan hasn’t received treatment for the illness, he says that he is examined regularly and the cancer is contained. As a result, McKellan is able to keep doing the work that he so clearly loves. In most professions, it’s difficult to find workers who are willing to keep at it so late in their life. For McKellan, it seems clear that acting is a passion.
5 Too Sick: David Prowse
You may not know David Prowse’s name, but you’d almost definitely recognize his most famous costume. Prowse played Darth Vader in the original trilogy of Star Wars films. Although James Earl Jones gave the character his iconic voice, Prowse was the one inside the suit, striking poses that many fans of the series still remember to this day. Prowse was great as Vader because he was able to match the menace that came from Jones’s voice perfectly.
In recent years, Prowse has had to pull out of public appearances, even though he used to be a regular at fan conventions. In 2014, Prowse was diagnosed with dementia, and it seems his mental and physical state has been declining since. Although he loved interacting with fans, it seems he no longer can the way he used to.
4 Recovered: Alec Baldwin
Alec Baldwin has had a long career in Hollywood, and it doesn’t seem like he’s planning to slow down anytime soon. In spite of that, Baldwin has been dealing with lyme disease for at least seven years, and possibly much longer. The disease originated from a pair of bites that Baldwin got several years apart in the early 2000s, but he didn’t disclose his illness until 2011.
Baldwin has been fairly vocal about his struggles, and has been unafraid of describing the misery of his symptoms.
Baldwin’s flu-like symptoms were so bad that, at one point, he thought he might pass from the illness. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, and Baldwin has remained healthy enough to work pretty consistently in recent years, on SNL and elsewhere.
3 Too Sick: Burt Reynolds
Burt Reynolds is a legend. Although he never won an Oscar, his performances in everything from Boogie Nights to Smokey and the Bandit left a lasting impression on audiences. Unfortunately, age has brought a number of health problems for Reynolds, who can no longer walk without assistance and requires 24/7 care.
Although Reynolds was once a fixture of movie stardom, he’s done less and less working over the last 20 years.
It’s a shame because Reynolds’ performance in Boogie Nights proved that the actor could use his swagger to play fascinating, compelling characters. Unfortunately, his health has kept him from taking full advantage of what could have been a renaissance in his career, one that showed audiences what exactly Reynolds was really capable of.
2 Recovered: Kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian was never really out of the limelight, but she does have an ongoing struggle with psoriasis, a skin condition that causes skin cells to form itchy, dry patches on the skin. Although this disease isn’t exactly debilitating, it can be quite painful, and Kardashian's beauty is a bi part of her public persona and make-up line.
Although the disease initially posed a problem for the most famous Kardashian, Kim has since managed to get it under control, and it’s almost completely gone now. After trying out a variety of ineffective treatments, Kardashian found that light therapy was able to wipe out most of the psoriasis and left her skin clearer than it had been in years. Kardashian had the luxury of trying different treatments and her ultimate solution proved effective.
1 Too Sick: Terry Jones
Like many of the members of Monty Python, Terry Jones had a pretty complete control of language. The comedian made his living in part on his ability to turn phrases and make sharp jokes. Unfortunately, Jones has had to step away from public life almost completely as a result of his dementia, which has resulted in a deterioration of his language skills.
Jones still sees some of his Monty Python colleagues, but his communication skills are quite limited at this point. For a while, he was able to communicate via email, but those eventually became jumbled as well, and it was clear that his dementia was debilitating him severely. Jones made a living through his use of language, which only makes watching him lose it feel even worse. Still, his contributions to the history of comedy will never be forgotten.
Are you a fan of any of these A-listers? Share your favorite memories of them in the comments.