It’s hard to pin down what makes a star writer, actor, musician or filmmaker want to shy away from the spotlight. Perhaps it’s the mental and emotional toll of living in public– the stress of being scrutinized for every word or action. Whatever the reason, here are 15 celebrities who have lived or still currently live in seclusion from the rest of the world.
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Despite being the author of one of the most beloved books in American history, Harper Lee has been labeled a “recluse” by the media. The Pulitzer prize winning author of To Kill A Mockingbird has refused interviews and public appearances for the majority of her life since her novel was published. She currently lives in an assisted living facility in her home state of Alabama.
After leaving Chappelle’s Show midseason due to an apparent emotional and creative breakdown, Chappelle stepped out of the spotlight and retired to life as a homebody on his 65-acre, Yellow Springs farm. However, the comedian could stage a comeback—to stand-up, anyway—as rumors of a Watch The Throne-style comedy show with Chappelle and Chris Rock have been rumbling since October.
Legendary filmmaker John Hughes fled from Hollywood in 1994, in part due to the death of his friend John Candy. While he continued writing from his home in the Chicago area, he refused to do interviews or public appearances. He remained there with his family until his death in 2004.
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Tree of Life director Terence Malick spent 20 years out of Hollywood before returning to Hollywood with The Thin Red Line in 1998. Despite have re-emerged in Hollywood, the director continues to dismiss requests for interviews and refuses to have his likeness used to promote any of his films.
Though they have long been credited as The Wachowski Brothers, the filmmakers behind The Matrix trilogy are now The Wachowski’s. Since the making of their science fiction trilogy, the duo stepped out of the public spotlight. Part of the reason was for the sake of Lana Wachowski, who was transitioning into a sex change operation following the making of Speed Racer. Since the release of Cloud Atlas (which they co-directed with Tom Twyker), Andy and Lana Wachowski re-emerged from their reclusive stint to promote the film.
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The frontman of Sly and The Family Stone shrank away from the public spotlight when his band parted ways in1975. After a series of solo albums from the mid 70s through 1982, Sly’s struggle with drug abuse led to the end of his public presence for good. This lasted until 2007, when Sly reunited with the Family Stone for a series of concert appearances.
Following the dissolution of the Guns N’ Roses in 1994, lead singer Axl Rose all but secluded himself inside his Malibu home. In 2008, “the Howard Hughes of rock” re-emerged in the public spotlight to promote his long gestating GN’R album, Chinese Democracy. He would tour until 2011, when he once again stepped out of the limelight, supposedly due to the critical and commercial disappointment of his comeback album.
After the huge success of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, the singer-songwriter succumbed to the emotional and creative pressure of generating a follow-up. She stepped away from public life due to feelings of “being way too compromised” and the “insecurity or the fear of being black, young and gifted in this Western culture.” While she did perform a live recording for MTV Unplugged, participated in a brief reunion with the Fugees for Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, and has toured sporadically, Hill has continued her streak without a new album. She did, however, return to regular live solo performances in 2010.
In a 2010 interview with German television, Johnny Depp revealed he prefers to live life as a recluse: “I don’t leave the house anymore. If it isn’t necessary I don’t go anywhere. I stay at home. I’m adamant when it comes to that. I will never get used to it. If you do, you must be insane.” He went on to say that he doesn’t understand how his friends Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have adjusted to their own mega-fame.
After the death of his father in 1973, Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson shut himself in a room for two years straight binging on food, drugs, and alcohol. This reclusive excess would hurt the singer’s golden pipes through constant use of cigarettes and coke. By the time he emerged he saw his contract nullified by The Beach Boys, outing him from the group. He would be diagnosed a bipolar schizophrenic in 1976 and, with proper medication, rejoined the group and public life, though he would struggle with his food and drug addiction throughout much of the 70s and 80s.
The bestselling author of The Road, All The Pretty Horses and No Country For Old Men is famously reclusive, refusing even to associate with other writers. Aside from a televised interview for Oprah Winfrey (who chose The Road as an Oprah Book Club selection), McCarthy has mostly remained out of the spotlight—for many years the literary community didn’t even know what the author looked like. He continues to live a quiet life in New Mexico, though he remains among the most in-demand authors alive today.
The Academy Award winning Lincoln star has been a labeled a recluse by the media, preferring to live a modest life at his home in the Irish countryside. His eccentric reputation hasn’t helped matters– the actor is famous for shying away from red carpet galas and disappearing into his roles in a dedicated, method style (refusing to be acknowledged by anything but his character’s name on set). Still, Day-Lewis maintains he is not a recluse, but a homebody with other interests—his family and his hobbies. He once asked an interviewer “How can you be a recluse in a house full of children?”
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The Late Show host has long maintained a reputation for being a reclusive grouse outside of his television work. It is well documented the comedian has no personal contact with guests or band leader Paul Schaffer before or after each show. This is in keeping with the method of one of Letterman’s mentors, Johnny Carson, who is also famous for his reclusive behavior. In 2012, Letterman did perform a rare one-on-one television interview with longtime friend Regis Philben for Piers Morgan.
The Pillow Talk star retired from films in 1968 and left television in 1986. Since then she has mostly shied away from further public appearances, a trait that intensified following the death of her son in 2004. She reportedly has taken back her original name of Clara Kappelhoff and lives alone on a ranch in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.
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It has been over six years since David Bowie’s last public performance and original album. He’s also declined interviews and has offered very few public performances. While he’s never announced an official retirement from music, insiders report he is happy to have languished into a lifestyle of normalcy. He will turn 66 years old next January and has more than earned the chance to step away from the rock world.