Quitting while you're ahead

I often wonder, how many actors are there who quietly disappeared beacause they made a bunch of money from one lucky success?

Hollywood, from the perspective of a layperson, is a lot like a lottery. You throw your chips in, by moving to LA, going to auditions and whatnot, and if you're lucky you get picked by some producer to be an important role on a show or movie that becomes a great success.

Sure, to some extent there is talent involved. It's not actually easy to act well. But there's lots of people who can act well. Are they really differentiating along minute gradations of acting talent? At some point it just becomes luck.

You impress the right person. You kiss the right ass. Then suddenly, you're rich. How many people, with a sudden windfall, wouldn't just take their winnings off the table and not press their luck any further?

It's difficult to think of actors1 who punched out and quit while they were ahead by defnition. They're gone so you don't remember them.

As I write this, I'm watching Death to Smoochy, with Edward Norton. What was the last movie you saw Edward Norton in?

The last I can think of is Birdman from 2014. Did Edward Norton check out? Surely he made plenty of money from that and Fight Club and American History X and everything else. Of course, I also have the vague idea that he's very difficult to work with and maybe that's why he doesn't get any roles anymore. But, you know, he could have just decided he'd like to fuck off and be rich, right?

Anyway, my point is, how many people made "fuck you" money in Hollywood and actually said "fuck you"? Surely, being a major role on a sitcom for a few years, or one major movie could be enough to buy a house somewhere outside LA and pay expenses for the rest of your life. So, why not do that?

Or is it the case that the personality required to be that successful would compel you to continue reaching for the next brass ring? I wonder. Are all the people that I think "disappeared" still just out there auditioning and tragically not getting any roles?

I like to think not. Maybe some of them said "That's enough". They won the prize and lived happily every after.

  1. and I say here actors to mean both actors and actresses. Let's not worry ourselves about gender specifcities.