Brigitte Bardot, Alain Delon... 8 Actors and Actresses Who Quit Acting

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Alain Delon, Brigitte Bardot, Louis de Funès and other famous French actors © Self made based upon work by the authors shown above, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Alain Delon, Brigitte Bardot, Louis de Funès and other famous French actors © Self made based upon work by the authors shown above, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Alain Delon, Brigitte Bardot, Louis de Funès and other famous French actors © Self made based upon work by the authors shown above, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Their decisions to retire, often at the height of their fame, are driven by various personal reasons. From Brigitte Bardot to Alain Delon, here are 8 French actors and actresses who ended their careers young.

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Alain Delon, Brigitte Bardot, Louis de Funès and other famous French actors © Self made based upon work by the authors shown above, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

In the world of cinema, some actors and actresses leave an enduring mark before stepping away from the spotlight early. Their decisions to retire, often at the height of their fame, are driven by various personal reasons. From Brigitte Bardot to Jean-Paul Belmondo, here are 8 French actors and actresses who ended their careers young.

 

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1. Brigitte Bardot

Brigitte Bardot, the epitome of French allure and cinematic glamour, occupies a unique place in the annals of film history. Born in Paris in 1934, Bardot's journey to stardom began with her breakthrough role in "And God Created Woman" (Et dieu créa la femme, 1956) alongside Jean-Louis Trintignant and directed by her then-husband Roger Vadim. This film, along with other notable works such as "The Truth" (La vérité, Henri-Georges Clouzot 1960), the melodrama Viva Maria (Louis Malle, 1965) and "Contempt" (Le Mépris, Jean-Luc Godard, 1963), solidified Bardot's status as an international sex symbol and cultural icon. Her partnership with Vadim not only launched her career but also became emblematic of the era's boldness and sensuality. Although the French actress later divorced (and married subsequently Jacques Charrier, Gunter Sachs and Bernard d'Ormale), she continued making films with Roger Vadim.

However, despite her meteoric rise to fame, the French actress eventually grew disillusioned with the trappings of celebrity and the constant scrutiny of her personal life. Paparazzi were always hiding in bushes trying to photograph outside her famous house in St Tropez, La Madrague or at her parents' house in Paris. In 1973, she made the decision to retire from acting, citing a desire for a more private and meaningful existence. Bardot retreated to her home in La Madrague, a coastal haven in the South of France, where she immersed herself in her passion for animal rights activism. She would still occasionally continue to sing, mostly songs from her friend Serge Gainsbourg.

Since her retirement, Bardot has dedicated herself wholeheartedly to the cause, founding the Brigitte Bardot Foundation for the Welfare and Protection of Animals in 1986. La Madrague has become more than just a residence for Bardot; it is a sanctuary where she devotes her time and resources to advocating for the rights and welfare of animals. Her love for animals is palpable, and her tireless efforts have made a significant impact on animal rights advocacy globally.

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Read our article on the top 10 French movies with Brigitte Bardot

2. Alain Delon

Alongside Jean Gabin, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Jean-Paul Belmondo, Alain Delon probably has one of the most incredible filmographies. The French actor has been celebrated for his roles in "Purple Noon" (1960), "Le Samouraï" (1967), and "The Leopard" (1963) among many more. Despite his continued influence in French cinema, Delon announced his retirement in 1998, citing a desire to leave the stage gracefully. He made a quick come back in 2003 for the cop show Frank Riva (now streaming on TV5MONDEplus) and a few cameos but largely stepped away from acting, choosing to focus on his personal life and health.

Explore the legacy of Alain Delon with featured content such as "Alain Delon: Face au Monde"  and delve into his enigmatic allure in "Alain Delon: La Beauté du Diable et les Femmes".

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3. Jean Seberg

Though American-born, Jean Seberg was a beloved figure in French cinema, starring in iconic films such as "Breathless" (1960) and "Bonjour Tristesse" (1958). Seberg's career was marred by personal struggles and political controversies, particularly due to her support of civil rights movements. The relentless scrutiny and harassment by the FBI took a toll on her, leading her to gradually withdraw from acting.

4. Anne Wiazemsky

Anne Wiazemsky, known for her work with director and former husband Jean-Luc Godard, starred in films such as "La Chinoise" (1967) and "Au Hasard Balthazar" (1966). Wiazemsky moved away from acting in the late 1980s to pursue a career in writing. She became a successful novelist and screenwriter, channeling her creative energy into literature and leaving behind the demands of the acting world.

5. Anouk Aimée

Anouk Aimée is best known for her roles in "La Dolce Vita" (1960), "8½" (1963), and "A Man and a Woman" (1966). She was, alongside Brigitte Bardot, the other star of the 60s. Although she did not fully retire from acting, Aimée significantly reduced her film appearances in the late 1980s to focus on her personal life and selective projects, usually directed by her friend Claude Lelouch. Her decision to step back allowed her to maintain a level of privacy and balance away from the intense scrutiny of public life.

6. Jean-Paul Belmondo

Jean-Paul Belmondo, another giant of French cinema, rose to fame with his role in Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless" (1960). Known for his rugged charm and versatility, he starred in numerous classics such as "Pierrot le Fou" (1965) and "The Professional" (1981). Belmondo began to reduce his acting commitments in the late 1980s and early 1990s, partly due to health issues. Although he made occasional returns to the screen, he largely stepped back from his prolific career, focusing instead on his personal life and recovery after a stroke in 2001.

7. Danièle Gaubert

She was supposed to be the next Bardot. That's what Raoul Levy - producer of "And God Created Woman" ("Et dieu créa la femme") - saw in her when he first met her in 1959. He casted Danièle Gaubert in many of his productions such as "Les Régates de San Francisco" (1960) and "Snow Job" (1972). Despite her promising career, Gaubert retired from acting in the early 1970s after marrying Olympic skier Jean-Claude Killy. She chose to focus on her family life and left the film industry behind at the peak of her career.

8. Maria Schneider

Maria Schneider, best known for her controversial role in "Last Tango in Paris" (1972), also starred in "The Passenger" (1975). Schneider's career was heavily impacted by the trauma she experienced during the making of "Last Tango in Paris." Disillusioned with the film industry, she gradually stepped away from major roles, preferring to live a quieter life away from the spotlight.

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