When Retirement Beckons Actors and Directors

Two major entertainment figures announced their pending retirement from movie-making.  Hayao Miyazaki, internationally-renowned director and master of animation, stated that The Wind Rises would be his final feature film. Earning more headlines was the news that Jack Nicholson might retire as an actor, since he's been having "memory issues" recently. It's sad to see any successful artist end his or her career, since audiences often crave more projects to match the classics already given to us. It's also a seemingly rare occurrence, since many professionals in show business decide to stick it out until the grave, cashing as many paychecks as are offered, rather than exit with dignity.

In Miyazaki's case, I'm especially saddened to see him go, because he's been delivering wonderful stories non-stop, each one arguably a masterpiece to top the last. Many filmmakers have created movies of high quality in the twilight of their careers. Clint Eastwood, born in 1930, is still churning out an impressive body of work. Folks like Roger Corman and Mel Brooks, while no longer directing major productions, are still very active in the biz, despite being up there in years. They can still go toe-to-toe with the young guns. (Steven Soderbergh also claimed to be giving up directing, but he's younger, so I expect we'll see him pick up a camera again someday.)

Actors and actresses are a tricky call in terms of finding the right time to quit. Nicholson's body of work ranks up there with the greats of Hollywood history.  His last movie was the forgettable How Do You Know in 2010, but not long before that he also did two excellent flicks, The Departed in 2006 and The Bucket List in 2007.  He should know better than anyone when it's time to hang it up. He's won awards, he's played iconic roles that are immortalized thanks to the magic of cinema. He has nothing else to prove or anyone else to satisfy.

Nicholson is not the first actor to retire (if in fact the rumors are true that he's done with the thespian life.) Gene Hackman, born in 1930, hasn't appeared in a film since 2004's Welcome to Mooseport.  Sean Connery has done the occasional voice-over gig, but he hasn't played a live-action character since 2003's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Bridget Fonda's last performance was in the 2002 TV movie Snow Queen. Phoebe Cates last appeared in 2001's The Anniversary Party. We last saw Rick Moranis in 1996's Big Bully. I haven't seen Sidney Poitier on screen in a long time. Who can forget the greatest retirement from acting of them all, Shirley Temple, who last played a screen-part in the early 1960s? She went on to be an ambassador, among other great accomplishments, in the real world.

I respect both Miyazaki and Nicholson for their choices.  Who knows? Arnold Schwarzenegger returned to acting after a long break, and so did Meg Tilly. Maybe we'll see something new from Hayao and Jack again someday. Otherwise, I hope they enjoy their golden years in restful retirement.

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