Hollywood has always been a ruthless machine — one where toxic men effortlessly flourish. The brutal industry can wear down even the most confident creative, and these celebrities had to take a step back for the sake of their sanity.
Working on the hit Nickelodeon series iCarly left a sour taste in Jennette McCurdy‘s mouth. While enduring endless abuse from her own mother, the actor also had to deal with disgusting on-set behavior from a man she dubbed “The Creator.” As a teenager on the show, McCurdy was sexualized and made to drink alcohol. The onslaught of terrible experiences with her mother and “The Creator” turned her away from acting. She even rejected an offer to appear in the iCarly reboot.
In 2014, Kesha filed a bombshell lawsuit against music producer, Dr. Luke, claiming that he “sexually, physically, and verbally abused” her for over a decade. Luke filed a countersuit for breach of contract and defamation. Thus began a very public, very lengthy legal battle that would bring Kesha’s music career to a screeching halt for years.
Brendan Fraser won our hearts in the ’90s with roles in films like The Mummy and George of the Jungle. In a 2018 interview with GQFraser described how Philip Berk (former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association) sexually assaulted him at a 2003 luncheon. Berk denied the allegations, but Fraser felt an immediate shift in his career. He eventually stepped out of the spotlight, claiming the experience messed with his sense of “who I was and what I was doing.”
Grace Van Dien, who played Chrissy Cunningham in Stranger Thingsbegan to deny film offers after some nasty on-set experiences. She claims that a producer “… hired a girl that he was sleeping with, and then he had her ask me to have a threesome with them. So that’s my boss. And I didn’t [do it]and I cried and I was so upset.” Van Dien now prefers Twitch streaming as it grants her more control over her mental health.
Gwyneth Paltrow stepped away from acting for multiple reasonsone of them being Harvey Weinstein. She’s incredibly busy as the founder/CEO of her lifestyle brand, Goop. She also considers herself a homebody who got tired of the constant traveling and public scrutiny. However, Paltrow had “a really rough boss for most of my movie career at Miramax,” which she counts as one of the reasons she fell out of love with the craft.
Sandra Bullock told USA Today that she almost quit acting because of the sexism she endured in the industry. She recalled having a wake-up moment and thinking, “Oh, my God, I’m being treated this way because I have a vagina.” While she didn’t drop names or share any specifics about her experience, she said she felt “like I was less than because I was a woman.”
As a teen, JoJo put up with a toxic environment at Blackground Records in an attempt to get her music released. She claims that when she was 18, the president of the label insinuated that JoJo wasn’t thin enough, telling her, “We just want you to look as healthy as possible.” She challenged his remark, but was eventually put on a 500-calories-a-day diet. This resulted in extreme insecurity that led her down a dark, reckless path. After a multiyear hiatus, JoJo was able to return with new music under a different label.
In 2017, Jane Seymour revealed that she was sexually harassed early in her career by “the most powerful man in Hollywood at that time.” While discussing a potential job opportunity with a producer, she soon discovered that he expected sexual favors in return. “…I’ve done my bit. Now it’s your turn to do your bit,” he allegedly told her. This led Seymour to quit acting for a year, and she almost ditched the industry altogether.
Despite being a wildly successful musician in the early-2000s, Ashanti was forced to take a break from the music industry when the men in charge of her record label were accused of laundering drug money. “It wasn’t a choice,” she says. “It was something that needed to happen because of everything that was going on.”
Rose McGowan spent years speaking out against Harvey Weinstein and other Hollywood abusers. The Planet Terror star claimed the disgraced film producer raped her in 1997. “Had I not been blacklisted by Weinstein I might have gone on to have a better career,” she told The Guardian in 2021. McGowan moved to Mexico to escape the toxicity of the industry, among other things, and vowed never to live in the United States again.
Tara Subkoff claimed that denying Harvey Weinstein’s advances stripped her of the acting career she desired. “My reputation was ruined by false gossip, and I was called ‘too difficult to work with,'” she told Variety. “It became impossible for me to get work as an actress after this, so I then had to start a new career path…”
Freddie Prinze Jr. “hated every moment” of working with Kiefer Sutherland on 24 so much, it made him want to quit acting. “Kiefer was the most unprofessional dude in the world,” said Prinze. “That’s not me talking trash, I’d say it to his face, I think everyone that’s worked with him has said that.” He added that the experience made him want “to quit the business… So, I just sort of stopped.”
NCIS star, Lauren Holly, shared her Harvey Weinstein horror story in 2017. After working together on Beautiful Girlsthe producer subjected Holly to a disturbing situation in a hotel room, approaching her while he was naked after a shower. Though the encounter didn’t destroy her career, it disgusted her enough that she chose to shift away from film altogether.
As an ’80s film icon, Sean Young had to tolerate several toxic, entitled men. In an interview with The Daily Beastshe detailed negative experiences with the likes of James Woods, Ridley Scott, Charlie Sheen, Oliver Stone, and (of course) Harvey Weinstein, among others. Young eventually stepped away from the Hollywood scene after being blacklisted, happily partaking in smaller projects.
Romola Garai called her experience on Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights “a cesspit of horrific misogyny” so scarring that she quit Hollywood altogether. After a stint in university, Garai decided to give acting another shot, this time putting feminism at the forefront.
If you need proof that Hollywood has always been cruel, look no further than Cora Sue Collins. The ’30s child star appeared in many films during Tinseltown’s golden era. At the tender age of 15, she was offered a role with the condition that she sleep with 50-year-old screenwriter, Harry Ruskin. “It’s a rotten business,” said Collins. “It was then, it is now. And it’s not going to change.” Naturally, she has zero regrets about leaving the industry.