Celebs Who Retired But Didn't Really Mean It

Celebrities are only famous for as long as the public deems them interesting enough, which means some will do just about anything to keep the world talking about them. From Lady Gaga's meat dress to Kanye West's infamous interruption at the 2009 MTV VMA Awards, the world of the rich and famous is filled with attention-grabbing incidents. Some have even said things they didn't actually mean or later turned out to be false, including headline-making announcements of retirement.

Some celebrities elegantly exit Hollywood without much of a fuss, while others want the entire world to know that they're leaving the biz. And should they change their mind (as "retired" stars so often do), they can frame their comeback as a glorious return rather than an attempt to be relevant once again. It brings in cash, views, and generates endless media attention.

From singers who threw major final concerts only to eat their words later to artists who announced a major career change, Hollywood is teeming with celebrities whose retirements ended up reversing pretty quickly. Let's take look at the stars whose golden years turned into golden comeback opportunities.

Barbra Streisand's big farewell didn't last long

In 2000, Barbra Streisand announced a farewell tour, and naturally, tickets sold like hotcakes. According to ABC News, she told the audience at her sold-out, final Madison Square Garden show: "It feels like time to say goodbye to this part of my life." Instead, Streisand planned on building a barn house, spending more time with her husband, James Brolin, and focusing "on acting, directing and recording albums." But as it later turned out, the "Woman in Love" singer was not yet done with the live entertainment industry.

When Streisand went back on tour in 2006, Daily News columnists Rush & Molloy reported that angry fans who paid top dollar for Babs' 2000 shows were considering "a class-action suit against the legend for tricking them into thinking they were seeing her for the final time." It's unclear if any such lawsuit arose, but since then, Streisand hasn't advertised any of her concerts as her swan songs. 

But one thing is clear: the legendary icon continued selling out her concerts in a heartbeat. After all, her fans can't be sure which one of her tours will truly be the last before she retires for good. Billboard reported that her 2016 tour, "Barbra: The Music... The Mem'ries... The Magic," was almost entirely sold out and grossed over $50 million. Considering the fact that her compilation, "Release Me 2," hit shelves and streaming services in 2021, it's safe to say Streisand isn't actually retiring any time soon.

Justin Bieber's fake retirement tweet nearly ruined Christmas

Early on Christmas Day in 2013, Beliebers all around the world lost their holiday spirit when they read Justin Bieber's tweet: "My beloved beliebers I'm officially retiring." According to E!, the "Baby" singer hinted at quitting the music industry a few weeks before as well. It could be that his sudden decision to retire at the young age of 19 had something to do with the rough patch he was going through in his private life. His on-and-off relationship with Selena Gomez — which was speculated to be an elaborate publicity stunt, too — was especially turbulent around the time he made his shocking holiday announcement. Just a few short weeks later, he also got a DUI in Miami.

Of course, it soon became clear that The Biebs never intended to actually retire on that fateful Christmas morning. And as years went by, the "Let Me Love You" singer started using a much more thoughtful voice on social media. For example, when he realized he needed a break to focus on his health in 2019, rather than upsetting his fans with retirement rumors, he got candid with them in a heartfelt Instagram post.

As of this writing, JB's lifestyle doesn't lend itself to publicity stunts. Instead, he cleaned up his bad boy act and appears fully focused on making music. He released two albums, "Changes" and "Justice", and the EP "Freedom" in the span of 13 months and planned a 2022 world tour for the latter.

Stephen King's retirement was a work of fiction

In 2002, Stephen King told the Los Angeles Times that he was done writing books as soon as he finished his then in-progress projects – five books and an ABC miniseries. "You can either continue to go on, or say I left when I was still on top of my game." Since he's one of the most prolific authors of our time, he also pointed out the danger of ending up repeating himself and recycling his old material.

The sudden decision to retire came three years after King's nearly-fatal accident when he was hit by a van while taking a walk. "As I lay unconscious in the hospital, the docs debated amputating my right leg and decided it could stay, on a trial basis. I got better," he once recollected the experience on Twitter. The King of Horror also said that writing was especially difficult after the event. 

Fans of the legendary scribe know that he continued churning out literature for decades. And, his entire outlook on when he'll put away the pen for good seems to have changed. "God will tell me when to retire," he told Stephen Colbert on "The Late Show" in 2019, adding, "But until then, I mean, this is the best job in the world, because nobody can make you retire at a mandatory age. You can just continue until you start to drivel." 

Joaquin Phoenix's faux retirement was all an act

In 2008, Joaquin Phoenix and many other A-listers attended a charity event in San Francisco, where he told an "Extra" reporter that he was retiring from acting to pursue a career in rap music. "I want to take this opportunity ... also to give you the exclusive and just talk a little bit about the fact that this will be my last performance as an actor," he said (via The Guardian). Little did the world know that he was actually in character for a role in "I'm Still Here," a mockumentary directed by his celebrity friend, Casey Affleck. It was no glorious career change either; Phoenix looked lost, confused, and utterly tragic.

Not only was it a genius publicity stunt that ultimately served to promote the mockumentary, it was also an elaborate, Borat-like prank. And it didn't stop there, either. In 2009, he visited "The Late Show with David Letterman," wearing sunglasses and mumbling incomprehensibly. And while Phoenix is no stranger to making controversial TV appearances, even Letterman bought the act. Phoenix was so convincing that the audiences weren't sure whether it was real or not.

In 2010, Affleck cleared the air when he explained to The New York Times that he "never intended to trick anybody" and that his former brother-in-law (Affleck was married to Phoenix's sister) gave "the performance of his career." No wonder he had so many people fooled.

Miley Cyrus changed her retirement plans twice

Miley Cyrus rose to fame as a child star, most notably on "Hannah Montana," portraying a teenage superstar. But as the show crept to its end, the "Wrecking Ball" singer started transforming her public image. After releasing two studio albums with her own music, "Breakout" in 2008 and "Can't Be Tamed" in 2010, the multi-hyphenate boldly told E! that she was "done" after the latter, adding, "I just want to work in movies. That's what I like and that's what I want to be doing." 

Cyrus took the Hollywood plunge with a leading role in "The Last Song." Although the film was a critical flop, Cyrus did meet her ex-husband Liam Hemsworth on the set. She starred in two more bombs, "LOL" and "So Undercover," before deciding to go back to singing and performing. "I thought after my show I was going to act. I went and I did one movie and I came back and said, 'I'm never doing that again. I'm going to do music for the rest of my life'," she said in "Miley: The Movement" (2013), an-hour long documentary about her glorious return to the music industry. 

Never say never, Miley! Her second retirement claim turned out to be premature, too. In 2019, the "Malibu" singer starred in a "Black Mirror" episode, titled "Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too." She portrayed a pop star, yet again — just like in the beginning of her career.

Steven Soderbergh quit filmmaking for a hot minute

When asked about his decision to retire in 2013, Steven Soderbergh told Vulture, "I won't be directing 'cinema,' for lack of a better word. But I still plan to direct — theater stuff, and I'd do a TV series if something great were to come along." As noted by the Los Angeles Times, the Oscar-winner casually mentioned calling "Cut!" on his film directing career in 2008, but the rumors about his retirement really picked up steam in 2010 when Matt Damon said the director was, at the time "kind of exhausted with everything that interested him in terms of form." Soderbergh later called the actor out, saying he was "as discreet as a fourteen-year-old girl," IndieWire reports. Damon's foreshadowing, tactless as it may have been, came true when Soderbergh retired from directing movies after 2013's "Behind the Candelabra." 

He told EW that after his retirement, he focused on painting. He also picked up a TV project: "The Knick," a period drama that ran for two seasons. But four years later, the "Ocean's 11" director made a spectacular return to the big screens with "Logan Lucky," another heist movie with a stellar cast. "I should be directing stuff," he told EW, adding, "Nobody's waiting around for my paintings. So I kind of flipped a switch. I got reconnected with what I like about the job."

Garth Brooks' version of quitting music was to do a Las Vegas residency

Country music megastar Garth Brooks decided to retire at the height of his career. In 2000, he announced that he was hanging up his guitar until his three daughters, Taylor, August, and Allie, graduated high school — a timeframe of approximately 14 years. That's basically an eternity in terms of an entertainment career. And so the "Friends in Low Places" singer went out with a bang: his record label threw a huge party in his honor, per The Boot. The retirement announcement also took attention away from the fact that he was divorcing his first wife, Sandy Mahl, at about the same time. Brooks' manager reportedly urged the singer to avoid using the 'R' word, but according to Brooks, that's exactly what it was. 

In 2014, Billboard claimed Brooks kept his promise; when his youngest decided on college in Nashville, he got the band back together and started touring again. But it was hardly star's first time on stage in nearly a decade and a half. Not only did Brooks continue playing charity shows throughout his quasi-retirment, but he also "recorded a project for Walmart" in 2005 (per The Tennessean). Oh, and he also performed 187 shows as part of his residency at Wynn Las Vegas, which spanned four years from 2009 to 2014 and dovetailed perfectly into his comeback tour. Not exactly shuffleboard with the rest of the old-timers, right? 

Shia LaBeouf's retirement was all a bizarre ruse

The ever-so shady Shia LaBeouf's fake retirement came following accusations of plagiarism in late 2013. According to The Guardian, it all started when he was accused of plagiarism by Daniel Clowes. In 2012, LaBeouf directed and starred in his very own short movie, called "Howard Cantour.com," but it turned out to be awfully similar to Clowes' comic, "Justin M. Damiano."

Rather than making peace with the author, LaBeouf escalated the conflict by tweeting (and thus plagiarizing) a series of apologies, written originally by other celebrities including Lena Dunham and Kanye West. The whole thing seemingly culminated with his January 10, 2014 tweet: "In light of the recent attacks against my artistic integrity, I am retiring from all public life."

Exactly three days later, LaBeouf returned to "public life," which we suppose tweets count as, to repeatedly attack Jim Carrey for his joke about the plagiarism scandal at that year's Golden Globes. EW reported that series of tweets (and apologies) ended with another odd Twitter declaration: I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE. Of course, LaBeouf was also gearing up to promote the scandalous indie flick "Nymphomaniac" at the time, which he did one month later by bizarrely walking the red carpet premiere at the Berlin Film Festival with a paper bag on his head. And what did that bag happen to say on it? I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE. 

Nicki Minaj knows her fake retirement tweet was 'insensitive'

"I've decided to retire & have my family. I know you guys are happy now," Minaj wrote in since-deleted tweeted in 2019. Fans and haters alike instantly started wondering whether she meant what she wrote or was it just a publicity stunt, reported The Guardian. The "Chun-Li" rapper wasn't at her most popular at the time, and was on the heels of postponing the North American dates of her 2018 tour. Critics claimed Minaj was out of control and delayed the tour due to low ticket sales. But Minaj, never one to stay mum in the face of haters, explained on Twitter that with the delay of the album, so came the delay of the tour to perform it.

Whether the explanation about her 2018 tour was true or not, Minaj also had an excuse for the infamous retirement tweet, heading back to the same platform the next day with an apology. "I'm still right here," she wrote, calling the retirement tweet "abrupt & insensitive," and promising a bigger explanation at some point. That explanation came about a month later in a chat with The Shade Room, in which the "Anaconda" rapper admitted that she was really only musing about whether or not she would record a fifth album. 

While the "Starships" star has yet to release side album, tentatively titled "NM5," the family part of her retirement tweet was true; she got married to husband Kenneth Perry in October 2019. Minaj gave birth to their baby boy in September 2020.

Jay-Z had 'the worst retirement in history'

Jay-Z released his first studio album, "Reasonable Doubt," in 1996 and kept releasing one record per year until 2003. But then, with eight studio albums under his belt, Jay-Z announced he was retiring from making hip-hop studio albums in 2003. Asked point blank by The New York Times if it was all a marketing ploy, the "Big Pimpin'" rapper got defensive: "Give me a little more credit than that. 'I could think of other ways to get attention." And so, he went out with a bang, putting together an outstanding farewell show at Madison Square Garden. Throughout the night, fellow superstars including Missy Elliot and Beyoncé joined him on the stage.

Still, Jay-Z remained busy after his alleged retirement from making albums; he became the CEO of Def Jam Recordings and a partial owner of the New Jersey Nets. But a few years later, he got the bug again, and headed back into the studio to start playing around. In 2006, he released his comeback album, "Kingdom Come," and in hindsight, the "99 Problems" rapper is well-aware of how ridiculous his initial decision to retire looked. "It was the worst retirement in history," told EW (via Today). When asked about any more retirement plans, he said, "If I wake up one day and the best material has passed me by — and that's going to happen, then it's time to move on."

Did Emma Watson unleash a retirement rumor she can no longer control?

Emma Watson has been a movie star since she was 11 years old, so it's no wonder that she claimed she was ready to leave acting behind by the time 2009 rolled by. "Until something comes along that I feel as strongly about as I did Hermione — like, I felt that it was life or death — I don't want to act again," she told Teen Vogue. It turned out that it didn't take long for the "Harry Potter" star to be called to her craft again. In 2012, she starred in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower." While she never completely abandoned her acting career, she did put it on the back burner. Instead, she focused on humanitarian activism. In 2014, she was named a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador.

Following Watson's own retirement stunt, the media seems to have picked up the ball for her, with speculation of her exiting the industry repeatedly circulating, even as she headlined huge projects, including "Beauty and the Beast" in 2017 and the award-winning "Little Women" in 2019. Rather than feeding into them, Watson clapped back at the rumors in May 2021, tweeting, "Dear Fans, Rumours about whether I'm engaged or not, or whether my career is 'dormant or not' are ways to create clicks each time they are revealed to be true or untrue." In a follow-up tweet, she reassured her followers that "no news" doesn't automatically mean that she's retiring.