Top 10 Celebrity Recluses
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Q.V. Hough
These celebrities may be some of the most famous and recognizable stars in the world, but they sure don't like to be! Or at least, they tend to hate the limelight most of the time. Some of them are famous music artists that hate fame, such as Lauryn Hill. Whereas other, like Howard Hughes, Nikola Tesla, J.D. Salinger, Bill Waterson and others are some of the greatest inventors, authors or cartoonist. Which hermit or recluse will be the ULTIMATE fame-hater?
Top 10 Celebrity Recluses
Despite their fame, these celebrities preferred home life to public adoration. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Celebrity Recluses.
For this list, we’re focusing on celebrities that are well known for their solitary lifestyles.
#10: Stanley Kubrick
Born and raised in New York City, this celebrated film director famously paid extra attention to each and every detail. But, whereas some perfectionists are social butterflies, Stanley Kubrick kept to himself – even while on set. In 1961, Kubrick and wife Christiane settled in the United Kingdom, and for the next several decades, the director worked primarily from his Hertfordshire home. Though Kubrick was certainly eccentric and private, some friends have suggested that he simply enjoyed domestic life – and given his very public distaste for the “industry,” that’s not a huge surprise. Even so, Kubrick evolved into a mythical figure given his detachment from the Hollywood scene.
#9: Harper Lee
This Alabama native stunned readers with her 1960 novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” But aside from that, during her 89 years, Harper Lee stayed out of the spotlight – so much so that many questioned whether she’d actually written her most famous work. In fact, Lee never published another book, at least aside from 2015’s “Go Set a Watchman” – which was reported to be a first draft of “Mockingbird.” Sure, Lee did attend some public events and even received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007. However, otherwise, she was essentially off the literary map during her lifetime, despite being one of the most recognized names of 20th century literature.
#8: Thomas Pynchon
Since his 1963 debut novel, this American author has remained a complete enigma. In fact, in the ‘90s, “The John Larroquette Show” even made a running gag of his reclusive ways, as he’s made avoiding photographers a fulltime job. The author’s gone on record about his private lifestyle, noting that “recluse” is just a media label, but Pynchon’s behavior has unsurprisingly led to wild fan theories and conspiracies. It’s even been suggested that Pynchon was actually J.D. Salinger, despite his own military background being on public record. Uncertainty about Pynchon’s personal life aside, he’s continued to publish and may have even have appeared in the 2014 adaptation of “Inherent Vice” – at least according to Josh Brolin.
#7: Nikola Tesla
Undoubtedly one of the world’s most brilliant innovators, this Serbian-American died a broken man. Despite his intelligence, Nikola Tesla struggled to sell his inventions during his lifetime, and had a history of being swindled and cheated. Even so, he lived to the age of 86, spending his final reclusive years in New York City. In the Internet era, Tesla has become a legendary figure, but during his life, he was known as a guy with strange, yet original ideas. Though Nikola Tesla’s friendships – including one with author Mark Twain – have been documented, he seems to have preferred work to socializing.
#6: John Hughes
The director of numerous classics before he ultimately retired in 1994, John Hughes was known as much for his reclusiveness as he was for his output. Hughes even occasionally wrote under the pen name “Edmont Dantes,” using the moniker on films like “Drillbit Taylor” and “Maid in Manhattan.” However, the iconic filmmaker essentially disappeared from the Hollywood scene while living among family and friends in the Chicago area. In 2008 – a year before his death – the Huffington Post asked a question that had unquestionably crossed the minds of moviegoers over the years: Whatever Happened to John Hughes? Despite his untimely death, Hughes’ early work remains highly influential, even if many can’t identify his face.
#5: Lauryn Hill
In the mid-‘90s, this talented vocalist established herself both in cinema and in music with the Fugees. Upon winning five Grammy Awards for her 1998 solo debut, it seemed that Lauryn Hill was destined to become a leading figure of early 21st century pop culture. By 2000, however, Hill’s behavior often prompted negative headlines, and she became increasingly unpredictable. Ultimately, Hill chose to focus on her personal life and raising her children, while maintaining a spiritual relationship of sorts with someone named Brother Anthony. Perhaps Lauryn Hill isn’t a “traditional” recluse, but she’s another famous face that chose peace of mind over the celebrity lifestyle.
#4: Bill Watterson
Known for his iconic “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip, this artist has long expressed his strong opinions on art. But, whereas many artists seek fame and fortune, Bill Watterson sought a modest lifestyle while protecting his artistic endeavors. Translation? Watterson abruptly retired his beloved comic strip back in 1995, moved back to his hometown in Ohio and, today, doesn’t give many interviews. He also refuses to allow official merchandising of his much-loved characters, and doesn’t seem interested in a revival. All in all, Bill Watterson has pretty successfully returned to anonymity, despite his relevance to the comic industry.
#3: Greta Garbo
This Swedish actress evolved into a true cinema icon by 1930, but by the end of the decade, Greta Garbo retired at only 36 years of age, distancing herself from the spotlight. And in the ‘50s, Garbo settled into a Manhattan apartment, where she lived until her 1990 death. Given that many adored the actress, there’s been speculation as to why she chose the reclusive life. Then again, she reportedly wasn’t comfortable in crowds, and even shunned invitations to the Academy Awards. Garbo embraced her close circle of friends, but she refused to fuel the Hollywood hype machine by rejecting it completely.
#2: J.D. Salinger
Known for his iconic novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” this author quite famously lived off the grid for decades. As a WWII veteran, J.D. Salinger had plenty of life experience and literary talent for a long career in the public eye. But as the years passed, both fame and obsessive fans led him to adopt a reclusive lifestyle. He moved from the bustle of Manhattan to the relative quiet of small-town New Hampshire in 1953, and from there withdrew from public life more and more. Over his 91 years, J.D. Salinger kept writing, but continued to struggle with his cultural persona and the readers that misinterpreted his work for self-serving purposes.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- Steve Ditko
- Syd Barrett
#1: Howard Hughes
In his prime, Howard Hughes transformed both the movie and aviation industries, living a rather public life during Hollywood’s Golden Age. But his obsessive yet undiagnosed behavior became well known among peers and the press, and a 1946 plane crash only worsened his daily anxiety. For the last 30 of years of his life, Hughes’ influence was always felt, but the man himself was rarely seen: he continued to strengthen his legacy as a business mogul and ultimately became one of Sin City’s most powerful men. But, behind closed doors, his OCD and chronic pain took hold, causing him to disregard hygiene, behave erratically and ultimately disappear from public view.