Whatever Happened To Helen Hunt?

In the '90s, Helen Hunt seemed to be everywhere. After getting her start in the '70s as a child actor in shows like "Amy Prentiss," "Swiss Family Robinson," and "The Fitzpatricks," Hunt landed the role of Lisa in "It Takes Two" in the '80s. By the '90s, she was already a well-known face on TV. Within that decade, she landed a few film roles that catapulted her to new heights of fame, starring in "Kiss of Death," "Twister" and "As Good as It Gets" in quick succession. In 1998, she even took home an Oscar for her performance in "As Good as It Gets." Her career seemed to be getting better and better with each passing year. However, by the mid-2000s, Hunt seemed to have faded out of the public eye. 

Although Hunt continued acting and even picked up another Oscar nomination in 2013 for her role in "The Sessions," her career never really reached the same heights. These days, Hunt lives a quiet life away from the spotlight and continues acting in TV and film, while also pursuing writing and directing behind the camera. As she shared with The Guardian in 2019, "It's so funny when people ask, 'What happened to you?'... There's a difference between working hard and being famous."

Let's take a closer look at why Hunt decided to avoid Hollywood super stardom and find out what she's up to now.

Helen Hunt actually didn't want to be famous

There's one very simple reason why Helen Hunt didn't chase fame after her Oscar win in 1998: Quite simply, she didn't really want it. "It was a very famous time," the actor recalled to The Guardian of her life after "As Good as It Gets." "I felt quite nervous because I was being followed. I remember thinking, 'What if I can't turn this off? Am I always going to be walking to my car and there are people with cameras there? Does this last for ever?'" 

In another interview with The Guardian, Hunt once again opened up about how afraid she became after her brief stint in the spotlight. "There were a couple of years when I was a little spooked," she said. "I was afraid that I could never unring that bell." 

Because Hunt didn't really like her brief taste of fame, she decided to avoid starring in too many high-profile projects, focusing instead on indie films and passion projects. She also made sure not to become a frequent figure in the tabloids by, as she put it, becoming "very boring."

Helen Hunt stepped away from the spotlight for a bit after As Good as It Gets

In the immediate aftermath of "As Good as It Gets," Helen Hunt actually took a short break from film acting altogether, and didn't return to the screen until 2000, two years after the release of the rom-com. As she shared with Female.com.au, "It just felt time to take a few years off." 

In another interview with Cinema.com, Hunt explained that she was also waiting for the right project to come along. Even though there were plenty of opportunities for her to star in films after "As Good As It Gets," she reportedly turned them down because she "didn't want to follow up a great movie and a great role with something not at that level." As Hunt put it: "That's why I decided to wait a few years until 'Mad About You' was over and now things are pretty much the way you can only dream about!"

In 2000, Helen Hunt took on a few more high-profile roles

After her short break, Helen Hunt came back with a bang. "Everybody around you says, 'But you've worked so hard to get to this point, what is your follow-up thing?' But you can't control whether something wonderful comes along after something like [the Oscar win] happens," she told Female.com.au at the time. 

Luckily, plenty of projects did come along — and though she may have craved more time off, some of them were too good to pass up. "For years I dreamed of having the kind of career where I could work with the best in the business, and now that I had the opportunity, I didn't have the guts to turn any of the films down," she explained in an interview with Cinema.com. "I told myself that I could always rest later."

In the space of just one year, she appeared in Robert Altman's "Dr. T & the Women" with Richard Gere and Farrah Fawcett, "Pay It Forward" with Kevin Spacey, "Cast Away" with Tom Hanks, and Nancy Meyer's "What Women Want" with Mel Gibson. 

Helen Hunt's film career slowed down in the 2000s as she became more selective

In the year 2000, Helen Hunt once again seemed to be on the precipice of superstardom — but again, she shied away from the spotlight. Between 2001 and 2004, she took another acting break. When she returned, the roles were fewer and further between.

Between 2004 and 2010, she appeared in just four films and one TV show. These included the Oscar Wilde period drama "A Good Woman," "Bobby" alongside Anthony Hopkins, her own directorial debut "Then She Found Me" with Colin Firth, and  the comedy "Every Day" with Liev Schreiber.

As Hunt explained to Vulture in 2011, she had simply become more selective about projects over the years. "Movie acting is a great job for your twenties: You travel all over, you have affairs with people, and you throw yourself into one part and then another," she said. "It gets more challenging as you get older... it's wanting to have your own life and be yourself." She added that some roles were too demanding and would involve too many sacrifices. "I'm too grown up. That's when choosing becomes really important."

Helen Hunt became a mother

One of the main reasons Helen Hunt's career may seem to have slowed down is that her priorities changed: In 2004, she gave birth to Makena Lei, her daughter with director Matthew Carnahan. "I spent much less time working and doing interviews and more time in private, so it just naturally quietened down and that was nice," Hunt shared with The Guardian. She added that one of the consequences of motherhood was that she also stopped traveling as much for work. 

Of course, as her daughter got a bit older, Hunt felt more comfortable taking on roles. "I have something very precious to do at home, so leaving home becomes a bigger decision," she told the Santa Monica Mirror. "My daughter is eight now, so I feel that's different. I'm working quite a bit and that didn't feel right when she was six." But even though Hunt kept working, she was still a hands-on mother, picking up and driving her daughter to and from school whenever she could. 

Helen Hunt tried her hand at directing

In addition to acting, Helen Hunt has also worked as a director on multiple projects over the years. Inspired by her father, a director himself, Hunt has always been drawn more to storytelling than performing. "I just wanted to be in that room whether ironing the dresses, taking tickets, or acting," she told The Times.

As early as 2000, Hunt was talking about her desire to try directing — and eventually, she made it happen. After making her directorial debut with "Then She Found Me" in 2007, she directed "Ride" in 2014. She has also directed episodes of numerous TV shows, including "Californication," "House of Lies," "This Is Us," "Feud: Bette and Joan," and "The Politician."  

Clearly, Hunt loved getting behind the camera. In 2012, she revealed to the Santa Monica Mirror, "I love directing. It's probably closer to my personality. You're sitting here like this solving problems. You're not naked in front of a bunch of strangers pouring your heart out."

Helen Hunt took some college courses

Although Helen Hunt had studied drama at university, throughout her adulthood, she went back to college to further her education, taking one class every semester. 

During one interview with Redbook in 2008, Hunt confessed, "I'm taking a philosophy class and regretting it with everything in me. I'm taking one college class per semester. Philosophy is studying what you already know and dismantling it. I thought it would be right up my alley. I can't tell you how much it's not me." While Hunt may not have loved philosophy, it's pretty amazing that she took the time to take college classes while also raising a daughter, acting in films, and directing her own films. 

A few years later, however, Hunt confessed to MLive that even after studying with different college professors, her favorite teacher was still her father. "He's an acting teacher, and has been for the whole time I was growing up," she said.

In The Sessions, Helen Hunt gave a critically acclaimed performance

Helen Hunt's acting career may have slowed down in the 2000s, but it certainly didn't stop altogether. In fact, in 2012, she starred opposite John Hawkes and William H. Macy in "The Sessions." The film was a critical smash hit and her performance received rave reviews. She played a married woman who agrees to be a sex surrogate for a man who, due to an illness, had never had sex. Hunt had to do a fair amount of nudity for the film, which, though daunting at first, was something she took on with her typical professionalism. "She brought a kind of banality to the nudity, which is what I wanted," director Ben Lewin later said to USA Today.

Hunt ended up receiving an Oscar nomination for the role — at the time, she didn't seem too concerned. In fact, her main focus continued to be her daughter. During one interview with the Independent, she actually spent the whole time knitting a doll for her daughter. When asked if she was ready to go through awards season again, she replied, "I don't have any control over it. Look, I'm knitting as fast as I can!"

Helen Hunt broke up with her long-time boyfriend in 2017

After 16 years together, Helen Hunt and her partner Matthew Carnahan split in 2017. In Touch Weekly first reported the news, citing a source who claimed that their breakup "was very messy. The source added that Hunt was "convinced Matthew had strayed," and that the actor "had been suspicious for a long time that something was wrong." Per the source, Carnahan was insistent that no betrayal took place. 

However, another source claimed that the couple had been on rocky ground for years. "Matthew moved out a few times over the years," they said. "Helen would always take him back, and then time would pass and she'd kick him out again." Apparently, the pair had stayed together for so long for the sake of their daughter, Makena Lei.

Several years later, Hunt appeared to be dating again, with Closer Weekly reporting that she was dating Steven Tepper. 

Helen Hunt has been focusing more on theater

Another reason why Helen Hunt has become a less frequent fixture on our screens is that she's spent more of her time working in theater, on shows like "Much Ado About Nothing," "Our Town" (which she appeared in twice, in two separate roles), and "Life (x) 3." In 2012, she told the Santa Monica Mirror about her love of acting on stage. "I just did 'Our Town' at The Broad Stage and did 'Much Ado About Nothing' the year before that... I love going to plays, and I love being in plays," she said. "There is something that happens in that room that is out of control and unpredictable, especially when I did 'Our Town' and was addressing 300 people just like I'm talking to you guys, for page after page."

In another interview with Sarasota Magazine, Hunt revealed that "Our Town" was her favorite project to date. "I did it in New York and L.A., and if someone asked me to do it a third time, I would happily do it," she said. "It changes as you get older; it changes as your life changes."

Hunt has continued acting on stage over the years. In 2019, she made her musical theater debut with the play "Working" in California, and in 2022, Hunt did her first play in England, appearing in "Eureka Day" at the Old Vic Theater in London. 

Helen Hunt returned to the small screen with Blindspotting

After several decades out of the public eye, Helen Hunt took on one of her biggest roles in years with the STARZ comedy "Blindspotting," alongside "Hamilton's" Daveed Diggs

Funnily enough, Hunt landed the role thanks to a tweet. Apparently, she saw the original film that inspired the show and tweeted about it. "[The team] saw that and commented on my tweet, and I commented, and we messaged, and the next thing you know, I was with these guys and we were talking about how much we'd like to make something together," she told Collider. They all worked on the idea during the pandemic and eventually, it was picked up by STARZ.

For Hunt, the project was a dream come true. "This was like an incredible Christmas present," she gushed on "The Kelly Clarkson Show." "It was with friends, it's about a subject I've cared about for a long time, it's funny... it's a bouquet of joy and beauty, so I'm psyched for people to see it."

Helen Hunt's idea of a Twister sequel was turned down

One of Helen Hunt's earliest hits was "Twister," the 1996 film about two storm chasers. Apparently, Hunt wanted to create a sequel to the film decades later. While working on "Blindspotting," she and her co-star Daveed Diggs imagined a sequel that featured "Black and brown storm chasers" (per The Guardian). Even though both Hunt and Diggs are well-known in the industry, no one was interested.

Hunt was shocked; after all, it felt like an incredibly timely idea. "It was literally July 2020. The United States was on fire with the beginning of a 400-year overdue racial reckoning; and #MeToo hadn't been that long ago," she told The Guardian. "There were three of us, each representing a minority of our own, one of us having starred in the [original] movie and we couldn't get a meeting." For Hunt, it was a "sobering" reminder that the industry still isn't nearly inclusive enough.

Helen Hunt has become vocal about her politics

As Helen Hunt has gotten older, she's become less and less afraid of speaking up about what she believes in — especially when it comes to political hot topics. In fact, these days, she thinks it's more important than ever to speak up. 

"Society is so divided; there is almost no point in debating certain things any more," she said to The Times, adding, "Before the pandemic, many of us had people in our lives who we were perfectly happy to not discuss certain subjects with. Covid took away the luxury of not talking about politics . . . or vaccines."

In 2018, Hunt appeared in a campaign video for the Democratic party encouraging everyone to vote. "We must never underestimate the power of our voices and our vote to impact change," she said. She has also been a vocal advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement and a strong opposer of Donald Trump.

Helen Hunt tries to lead a normal life these days

As of 2023, Helen Hunt is still busy — but she's also managing to avoid the trappings of fame. Instead, she is able to lead a relatively normal life.

One interviewer for The Guardian noted that Hunt even ate her dinner out of a bowl while speaking to her over Zoom. "There are some people who will live more exciting lives and keep going at that level [of fame] — and it's their whole life, wherever they go, for ever," she reflected. 

Unlike other stars, Hunt doesn't lead a glamorous life filled with premieres and Hollywood parties. In fact, more often than not, she enjoys watching movies in her local cinema just like everyone else. "I go to the movies; I'm a huge movie fan," she once told Vulture. "I get my screeners, but I like going to the movies and buying my popcorn and watching the movies." And when she isn't at the movie theater, she's probably at home watching baseball. It's pretty remarkable to see just how normal Hunt's life really is!