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Whatever Happened to Helen Hunt?

Photo Credit: Amy Sussman / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Amy Sussman / Getty Images

Helen Hunt was a major name in the entertainment industry throughout the 1990s and 2000s, best known for her time on the hit series Mad About You, as well as her Academy Award-winning performance in As Good As It Gets (1997). However, these days, little is heard about the star. It begs the question: Whatever happened to Helen Hunt?

Helen Hunt’s sitcom era and afterward

Portrait of Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt.
Helen Hunt starred alongside Paul Reiser in the television series Mad About You. (Photo Credit: In Front Productions / NBC / murraymomo / MovieStillsDB)

The 1990s heralded a golden era for television sitcoms, with Mad About You leading the charge. Helen Hunt, who starred alongside Paul Reiser, became a household name, with her performance earning her a slew of awards, including several Emmys and Golden Globes. This period marked the zenith of Hunt’s television career, showcasing her exceptional talent and versatility as an actress.

However, following the conclusion of Mad About You, Helen Hunt’s career took a path that many did not anticipate. While she continued to act in major films such as Twister and participated in the Netflix thriller, I See You in 2019, the frequency and visibility of her roles began to change. This shift, according to Hunt, was partly by choice, especially after she embraced motherhood. She expressed a profound sense of contentment with her life’s new direction, indicating a deliberate move towards a more serene and fulfilling personal life away from the constant buzz of Hollywood.

Facing Hollywood’s ageism

Headshot of Helen Hunt.
Helen Hunt on November 29, 2021, in New York City. (Photo Credit: Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images)

The challenge of navigating Hollywood as an actress over 40 is well-documented, with ageism and sexism rampant in the industry. Helen Hunt, however, faced these challenges head-on with grace and creativity. She ventured into writing and directing, areas where she could exercise greater control over her work and the roles she chose to undertake. This period of her career was marked by a conscious refusal to accept lesser roles that did not meet her standards.

Hunt’s efforts to highlight and combat ageism and sexism in Hollywood were not without their difficulties. Yet, by choosing to diversify her talents and take on roles behind the camera, Helen Hunt has paved the way for future generations of actresses, demonstrating that it is possible to forge a successful and fulfilling career in Hollywood on one’s own terms.

Recovering from a car accident

Headshot of Helen Hunt.
Helen Hunt on June 26, 2019, in New York City. (Photo Credit: Walter McBride / Getty Images)

In 2019, Helen Hunt experienced a significant scare when she was involved in a car accident. The incident momentarily paused her professional life. Fortunately, Hunt did not sustain any serious injuries, but she did take some time before returning to her professional life. Hunt did open a lawsuit against the limousine company that had been involved in the accident, which is still ongoing as of 2024.

She had a problem with the paparazzi

Helen Hunt walking.
Helen Hunt is seen on July 2, 1997, at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo Credit: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection / Getty Images)

Helen Hunt’s relationship with fame has been a complex one, particularly in dealing with the intrusive nature of the paparazzi. The constant attention and lack of privacy prompted Hunt to seek a more secluded lifestyle, away from the glaring spotlight of Hollywood. This quest for normalcy is indicative of her desire to lead a life that is not wholly defined by her celebrity status.

Despite the challenges posed by fame, Hunt has managed to carve out a semblance of normal life for herself and her family. Her efforts to maintain privacy and focus on what truly matters to her—her craft, her family, and her personal well-being—highlight the often overlooked aspects of celebrity life.

The end of a long-term relationship

Helen Hunt and Matthew Carnahan.
Helen Hunt and Matthew Carnahan on December 6, 2010, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo Credit: Dr. Billy Ingram / WireImage / Getty Images)

The messy end of Helen Hunt’s long-term relationship with writer Matthew Carnahan in 2017 was a significant personal event that also had implications for her professional life. The couple’s breakup not only marked the end of a deeply personal connection but also brought to a close a period of creative collaboration. This transition underscored the intertwined nature of personal and professional lives, especially in the creative industries.

The split from Carnahan was undoubtedly a challenging time for Hunt, requiring her to navigate the complexities of separating personal loss from professional aspirations. However, this period also offered an opportunity for growth and new creative endeavors.

The Twister 2 pitch was rejected

Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton.
Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton in a scene from the 1996 film Twister. (Photo Credit: Warner Bros. / Universal Pictures / MovieStillsDB)

Helen Hunt’s attempt to pitch a sequel to the iconic film Twister was met with resistance from Hollywood executives. She wanted to direct the production and was going to be joined by a pair of writers to bring the vision of a racially diverse group of stormchasers to the silver screen. However, despite Hunt’s established career and the original film’s success, her vision for a sequel was never realized.

Helen Hunt grieving the loss of her father

Helen Hunt and her father, Gordon Hunt.
Helen Hunt with her father, film director Gordon Hunt, in 2000. (Photo Credit: Richard Corkery / NY Daily News Archive / Getty Images)

The passing of Helen Hunt’s father, Gordon Hunt, in 2016 was a profound personal loss that deeply affected her. Gordon was not only a beloved parent but also a significant influence on Helen’s career. Their shared passion for the arts and Gordon’s own accomplishments in the entertainment industry as a writer, director, and actor provided a foundation for Helen’s aspirations and achievements. The loss of her father following his battle with Parkinson’s was a moment of reflection for Helen. Her grief and the process of coming to terms with her father’s passing have been integral to her journey, influencing her work and her outlook on life.

Recent projects haven’t gone over well

Helen Hunt hugging Paul Reiser.
Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser on November 02, 2023, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo Credit: Michael Tullberg / Getty Images)

In recent years, Helen Hunt has been involved in several projects that have failed to achieve widespread acclaim. However, despite the mixed reception of her recent work, Helen Hunt remains dedicated to pursuing projects that resonate with her artistic sensibilities. Her involvement in these endeavors highlights her willingness to take risks and her refusal to be deterred by the prospect of commercial or critical setbacks.

She has prioritized motherhood over all else

Helen Hunt and her daughter, Makena Lei.
Helen Hunt and daughter Makena Lei Gordon Carnahan on June 26, 2019, in New York City. (Photo Credit: Walter McBride / Getty Images)

Throughout the fluctuations of her career, Helen Hunt has consistently placed a high priority on her role as a mother. Her decision to focus on her daughter, foregoing certain roles and opportunities, speaks volumes about her values and the importance she places on her family. She once said in an interview, “I fell in love, I had a daughter … it was hard to find a part that was as interesting as watching her grow up. Why go off and pretend to be someone’s mother, or pretend to be someone’s wife, when I finally had the chance to have that experience in my real life?”

She’s taken on new challenges

Headshot of Helen Hunt.
Helen Hunt on April 21, 2008, in New York City. (Photo Credit: Jim Spellman / WireImage / Getty Images)

Back in 2008, Helen Hunt did go back to school, where she studied philosophy. However, it wasn’t really her thing. “Philosophy is studying what you already know and dismantling it,” she explained. “I thought it would be right up my alley. I can’t tell you how much it’s not me.” It turns out that sitting in class as a world-famous actress wasn’t that difficult either, as besides the occasional photo, her peers remained cool about her joining the class.

Theater as a refuge and expression

Helen Hunt on stage with three other actors.
Helen Hunt, Andrea Burns, Tessa Grady, and Javier Munoz during the opening night performance bows for “Working – A Musical” at New York City Center on June 26, 2019, in New York City. (Photo Credit: Walter McBride / Getty Images)

While we may not see Helen Hunt on the big screen very often anymore, she has certainly made an impact on the theater stage. Her performances in theater, both on Broadway and in London, have been met with acclaim, showcasing her versatility as an actress and her enduring love for the craft. Theatre has offered Hunt an opportunity to explore complex characters and narratives in a way that is distinct from film and television, which have proven to be fulfilling.

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Her successful transitions between screen and stage highlight her adaptability as an actress and her commitment to honing her craft in diverse settings. Theatre has not only served as a creative outlet for Hunt but has also allowed her to connect with audiences in a more intimate and immediate way.

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June Steele

June Steele is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News