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Why You Never Hear From Phoebe Cates Anymore

Phoebe Cates was one of the biggest teen stars of the 1980s. After making her big-screen debut in the Blue Lagoon knockoff Paradise, she starred in a string of quintessential '80s movies, including Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Private School, and Gremlins. It looked like Cates was here to stay—until the mid-1990s, when she just kind of...disappeared. Here's where Phoebe Cates went, and why she left Hollywood behind.

She wanted to focus on raising her kids

Shortly after her breakthrough role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Cates auditioned for more adult roles, including Chloe in the Baby Boomer classic The Big Chill. She didn't get the part (it went to Meg Tilly), but she got to meet one of the film's stars, Kevin Kline. There were major fireworks, and the two dated for years before marrying in 1989. In 1991, Cates and Kline had their first child together, a son named Owen, and three years later they had a daughter, Greta. Like a lot of parents, Cates decided that she preferred focusing on raising a family to pursuing a full-time career outside the home.

She couldn't find any roles she was interested in

Cates didn't completely retire. Her last major role was in the 2001 independent movie The Anniversary Party. She did it as a favor to the director, Jennifer Jason Leigh, one of her best friends since the two played pals in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. (Cates' husband and children also appear in the film.) The Party role, however, is one of a small handful of projects that Cates has deemed worthy of her time. She and Kline made an agreement that once they had kids they'd alternate their schedules: one of them would work while the other would stay home with the kids. But whenever it was her turn, the projects she was offered didn't seem to justify leaving home for weeks or months at a time, so she turned them down.

Since The Anniversary Party, Cates has acted in just one more project, and it was a bit of a nostalgic lark. She reprised her role (in voice only) of Kate Beringer, her character from the Gremlins movies, for the video game LEGO Dimensions.

Her movies weren't doing that well

Much as we might miss her today, the movies Cates starred in toward the end of her working years weren't exactly blockbusters. Despite being the long-awaited sequel to a very popular movie, Gremlins 2: The New Batch took in a relatively disappointing $41 million in 1990. Drop Dead Fred made $13 million when it arrived in theaters the following year, and her final major film, the quirky 1994 comedy Princess Caraboo, earned just $2.9 million during a disappointing theatrical run.

She spends a lot of time on charity work

Cates' son Owen has juvenile (also called type 1) diabetes. Since seeing its effects firsthand, she's devoted a lot of time, effort, and money toward fundraising efforts to find a cure for the metabolic disease, which affects more than a million Americans. Among the organizations Cates supports is the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which puts on benefits like Rock the Cure and the Promise Ball to raise money for research.

She's found a new calling

Kline focuses on stage work these days, and his presence on the New York theater circuit, allow he and Cates to live in Manhattan's fancy Upper East Side—which is also where Cates has operated an upscale boutique, called Blue Tree, since 2005. The store started off selling expensive designer toys, but has expanded to include clothing, housewares, and specialty foods. "I always wanted to have a general store," she told USA Today in 2006. "If I could have had a photo booth and sold candy, I would have."

She still attends industry events

Cates hasn't totally turned her back on the entertainment industry. She's been spotted on the red carpet of big events with her husband Kevin Kline. For example, Cates attended the 2017 Tony Awards, where Kline won for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for Present Laughter. Cates also participates in reunions and retrospectives—in 2015, she attended an event at the Anthology Film Archives honoring Dick Miller, her co-star in Gremlins. Cates, Miller, and Zack Galligan also participated in a Q&A. Cates spoke about how she's still proud of the practical effects used in the Gremlins movies, which she prefers over today's CGI-driven trickery, lamenting, "Movies aren't really made that way anymore."