21. Stanley Kubrick
Directing classics such as A Clockwork Orange
, Full Metal Jacket
, The Shining
, 2001: A Space Odyssey
, the list goes on
Kubrick felt strongly that there was no need to explain his films or to add anything to them through interviews, and therefore granted few. He did most of his work from his home in England and rarely traveled due to a fear of flying. He was also rarely photographed, so that even at the height of his career, many fans didn’t know what he looked like. This allowed Alan Conway, a con man, to go around the UK impersonating Kubrick for quite some time, gaining entrance into parties and nightclubs. The story is the subject of 2007’s Color Me Kubrick
, starring John Malkovich. The authentic Kubrick died in 1999.
Famous For: His work with the Beach Boys, the iconic Pet Sounds
Reclusive Tendencies: After finding success with the Beach Boys, Wilson fell off the map due to problems with drugs “so much so that he lost a lot of his money, his family left him. It wasn’t until he finally cleaned up in the late 1990s that he could get back into music,” says Dr. Stephen Valdez, who teaches History of Rock and Roll at the University of Georgia.
23. Bill Watterson
Famous For: Creating the adventures of a boy and his tiger in Calvin and Hobbes
Reclusive Tendencies: In what’s thought to be his first interview in over 20 years, a terse e-mail exchange with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Watterson showed little patience for the sentimentality many feel about him and his comic strip, praising fans who “are willing to give me some room to go on with my life.”
Famous For: One of the best and most controversial players the Red Sox ever had, arguably the greatest hitter of all time
Reclusive Tendencies: Many a reclusive life is created when a person reaches notoriety only to discover he can’t handle the scrutiny and intrusion of the press. Williams was the sort of man who couldn’t let the prying and criticism roll off his back, and he became increasingly embattled with Boston’s sportswriters during his illustrious career, eventually spilling his ire over to the fans as well. Eventually, it was just too much for him, so he moved to Florida, where he enjoyed fishing and mostly kept the press at arms length, though his interview with Esquire in 1986 spawned a profile that is widely considered one of the greatest pieces of sportswriting ever written. The Hall of Famer died in 2002.
25. David Letterman
Famous For: Hosting the Late Show with David Letterman
Reclusive Tendencies: In his first monologue following Salinger’s death, Letterman declared himself “now the world’s most famous living recluse.” We’re not sure how this can be considering he hosts a late-night show five nights a week, but perhaps his announcement is the beginning of a sure-to-be-rewarding career as a recluse that will one day find him joining the ranks of Salinger, Pynchon and Howard Hughes. Then again, maybe not.