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10 Famous Actors Who Started Out in Commercials

Actors' relationships with TV jingles are sort of like that old riddle: What walks on four legs in the morning, two at noon and three at dawn? (Or maybe more like how we start in Pampers and end up in Depends.) Lots of well-known actors wind up paying the rent at the end of their careers doing commercials (think: Orson Welles "We will sell no wine before it's time"), but just as many, if not more, get their first big breaks doing them, too. The good news for us is, whether it's hawking dish soap or expounding on the wonders of Castrol motor oil, these slightly embarrassing moments are never more than a click away.

1. Lindsay Lohan

Her career may have fizzled in recent years, but there was a time when Lindsay Lohan appeared in just about every commercial calling for a preteen girl with freckles. Although she initially had little success landing roles, when it came time for an audition for a Duncan Hines commercial, Lohan told her mother that she would quit acting all together if she did not get the job. Her can-do attitude proved effective, and she was hired. She eventually went on to appear in over 60 commercials, including this Jell-O spot with Bill Cosby.

2. John Travolta

For a brief period in the early seventies, John Travolta seemingly made a living out of singing with men in the shower. He starred in a pair of athletic-themed commercials, one for Safeguard and the other for Band Aids, which feature his grinning self enjoying a well-deserved rinse with his teammates. BTW: the famous Band Aid tune was penned by none other than Barry Manilow.

3. Farrah Fawcett

Like countless other starlets, the late Farrah Fawcett was discovered when a Hollywood publicist saw her photo in a magazine and urged her to move to Los Angeles. It would be many years before she would receive a similar call from Aaron Spelling, producer of Charlie's Angels. In the meantime, the only work the Texas native could find was in commercials. And boy did she do plenty, from Ultra Brite Toothpaste to this now classic Noxzema shaving cream spot with Joe Namath.

4. Dakota Fanning

She may only be fifteen, but Dakota Fanning has been acting pretty regularly for most of her life. She attended a juvenile playhouse near her home in Georgia, where the children put on a play each week to show to their parents. Dakota immediately stood out and her parents were advised to take her on auditions in Los Angeles. Within six weeks of arriving in sunny California, the ambitious five-year old had beat out countless other children for a starring role in this national Tide commercial.

5. Leonardo DiCaprio

Unlike the majority of his A-list counterparts, who'd rather forget those loathsome days as lowly commercial actors, Leonardo DiCaprio continues to make a lucrative side living by appearing in Japanese car commercials. In this early spot for Honda, an enthused Leo declares, "It's a miracle!" before he and his Japanese girlfriend embark on a road trip. The techno version of "You Are My Sunshine" is priceless.

6. Tobey Maguire

Before he was battling the Green Goblin as Spiderman, Tobey Maguire considered becoming a professional chef. He enrolled in a drama class instead and booked his very first commercial for Doritos while still in eighth grade. Maguire recalled the experience: ""¦there were four days in a row of eating them, and I will tell you, I have not eaten many Doritos since." Perhaps his love of cooking came in handy after the shoot.

7. Wesley Snipes

Few actors desire to work exclusively in TV commercials. But that was certainly the case with Wesley Snipes when he was starting out. Rather than hone his acting chops in movies and TV, the star of Major League and the Blade movies simply wanted to act in commercials. "When it came to doing films, my biggest goal was to do a commercial," he recalled. Here's a parody of Snipes in a Levis commercial from the 80s.

8. Jodie Foster

The Academy Award winning actress began her career at the age of three as the Coppertone Girl. She would go on to make dozens of more commercial appearances before landing her breakout movie role as a teenage prostitute in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. Here she appears with Henry Fonda in a 1971 spot for the GAF Viewmaster.

9. Keanu Reeves

One would be hard pressed not to see Keanu Reeves in a commercial during the 1980s. His most memorable role was a spot for Coca Cola. The teenage Keanu played a biker who falls behind in a race but comes back to make a valiant second place finish. As Reeves recalled, he became frustrated during the shoot when the director asked him to take huge gulps of the soda on multiple takes. "I had the classic experience of having to drink the drink, like, six times with the director saying, 'OK, now grab the drink. You're the thirstiest guy in the desert and this is water.'" The coaxing paid off and Reeves was cast alongside Rob Lowe in Youngblood shortly after.

10. Tom Selleck

After a couple of failed appearances on The Dating Game in the late sixties, Tom Selleck turned to commercials. The star of Magnum P.I. never shied away from meatier roles in film and TV (he starred in six failed pilots before hitting it big with Magnum), but realized he had to supplement his income somehow if he wanted to continue acting. He appeared in commercials for Pepsi and this spot for Close Up Toothpaste.

Of course, there are so many more. What other jingles do you remember with young, soon-to-be stars in them?

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10 People Who Have Misplaced Their Oscars
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Winning an Oscar is, for most, a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. Unless you’re Walt Disney, who won 22. Nevertheless, owning a little gold guy is such a rarity that you’d think their owners would be a little more careful with them. Now, not all of these losses are the winners' fault—but some of them certainly are, Colin Firth.

1. ANGELINA JOLIE

After Angelina Jolie planted a kiss on her brother and made the world wrinkle their noses, she went onstage and collected a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Lisa in Girl, Interrupted. She later presented the trophy to her mother, Marcheline Bertrand. The statuette may have been boxed up and put into storage with the rest of Marcheline’s belongings when she died in 2007, but it hasn’t yet surfaced. “I didn’t actually lose it,” Jolie said, “but nobody knows where it is at the moment.”

2. WHOOPI GOLDBERG

In 2002, Whoopi Goldberg sent her Ghost Best Supporting Actress Oscar back to the Academy to have it cleaned and detailed, because apparently you can do that. The Academy then sent the Oscar on to R.S. Owens Co. of Chicago, the company that manufactures the trophies. When it arrived in the Windy City, however, the package was empty. It appeared that someone had opened the UPS package, removed the Oscar, then neatly sealed it all back up and sent it on its way. It was later found in a trash can at an airport in Ontario, California. The Oscar was returned to the Academy, who returned it to Whoopi without cleaning it. “Oscar will never leave my house again,” Goldberg said.

3. OLYMPIA DUKAKIS

When Olympia Dukakis’s Moonstruck Oscar was stolen from her home in 1989, she called the Academy to see if it could be replaced. “For $78,” they said, and she agreed that it seemed like a fair price. It was the only thing taken from the house.

4. MARLON BRANDO

“I don’t know what happened to the Oscar they gave me for On the Waterfront,” Marlon Brando wrote in his autobiography. “Somewhere in the passage of time it disappeared.” He also didn't know what happened to the Oscar that he had Sacheen Littlefeather accept for him in 1973. “The Motion Picture Academy may have sent it to me, but if it did, I don’t know where it is now.”

5. JEFF BRIDGES

Jeff Bridges had just won his Oscar in 2010 for his portrayal of alcoholic country singer Bad Blake in Crazy Heart, but it was already missing by the next year’s ceremony, where he was up for another one. He lost to Colin Firth for The King’s Speech. “It’s been in a few places since last year but I haven’t seen it for a while now,” the actor admitted. “I’m hoping it will turn up, especially now that I haven’t won a spare! But Colin deserves it. I just hope he looks after it better.” Which brings us to ...

6. COLIN FIRTH

Perhaps Jeff Bridges secretly cursed the British actor as he said those words, because Firth nearly left his new trophy on a toilet tank the very night he received it. After a night of cocktails at the Oscar after-parties in 2011, Firth allegedly had to be chased down by a bathroom attendant, who had found the eight-pound statuette in the bathroom stall. Notice we said allegedly: Shortly after those reports surfaced, Firth's rep issued a statement saying the "story is completely untrue. Though it did give us a good laugh."

7. MATT DAMON

When newbie writers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck took home Oscars for writing Good Will Hunting in 1998, it was one of those amazing Academy Award moments. Now, though, Damon isn’t sure where his award went. “I know it ended up at my apartment in New York, but unfortunately, we had a flood when one of the sprinklers went off when my wife and I were out of town and that was the last I saw of it,” Damon said in 2007.

8. MARGARET O'BRIEN

In 1945, seven-year-old Margaret O’Brien was presented with a Juvenile Academy Award for being the outstanding child actress of the year. About 10 years later, the O’Briens’ maid took the award home to polish, as she had done before, but never came back to work. The missing Oscar was forgotten about when O’Brien’s mother died shortly thereafter, and when Margaret finally remembered to call the maid, the number had been disconnected. She ended up receiving a replacement from the Academy.

There’s a happy ending to this story, though. In 1995, a couple of guys were picking their way through a flea market when they happened upon the Oscar. They put it up for auction, which is when word got back to the Academy that the missing trophy had resurfaced. The guys who found the Oscar pulled it from auction and presented it, in person, to Margaret O’Brien. “I’ll never give it to anyone to polish again,” she said.

9. BING CROSBY

For years, Bing Crosby's Oscar for 1944’s Going My Way had been on display at his alma mater, Gonzaga University. In 1972, students walked into the school’s library to find that the 13-inch statuette had been replaced with a three-inch Mickey Mouse figurine instead. A week later, the award was found, unharmed, in the university chapel. “I wanted to make people laugh,” the anonymous thief later told the school newspaper.

10. HATTIE MCDANIEL

Hattie McDaniel, famous for her Supporting Actress win as Mammy in Gone with the Wind, donated her Best Actress Oscar to Howard University. It was displayed in the fine arts complex for a time, but went missing sometime in the 1960s. No one seems to know exactly when or how, but there are rumors that the Oscar was unceremoniously dumped into the Potomac by students angered by racial stereotypes such as the one she portrayed in the film.

An earlier version of this post ran in 2013.

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15 Wonderfully Wise Quotes From Judy Blume
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Evan Agostini, Getty Images

Judy Blume was the queen of the YA novel before the concept even existed, inspiring generations of passionate fans—and a fair share of dissenters—in her nearly 50-year career. Here are just a few of our favorite thoughts about books, writing, and life from the iconic author, who turns 80 years old today.

1. ON BEING ONE OF THE MOST BANNED AUTHORS OF THE 20TH CENTURY

“I’ll tell you what I make of that—that censors, those who want to censor, they don’t come after books until they know that kids really like them, and once kids like a book, it’s like, ‘There must be something wrong with this book, because why do the kids like it.’ You look at the banned books and you’ll see that they’re popular books with kids.”

— From a 2012 interview with PBS

2. ON THE EFFECTS OF CENSORSHIP

“But it's not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.”

— From Blume's official website

3. WHY SHE WORRIES ABOUT KIDS THESE DAYS

“Yes, I was a great daydreamer. You know what I worry about? I worry that kids today don't have enough time to just sit and daydream. I was a great pretender, always making up stories inside my head. Stories and stories and stories, but I never told anyone.”

— From an interview with Scholastic

4. ON BEING A WRITER

"Everybody who writes fiction draws from their own life, but if it ended there, it would be very boring. When I talk to kids and they say, 'How do you become a writer?', well, I don't know that you become a writer: you just are. I always had stories, they were always there inside my head."

— From a 2014 Interview with The Guardian

5. ON WRITING

"Writing saved my life. It saved me, it gave me everything, it took away all my illnesses.”

— From a 2014 Interview with The Guardian

6. ON THE CREATIVE PROCESS

“I don't understand the creative process. For years I would say one thing when kids would ask where I got my ideas. Because I was forced to think up something even though I don't really know. And now I'm just saying to people, 'I don't know. I don't understand how it works. How do I know?'”

— From an interview with January Magazine

7. ON DEALING WITH REJECTION

"It's all about your determination, I think, as much as anything. There are a lot of people with talent, but it's that determination. I mean, you know, I would cry when the rejections came in—the first couple of times, anyway—and I would go to sleep feeling down, but I would wake up in the morning optimistic and saying, 'Well, maybe they didn't like that one, but wait till they see what I'm going to do next.' And I think you just have to keep going."

— From a 2011 interview with NPR

8. ON YA AUTHORS AND BOOKS

“[My husband] George and I listened … to the first Hunger Games and we loved it. And we couldn’t wait to get my car and come home. And when we came home, I’m not sure if we’d quite finished, and we sat in the car until we finished. I did not read any of the others. I had no interest in Twilight. But I did see the first movie.”

— From a 2014 interview with Lena Dunham through KCRW

9. ON THE PROS AND CONS OF TWITTER

“I like it. It’s a tremendous—I don’t want to say waste of time, but it also … what can I say? I enjoy reading the people I follow and discovering new people. It’s a lot of fun. I get a lot of laughs from it. And it connects you; it’s nice.”

— From a 2013 interview with Vanity Fair

10. ON GETTING KIDS TO READ

“Whatever gets them excited about reading is good! If you want them to read my books don't tell them so. Maybe just leave around a paperback with a new cover and say, 'I'm not sure you're ready for that.'"

— From a 2013 Reddit AMA

11. ON HER LITERARY INSPIRATIONS

“I was so inspired by Beverly Cleary's funny and wonderful books. And also, Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy. And E. L. Konigsberg's first book, Jennifer Hecate. And my favorite books from when I was young, the Betsy-Tacy books.”

— From an interview with Scholastic

12. ON "MARGARET" AND TEENAGED JUDY

“Margaret is fiction, but based on the kind of twelve year old I was. Growing up, we did have a club like The PTKs. And Margaret's interests and concerns were similar to mine. I was small and thin when thin wasn't in. I was a late developer and was anxious to grow like my friends. Margaret was right from my own sixth grade experience. I wanted to tell the truth as I knew it.”

— From an interview with Scholastic

13. ON HOW BOOKS HELP US COMMUNICATE

“I’ve never really thought in terms of taboos. I think that books can really help parents and kids talk together about difficult subjects. I’ve always felt that way. The parent reads the book. The kid reads the book and then they can talk about the characters instead of talking about themselves. You know there’s a connection even if you don’t talk about it when you read the same books.”

— From a 2014 interview with Lena Dunham through KCR

14. ON THREE THINGS THAT WOULD SURPRISE US ABOUT HER

“I’m phobic about thunderstorms. Writing is incredibly hard for me. I’m not the world’s best mother, though kids always assume I must be. And I love a good cupcake. (I know, that makes four things, but I’m hungry and wishing I had that cupcake.)”

— From a 2012 interview with Smithsonian Magazine

15. ON REVISITING OLD CHARACTERS

"I don't want to rewrite anything. My characters are who they are. For years, people have written and asked me to let Margaret go through menopause. And it's like, 'Hey guys! Margaret is 12 and she is going to stay 12. That's who she is.' No, I don't want to rewrite any of them."

— From a 2018 interview with NPR

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