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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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8 Gonzo Facts About Hunter S. Thompson
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Hunter S. Thompson in Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson (2008)
Magnolia Pictures

Like any real-life legend, there are many myths surrounding the life and work of Hunter S. Thompson. But in Thompson’s case, most of those stories—particularly the more outlandish ones—are absolutely true. The founder of the “Gonzo journalism” movement is one of the most fascinating figures of the 20th century. In celebration of what would have been his 80th birthday, here are some things you might not have known about the eccentric writer.

1. HE WAS NAMED AFTER A FAMOUS SCOTTISH SURGEON.

Hunter S. Thompson was reportedly named after one of his mother’s ancestors, a Scottish surgeon named Nigel John Hunter. But Hunter wasn't just your run-of-the-mill surgeon. In a 2004 interview with the Independent, Thompson brought along a copy of The Reluctant Surgeon, a Biography of Nigel John Hunter, a biography of his namesake, which read: "A gruff Scotsman, Hunter has been described as the most important naturalist between Aristotle and Darwin, the Shakespeare of medicine and the greatest man the British ever produced. He was the first to trace the lymphatic system. He performed the first human artificial insemination. He was the greatest collector of anatomical specimens in history. He prescribed the orthopaedic shoe that allowed Lord Byron to walk."

When pressed about what that description had to do with him, Thompson responded: "Well, I guess that might be the secret of my survival. Good genes."

2. HE MISSED HIS HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION … BECAUSE HE WAS IN JAIL.

Just a few weeks before he was set to graduate from high school, at the age of 17, Thompson was charged as an accessory to robbery and sentenced to 60 days in jail. 

“One night Ralston Steenrod, who was in the Athenaeum with Hunter, was driving, and Hunter and another guy he knew were in the car,” Thompson’s childhood friend Neville Blakemore recalled of the incident. “As they were driv­ing through Cherokee Park, the other guy said, ‘Stop. I want to bum a ciga­rette from that car.’ People used to go park and neck at this spot. And the guy got out and apparently went back and mugged them. The guy who was mugged got their license number and traced the car, and within a very short time they were all three arrested.

“Just before this Hunter had been blamed for a nighttime gas-station rob­bery,” Blakemore added, “and before that he and some friends got arrested for buying booze under­age at Abe's Liquor Store on Frankfort Avenue by the tracks. So Hunter had a record, and he was already on probation. He was given an ultimatum: jail or the military. And Hunter took the Air Force. He didn't graduate with his class.”

3. IT WAS A FELLOW JOURNALIST WHO COINED THE TERM “GONZO.”

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While covering the 1968 New Hampshire primary, Thompson met fellow writer and editor Bill Carodoso, editor of The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, which is where Thompson first heard him use the word “Gonzo.” “It meant sort of ‘crazy’ or ‘off-the-wall,’” Thompson said in Anita Thompson’s Ancient Gonzo Wisdom: Interviews with Hunter S. Thompson. Two years later, in June 1970, Thompson wrote an article for Scanlan’s Monthly entitled “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved,” which became a game-changing moment in journalism because of its offbeat, slightly manic style that was written with first-person subjectivity.

Among the many fellow journalists who praised Thompson for the piece was Cardoso, who sent a letter to Thompson that “said something like, ‘Forget all the sh*t you’ve been writing, this is it; this is pure Gonzo.’ Gonzo. Yeah, of course. That’s what I was doing all the time. Of course, I might be crazy.” Thompson ran with the word, and would use it himself for the first time a year later, in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

4. HE TYPED OUT FAMOUS NOVELS TO LEARN THE ART OF WRITING.

In order to get the “feel” of being a writer, Thompson used to retype his favorite novels in full. “[H]is true model and hero was F. Scott Fitzgerald,” Louis Menand wrote in The New Yorker. “He used to type out pages from The Great Gatsby, just to get the feeling, he said, of what it was like to write that way, and Fitzgerald’s novel was continually on his mind while he was working on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which was published, after a prolonged and agonizing compositional nightmare, in 1972.”

"If you type out somebody's work, you learn a lot about it,” Thompson told Charlie Rose in 1997. “Amazingly it's like music. And from typing out parts of Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald—these were writers that were very big in my life and the lives of the people around me—so yeah, I wanted to learn from the best I guess."

5. HE RAN FOR SHERIFF IN COLORADO.

In 1970, Thompson ran for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado on what he called the Freak Power ticket. Among his political tactics: shaving his head so that he could refer to his opponent as his “long-haired opponent,” promising to eat mescaline while on duty, and campaigning to rename Aspen “Fat City” to deter "greed heads, land-rapers, and other human jackals from capitalizing on the name 'Aspen.'" Unfortunately, he lost.

6. HE STOLE A MEMENTO FROM ERNEST HEMINGWAY.

In 1964, three years after Ernest Hemingway committed suicide at his cabin in Ketchum, Idaho, Thompson traveled to the late author’s home in order to write “What Lured Hemingway to Ketchum?” While there, according to his widow, Hunter “got caught up in the moment” and took “a big pair of elk horns over the front door.” Last year, more than a decade after Thompson’s death, Anita returned the antlers to the Hemingway family—which is something she and Hunter had always planned to do. “They were warm and kind of tickled … they were so open and grateful, there was no weirdness,” Anita said.

7. HE ONCE USED THE INSIDE OF MUSICIAN JOHN OATES’ COLORADO CABIN AS HIS PERSONAL PARKING SPACE.

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Earlier this month, musician John Oates—the latter half of Hall & Oates—shared a story about his ranch in Woody Creek, Colorado, just outside of Aspen, which is currently on the market for $6 million. In an interview with Colorado Public Radio, Oates recalled how when he first purchased the cabin, there was a red convertible parked inside. “I happened to ask the real estate agent who owned the convertible, and he said ‘your neighbor Hunter Thompson,’” Oates said. “Why is he keeping his car in a piece of property he doesn’t own? The real estate agent looked at me and said ‘It’s Woody Creek, you’ll figure this out. It’s a different kind of place.’” After sending several letters to his neighbor to retrieve his vehicle, Oates took matters into his own hands and deposited the car on Thompson’s lawn. Oates said that the two became friends, but never mentioned the incident.

8. AT HIS FUNERAL, HIS ASHES WERE SHOT OUT OF A CANNON.

On February 20, 2005—at the age of 67—Thompson committed suicide. But Thompson wasn’t about to leave this world quietly. In August of that year, in accordance with his wishes, Thompson's ashes were shot into the air from a cannon while fireworks filled the sky.

“He loved explosions," his widow, Anita, told ESPN, which wrote that, “The private celebration included actors Bill Murray and Johnny Depp, rock bands, blowup dolls and plenty of liquor to honor Thompson, who killed himself six months ago at the age of 67.”

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15 Memorable Quotes from George A. Romero
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Hollywood has lost one of its most iconic horror innovators with the death of George A. Romero, who passed away on Sunday at the age of 77. “He died peacefully in his sleep, following a brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer, and leaves behind a loving family, many friends, and a filmmaking legacy that has endured, and will continue to endure, the test of time,” his manager, Chris Roe, said in a statement.

Though he rose to prominence as the master of zombie flicks, beginning with Night of the Living Dead, Romero honed his filmmaking skills on a far less frightening set: shooting bits for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

“I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made,” Romero once said. “What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.” (Rogers returned the favor by being a longtime champion of Romero’s work—and even called Dawn of the Dead “a lot of fun.”)

It’s that high-spirited sense of fun that made Romero’s work so iconic—and kept the New York City native busy for nearly 50 years. To celebrate his life and career, here are 15 of his most memorable quotes on everything from the humanity of zombies to the horror of Hollywood producers.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING A SENSE OF HUMOR

“For a Catholic kid in parochial school, the only way to survive the beatings—by classmates, not the nuns—was to be the funny guy.”

ON THE HOLLYWOOD WAY

“If I fail, the film industry writes me off as another statistic. If I succeed, they pay me a million bucks to fly out to Hollywood and fart.”

ON BEING PIGEONHOLED

“As a filmmaker you get typecast just as much as an actor does, so I'm trapped in a genre that I love, but I'm trapped in it!”

ON ZOMBIES AS A METAPHOR

“I also have always liked the monster within idea. I like the zombies being us. Zombies are the blue-collar monsters.”

ON FINDING OBJECTIVITY AS A FILMMAKER

“There are so many factors when you think of your own films. You think of the people you worked on it with, and somehow forget the movie. You can't forgive the movie for a long time. It takes a few years to look at it with any objectivity and forgive its flaws.”

ON THE REAL VALUE OF THE INTERNET

“What the Internet's value is that you have access to information but you also have access to every lunatic that's out there that wants to throw up a blog.”

ON THE HORROR OF DEALING WITH PRODUCERS

“I'll never get sick of zombies. I just get sick of producers.”

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF COLLABORATION

“Collaborate, don’t dictate.”

ON THE BEAUTY OF LOW-BUDGET MOVIEMAKING

“I don't think you need to spend $40 million to be creepy. The best horror films are the ones that are much less endowed.”

ON HUMANS BEING THE REAL VILLAINS

“My zombies will never take over the world because I need the humans. The humans are the ones I dislike the most, and they're where the trouble really lies.”

ON BEING IMMUNE TO TRENDS

“Somehow I've been able to keep standing and stay in my little corner and do my little stuff and I'm not particularly affected by trends or I'm not dying to make a 3-D movie or anything like that. I'm just sort of happy to still be around.”

ON THE HUMANITY OF HORROR

“My stories are about humans and how they react, or fail to react, or react stupidly. I'm pointing the finger at us, not at the zombies. I try to respect and sympathize with the zombies as much as possible.”

ON THE ENDURING APPEAL OF HORROR

“If one horror film hits, everyone says, 'Let's go make a horror film.' It's the genre that never dies.”

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF SURROUNDING ZOMBIES WITH STUPID PEOPLE

“A zombie film is not fun without a bunch of stupid people running around and observing how they fail to handle the situation.”

ON LIFE AFTER DEATH

“I'm like my zombies. I won't stay dead!”

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