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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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Art
Get Crazy With the Official Bob Ross Coloring Book
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If you watched Bob Ross's classic series The Joy of Painting for hours on end but didn’t come away a terribly capable artist, you can still enjoy replicating the amazing public television personality’s work. You can now pretend you’re painting along with the late, great PBS star using a brand-new adult coloring book based on his art.

The Bob Ross Coloring Book (Universe) is the first authorized coloring book based on Ross’s artistic archive. Ross, who would have turned 75 later this year, was all about giving his fans the confidence to pursue art even without extensive training. “There’s an artist hidden at the bottom of every single one of us,” the gentle genius said. So what better way to honor his memory than to relax with his coloring book?

Here’s a sneak peek of some of the Ross landscapes you can recreate, all while flipping through some of his best quotes and timeless tidbits of wisdom.

An black-and-white outline of a Bob ross painting of a mountain valley

A black-and-white outline of a Bob Ross painting shows a house nestled among trees.

A black-and-white outline of a Bob Ross painting shows a farm scene.

And remember, even if you color outside the lines, it’s still a work of art. As Ross said, “We don’t make mistakes. We just have happy accidents.”

You can find The Bob Ross Coloring Book for about $14 on Amazon. Oh, and if you need even more Ross in your life, there’s now a Bob Ross wall calendar, too.

All images courtesy of Rizzoli.

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entertainment
8 Movies That Almost Starred Keanu Reeves
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He may not have the natural ease of Al Pacino, the classical training of Anthony Hopkins, the timeless cool of Jack Nicholson, or the raw versatility of Gary Oldman, but Keanu Reeves has been around long enough to have worked alongside each of those actors. Yet instead of Oscar nods, the actor whose first name means “cool breeze over the mountains” in Hawaiian has a handful of Razzie nominations.

While critical acclaim has mostly eluded Reeves during his 30-plus years in Hollywood, his movies have made nearly $2 billion at the box office. Whether because of his own choosiness or the decisions of studio powers-that-be, that tally could be much, much higher. To celebrate The Chosen One’s 53rd birthday, here are eight movies that almost starred Keanu Reeves.

1. X-MEN (2000)

In Hollywood’s version of the X-Men universe, Hugh Jackman is the definitive Wolverine. But Jackman himself was a last-minute replacement (for Dougray Scott) and other, bigger (in 2000) names were considered for the hirsute superhero—including Reeves. Ultimately, it was the studio that decided to go in a different direction, much to Reeves’ disappointment. “I always wanted to play Wolverine,” the actor told Moviefone in 2014. “But I didn't get that. And they have a great Wolverine now. I always wanted to play The Dark Knight. But I didn't get that one. They've had some great Batmans. So now I'm just enjoying them as an audience.”

2. PLATOON (1986)

For an action star, Reeves isn’t a huge fan of violence, which is why he passed on playing the lead in Oliver Stone’s Oscar-winning Vietnam classic. “Keanu turned it down because of the violence,” Stone told Entertainment Weekly in 2011. “He didn’t want to do violence.”

3. THE FLY II (1989)

Few people would likely mistake Reeves for the son of Jeff Goldblum, but producers were anxious to see him play the next generation of Goldblum’s insectile role in the sequel to The Fly. But Reeves wasn’t having any of it. Why? Simple: “I didn't like the script,” he told Movieline in 1990.

4. SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL (1997)

Speaking of sequels (and bad scripts): Reeves was ready to reprise his role as Jack Traven in Jan de Bont’s second go at the series … then he read it. “When I was offered Speed 2, Jan came to Chicago and so did Sandra, and they said, ‘You’ve got to do this,’” Reeves recalled to The Telegraph. “And I said, 'I read the script and I can’t. It’s called Speed, and it’s on a cruise ship.” (He's got a point.)

Even when the studio dangled a $12 million paycheck in front of him, Reeves said no. “I told [William Mechanic, then-head of Fox], ‘If I do this film, I will not come back up. You guys will send me to the bottom of the ocean and I will not make it back up again.’ I really felt like I was fighting for my life.”

5. HEAT (1995)

Reeves’ refusal to cave on Speed 2 didn’t sit well in Hollywood circles. And it didn't help that he also passed on playing Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer’s role) in Michael Mann’s Heat in order to spend a month playing Hamlet at Canada’s Manitoba Theatre Centre. From that point on, Reeves told The Telegraph that it’s been a struggle for him to book any studio movies. “That’s a good old Hollywood story! That was a whole, 'Hey, kid, this is what happens in Hollywood: I said no to the number two and I never worked with the studio again!’”

6. BOWFINGER (1999)

By the time Frank Oz’s Bowfinger rolled around, Eddie Murphy was pretty much the go-to guy for any dual role part, but the movie wasn’t always intended to play that way. Steve Martin, who both starred in and wrote the movie, had actually penned the part of Kit Ramsey for Reeves (whom he had worked with a decade earlier in Parenthood).

“When Steve gave me the script for Bowfinger, it wasn't written for Eddie Murphy,” producer Brian Grazer explained. “It was written for a white action star. It was written for Keanu Reeves, literally. I said, 'Why does it have to be an action star?' He said, 'That's the joke.' I said: 'What if it were Eddie Murphy, and Eddie Murphy played two characters? That could be really funny.' He said: 'You know, that'd be great—that'd be brilliant. Let's do that.' He processed it in about a minute, and he made a creative sea change.”

7. WATCHMEN (2009)

A year before Zack Snyder’s Watchmen hit theaters, Reeves confirmed to MTV what many had speculated: that he had turned down the chance to play Dr. Manhattan in the highly anticipated adaptation. But it wasn’t because of lack of interest on Reeves’ part; it just “didn't work out.” Still, he made it as far as a set visit: “They were shooting in Vancouver while we were filming so I went over to the set to say, 'hi.' They showed me some stuff and it looks amazing! I can’t wait. It’s going to be so killer, man!”

8. TROPIC THUNDER (2008)

By the time Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder made its way into theaters in the summer of 2008, the meta-comedy had been more than a decade in the making. So it’s understandable that the final product veered from Stiller’s original plan for the film, which included Reeves playing the role of Tugg Speedman (Stiller’s eventual part). Initially, Stiller had planned to cast himself as smarmy agent Rick Peck (Matthew McConaughey picked up the slack).

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