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The Unexpected Final Film Roles of 10 Well-Known Actors

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Being a legend doesn’t necessarily mean you get to go out like one. Take Orson Welles, the mastermind behind Citizen Kane, who capped his big screen career as a voice in 1986’s Transformers: The Movie. Incidentally, Scatman Crothers can make the exact same claim (minus the Citizen Kane part). The point being: Neither is exactly alone in having last roles that weren’t exactly lasting roles. Take, for instance…

1. Marlon Brando – Big Bug Man (2004)

He could’ve been a contender. He made you an offer you can’t refuse. And before Brando was said and done, he was the voice of Mrs. (yes, Mrs.) Sour in this straight-to-nowhere animated feature. To help get in character, the 80-year-old Brando reportedly showed up to the one-day recording session in a blond wig, dress and make up.

2. Groucho Marx – Skidoo (1968)

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Speaking of preparing a role, Marx definitely walked the walk in his final film as well. Cast as “God” (a mob boss) in this gonzo drug comedy, the 80-year-old Marx went as far as to try LSD for the first time. Marx later described both the movie and his appearance in it as “God-awful.”  He reportedly enjoyed his trip a little bit more.

3. Joan Crawford – Trog (1970)

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In this British horror flick, the noted hater of wire hangers plays a scientist who discovers a primitive caveman and tries to domesticate him. After that, Crawford retired from acting and did some “cave dwelling” of her own, vanishing from the public eye for the last three years of her life.

4. John Belushi – Neighbors (1981)


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His unhinged persona made him a legend. But Belushi couldn’t have played more against type in his final role, as a straight man opposite Dan Aykroyd’s manic turn as his obnoxious neighbor.  Unsurprisingly, they were originally cast in each other’s roles, and the last-minute switch was their idea. It was not well-received by the film’s producers … and the film wasn’t all that well-received by much of anyone.

5. Ethel Merman – Airplane! (1980)

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The Broadway legend last appeared on the big screen in a brief cameo, playing a wounded soldier so shell-shocked, he thinks he’s, well, Ethel Merman. Leave it to Airplane! to give someone the most meta send-off possible.

6. Ernest Borgnine – The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez (2012)

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Here’s a truly ironic swan song: The 95-year-old Borgnine playing a dude stuck in a nursing home, wishing he’d been a famous actor. In real life, he was an Academy Award-winning actor with a varied career spanning more than six decades, stuck in a film that would end up making less money than the average orderly.

7. Jimmy Stewart – Fievel Goes West (1991)

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For a guy who once uttered the line “Zuzu’s petals” with heartbreaking poignancy, Stewart might have been the only man alive who could’ve given any dignity to a dog sheriff named Wylie Burp.  

8. Fred Astaire – Ghost Story (1981)

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The dancing legend played a member of the Chowder Society—a group of old men who love scary stories—in this obscure horror flick. Acting legends Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Melvyn Douglas and John Houseman played the Chowder Society’s fellow members. Only Houseman would go on to make another film. Scary!

9. Elizabeth Taylor – These Old Broads (2001)

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After garnering her first and only Razzie nomination for her final film appearance (in 1994’s The Flintstones), the Oscar-winning, gossip-generating film legend quietly wound down her career on the small screen. This made her final film These Old Broads for ABC-TV in 2001. In it, a producer tries to reunite an aging, back-stabbing trio of legendary Hollywood actresses who can’t stand each other. Taylor played their agent.

10. Telly Savalas – Backfire! (1995)

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The “Kojak” star appeared alongside an impressive cast—including Robert Mitchum, Edie Falco, and Kathy Ireland—in this instantly-forgotten spoof of Backdraft. Telly’s role? A toilet bomber named “The Most Evil Man.”  What a way to… go.

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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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