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11 Amazing Actors Who Appeared in Commercials

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Who can resist the allure of cold, hard cash? For that matter, who can resist it when the finished product is only a minute or two long? No, these folks aren’t just lending their voices. For better or worse, you can see their faces and everything.

1. Sir Laurence Olivier for Polaroid

Olivier did only one commercial in his career, this 1972 spot for the Polaroid SX-70. He was paid $350,000, and insisted that it not be shown in England. He still makes a persuasive case!

2. Nancy Marchand for Wonder Bread

Known for her ferocious portrayal of mob matriarch Livia Soprano in The Sopranos, Marchand also played newspaper publisher Margaret Pynchon in Lou Grant (1977 to 1982). It’s that earlier role that seems to inform this spot, which uses Marchand’s no-nonsense delivery to tout the health benefits of white bread.

3. James Gandolfini for American Airlines

Staying with Sopranos cast members for a moment, Tony Soprano himself (also known as James Gandolfini) starred in a series of spots for the air carrier.

4. Al Pacino for Sky Fibre

Pacino’s known for playing outrageous guys in films such as Scarface and Scent of a Woman, so it’s no great stretch to imagine him living the crazed life shown here. But why the commercial ends up being a British spot for broadband internet—well, that’s a greater mystery.

5. Orson Welles for Paul Masson

In his later years, master director and actor Welles was in dire straits. He could never find the financing needed to produce or finish the ambitious films he envisioned, so he tried to work his way to solvency. He appeared in many commercials, and in nearly any film that would have him. His spots for Paul Masson wines are some of his most famous—although he clearly wasn’t the easiest person to work with.

6. Robert DeNiro for American Express

There’s a twofer going on in this ad, an especially lustrous example of the celebrity-driven spots that have long been an American Express trademark. The star is Robert DeNiro (who manages to work in some promo for his Tribeca Film Festival) and the director is longtime DeNiro collaborator Martin Scorsese. If all this seems too highfalutin for you, you can always check out DeNiro in this pre-fame car ad. Or perhaps dressed up as a pilgrim.

7. Meryl Streep, also for American Express

We said it was a trademark.

8. Kevin Spacey for Olympus

There must be something about cameras and heavy-hitting actors. Here Mr. House of Cards himself, Kevin Spacey, makes the case for the Olympus Pen camera.

9. Bill Murray for the Charleston RiverDogs

As explained in the ad itself, actor and comedian Murray co-owns the minor league Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs. He also serves as their “Director of Fun.” A pre-existing hall-of-fame speech is used as source material for this commercial, which is better than Garfield.

10. Jimmy Stewart for Firestone Tires

Screen icon Stewart’s career was on a downward slope by the late ’70s and early ’80s, when he starred in a series of elaborate ads (check out the period costumes!) for Firestone tires. But his contract with the company was still worth some $1 million. According to a spokesman, Stewart had ''warm personal relations with the Firestone family.” A cool million will do that.

11. Bette Davis for General Electric

Television was in its infancy in 1933, when a young Davis appeared in this promotional film for GE’s astonishing appliances. But it wasn’t meant for TV—it was instead shown in movie theaters, where such ads were becoming a controversial way to pitch products.

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John Gooch/Keystone/Getty Images
The Time Douglas Adams Met Jim Henson
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John Gooch/Keystone/Getty Images

On September 13, 1983, Jim Henson and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams had dinner for the first time. Henson, who was born on this day in 1936, noted the event in his "Red Book" journal, in characteristic short-form style: "Dinner with Douglas Adams – 1st met." Over the next few years the men discussed how they might work together—they shared interests in technology, entertainment, and education, and ended up collaborating on several projects (including a Labyrinth video game). They also came up with the idea for a "Muppet Institute of Technology" project, a computer literacy TV special that was never produced. Henson historians described the project as follows:

Adams had been working with the Henson team that year on the Muppet Institute of Technology project. Collaborating with Digital Productions (the computer animation people), Chris Cerf, Jon Stone, Joe Bailey, Mark Salzman and Douglas Adams, Jim’s goal was to raise awareness about the potential for personal computer use and dispel fears about their complexity. In a one-hour television special, the familiar Muppets would (according to the pitch material), “spark the public’s interest in computing,” in an entertaining fashion, highlighting all sorts of hardware and software being used in special effects, digital animation, and robotics. Viewers would get a tour of the fictional institute – a series of computer-generated rooms manipulated by the dean, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and stumble on various characters taking advantage of computers’ capabilities. Fozzie, for example, would be hard at work in the “Department of Artificial Stupidity,” proving that computers are only as funny as the bears that program them. Hinting at what would come in The Jim Henson Hour, viewers, “…might even see Jim Henson himself using an input device called a ‘Waldo’ to manipulate a digitally-controlled puppet.”

While the show was never produced, the development process gave Jim and Douglas Adams a chance to get to know each other and explore a shared passion. It seems fitting that when production started on the 2005 film of Adams’s classic Hitchhiker’s Guide, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop would create animatronic creatures like the slovenly Vogons, the Babel Fish, and Marvin the robot, perhaps a relative of the robot designed by Michael Frith for the MIT project.

You can read a bit on the project more from Muppet Wiki, largely based on the same article.

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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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