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13 Musings On the Art of Acting From Meryl Streep

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Meryl Streep really needs no introduction: She's widely considered to be one of the best film actors alive. She's portrayed real women like Julia Child, Margaret Thatcher and Karen Silkwood to legendary effect, and brought to life fictional ones as wide ranging as Sophie Zawistowski and Miranda Priestly. Anyone who's seen her knows Streep's ability to enchant audiences and critics with her chameleon-like ability to fully inhabit the characters she plays. Her incredible career—marked by record-setting nominations and wins (including three Oscars, two Emmys, and eight Golden Globes)—makes her more than qualified to share some words of wisdom on the art and craft of acting.

1. ON THE VALUE OF ACTING.

“I think there’s great worth in it. And the worth is in listening to people who maybe don’t even exist, or who are voices in your past, and through you, come through the work and you give them to other people. I think that giving voice to characters that have no other voice—that’s the great worth of what we do.”

— From a 1998 appearance on Inside The Actors Studio

2. ON HOW SHE CREATES A CHARACTER.

“I have been smug and willfully ignorant. I've cultivated a deliberate reluctance to investigate my own method of working because I'm afraid of killing the goose. I'm afraid if I parse it I won't be able to do it anymore.”

— From a 2006 lecture at Princeton University

3. ON WHAT SHE HAS ACHIEVED.

“My achievement, if you can call it that, is that I've basically pretended to be extraordinary people my entire life, and now I'm being mistaken for one.”

—From a 2006 lecture at Princeton University

4. ON WHAT YOUNG ACTORS SHOULD STUDY.

“My own bias is to educate yourself in everything but acting. Learn about the world. Learn about everything else. Learn about the human condition. That's the kind of actor I wanted to be. I'm curious about everything and everybody and not to limit myself with a certain kind of acting.”

—From a 2014 interview with the Hartford Courant

5. ON BEING A CELEBRITY VS. BEING AN ACTOR.

“Being a celebrity has taught me to hide, but being an actor has opened my soul.”

— From her 2010 commencement speech at Barnard College

6. ON BEING CALLED THE GREATEST ACTRESS OF ALL TIME.

“I don't think of myself as the greatest anything—cook, housekeeper, actor or developer of material. I don't think there's the best of anything.”

— From a 2010 visit to the University of Texas theater department

7. ON PLAYING JULIA CHILD AND MARGARET THATCHER.

Columbia Pictures

“Julia Child's so alive. Margaret is so designed, so intent upon making her point. That's the most important thing—that she win the argument—and there is nothing that stands in the way of that train. Julia's just alive in front of you; that's part of why people loved her.”

— From a 2012 interview with NPR

8. ON THE IMPORTANCE OF CURIOSITY.

“…I don't think you can really be an effective actor if you're not curious about people and events. And if you're interested in things, you want to go deeper and you want to know more. At least, the thing [that's always] ignited my own excitement about working is to know more about somebody: What made them do this? What in God's name went wrong?”

— From a 2010 speech at the University of Texas

9. ON HER STAGE FRIGHT.

“It's odd: I have this career that spans continents, but the pathetic thing is that I can't get up in front of people and speak. I get really, really nervous … Fiction is something you can lie down and wrap yourself up in. In reality, you're alone on the mountaintop in the wind and the storm, and you don't know if you're going to be blown away. In the movies, I know the ending. It's the first thing I read.”

— From a 1988 feature in Interview Magazine

10. ON CAREER UNCERTAINTY.

“The uncertainly is going to be there. You're going to be unemployed for months at a time if you're looking over a 40-year period. I said you have to really make sure you've got your life right, to keep your friends close. Relationships matter. Your career is one thing but your life's work should be in your relationships—which are going to sustain you.”

— From a 2014 interview with the Hartford Courant

11. ON WHAT SHE WISHES SHE HAD KNOWN WHEN SHE WAS YOUNGER.

Warner Bros.

“I think the power of optimism and understanding what kind of stamina it takes to be an actor. And I don't mean just physical stamina—spiritual, mental, character stamina. Because it's very hard to be rejected or have bad reviews, or if you do become successful, to feel the chattering about you in other ways. It's kind of weird.”

— From a 2010 speech at the University of Texas

12. ON WORK/LIFE BALANCE.

“You have to get your life right before you can get your art going. At least for me the things that matter most are peripheral to my awards or parts I've played, my life is what matters.”

— From a 2010 visit to the University of Texas theater department

13. ON THE CHARACTERS SHE FEELS DRAWN TO PORTRAY.

TriStar Pictures

“…I've always been drawn to characters who are difficult to translate to other people, prissy women, disagreeable women, women whose motives are easily misconstrued, women who are hard to love.”

— From a 2006 lecture at Princeton University

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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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