It may be hard to believe, but a new film has been released that centers on the life of a very famous public television painter and it is not about the late Bob Ross. Ross died in 1995, but his legacy has endured for decades and he’s even become an internet icon. Although the film and its lead character may have been heavily influenced by Ross, both are fictional. Beyond his occupation and his look, the lead character doesn’t share much in common with the real Ross.
The film is not an homage to Ross
Paint is a 2023 indie comedy that was written and directed by Brit McAdams. It stars Owen Wilson as Carl Nargle, a Burlington, Vermont artist who is the star of a natural landscapes painting program broadcast on PBS. He is a local legend, but his fame becomes threatened when a new artist comes to town.
There are multiple aspects of the film that bear a striking resemblance to Ross’ life. Ross was the true-life PBS painting legend, with his show, The Joy of Painting, being broadcast on the network for a whopping 31 seasons. Ross was known for both his permed hairstyle as well as his soothing approach to painting tutorials, both of which are also characteristics of Nargle’s persona.
However, Wilson has made it very clear that this film is not a biopic, and the character he plays is not Bob Ross. He explained that Nargle is a megalomaniac and a womanizer, two things that Ross surely was not.
Wilson had a fun time with the character
Despite Nargle’s character being entirely fictionalized, it’s clear that his career and looks were inspired by Ross. “He was very much [an inspiration] to Brit, probably, when he was writing it,” Wilson explained. Wilson said he had a good time playing the unique character, as he seemed like a few people Wilson saw growing up.
“I grew up in the late-’70s and early-’80s, and this is a look, that Bob Ross had — and also [singer] Gordon Lightfoot — that you would see back then,” Wilson said. “And it was a fun character to play. And also playing a character who is kind of stuck in his own time, I thought that was kind of funny. Somebody was just committed to the way they look, and they don’t need to change anything cause everything’s working, until it’s not.”
Wilson admits he did take inspiration from the late artist
It was a good thing the character wasn’t meant to be Ross, as Wilson said he would’ve struggled with nailing an accurate impersonation. “Brit hadn’t mentioned anything about doing [an impression], thankfully, cause that probably would’ve made me more nervous cause I’m not good at doing voices and things,” Wilson said.
Even though he couldn’t perfectly imitate Ross, he still felt inspired by him so he simply took elements of the great, late artist and brought them to the character. Wilson continued, “… I did watch some of the shows and his dialogue is so good. It’s just kind of the way he spoke. You can see why he has endured, because there is a really nice quality that comes through him and those shows that makes you kind of feel good afterwards.”