There are few figures more comforting than Bob Ross. The landscape painter, a timestamped (thanks to the perm) relic of a nostalgic TV past, showed Americans that they, too, could create art. Ross starred in 403 episodes of his show The Joy of Painting between 1983 and 1994 before he passed away in 1995 at the age of 52. He made a miraculous streaming comeback during the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among Gen Z, and was the subject of a documentary in 2021 — and now, a new comedy titled PAINT will center a remarkably Ross-esque character.
Owen Wilson will star in PAINT, the story of a fictional public television painter from Vermont named Carle Nargle. Nargle looks a lot like Ross (see: big hair), and based on the film’s promotional still, his paintings also resemble Ross’s. According to production and distribution company IFC Films, which announced they acquired the movie’s rights last week, Nargle is “convinced he has it all: a signature perm, custom van, and fans hanging on his every stroke … until a younger, better artist steals everything (and everyone) Carl loves.”
Wilson will be one of the film’s executive producers, and Brit McAdams will direct the comedy. McAdams also wrote PAINT’s screenplay, which was included in the 2010 Black List, a prestigious repository for unproduced scripts. In the movie’s 2010 description, PAINT‘s lead character is described as “Bob Ross-esque.”
Ross’s legacy — and the question of who should steward it — has been the subject of heated controversy. After he and his wife Jane passed away, the painter’s business partners Walt and Annette Kowalski took over his estate and intellectual property, leaving Ross’s son Steve without control or ownership of his father’s image. Netflix’s 2021 documentary Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal, and Greed (2021) included less than favorable portrayals of the Kowalskis, leading to calls for a boycott of their company Bob Ross, Inc., and ultimately eliciting a disapproving statement from the estate.
PAINT will hit US theaters on April 28, 2023. Should viewers want a primer, or a heartwarming painting lesson, content from the real Bob Ross is also legally available on YouTube.