In most professions, one is expected to “pay dues” and “work their way up.” It’s no different for acting.
Sure, every day in Hollywood sees reasonably attractive young folks getting off the bus from Smalltown, expecting to “get discovered” and live a life of glamor and riches. But what those poor, naive children don’t realize is that A) Hollywood really isn’t all that glamorous, and B) Even folks who “get discovered” often do so only after years, if not decades, of shilling toothpaste (if they’re lucky).
Before They Were Famous
“Getting discovered” often begins with television commercials. Child-edition Mila Kunis, Elijah Wood, Britney Spears and Leonardo DiCaprio all did commercials early in their careers.
But commercials aren’t just kid stuff. One of Keanu Reeves’ early IMDB entries is a Coke commercial. Brad Pitt scarfed Pringles, Meg Ryan encouraged us to eat at Burger King, and Naomi Watts wowed Australian TV audiences with her Tampax spot.
Because They Were Famous
Once an actor has “made it,” going back to commercials can be an iffy proposition. Despite a long and storied history of celebrity endorsements, among actors, there can be a feeling that it would be “selling out” or would cast their other work in a cheaper light.
Sometimes, though, doing commercials allows an actor to
pay their bills make a sort of meta-commentary on their past roles or public personae, as Alec Baldwin and Samuel L. Jackson have done with their participation in Capitol One campaigns. William Shatner’s Priceline commercials are a tongue-in-cheek parody of his iconic roles’ kickassery.
But for other actors, concerns of harming their Stateside reputations are very real. So if they want to
make a quick buck have a little fun in a commercial, they tend to do so in ads that U.S. audiences won’t see. Some even make it a contractual obligation that advertisers can only show their commercial efforts overseas.
Thanks to the Internet, though, we know that such luminaries as Bruce Willis, Kevin Costner, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Sean Connery, Natalie Portman and Ben Stiller (and quite a few others) have appeared in, for example, Japanese advertising. (As shown below – left to right, top to bottom.)
Perhaps most famously, so did Arnold Schwarzenegger.
For our part, we don’t blame them. They all look like they’re having a lot of fun.
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