This week, Neil Calloway looks at why more actors than ever are promoting products…
The imminent release of the new Bond film, means we can expect a few things; exotic locations, impressive stunts, thinly veiled misogyny and, perhaps most importantly, lucrative commercial tie ins.
If you’ve been to the cinema in Britain recently, or even just passed a bus stop, you’ll probably have seen Naomie Harris advertising the new Sony Xperia Z5. If you’ve opened a broadsheet, you’ll have seen Daniel Craig endorsing Omega watches. It’s standard procedure for Bond films; brands get to be associated with an iconic film series, and the studios get the latest products, and a huge chunk of cash to fun their films. You won’t see it in the UK, but Daniel Craig appears in Heineken adverts in the US; they paid £28 million to appear in Skyfall, so it’s unsurprising they wanted something in return.
Standard procedure for Bond it may be, but it is also becoming increasingly accepted for big name actors to appear in commercials. For years it was common practice for a big name Hollywood actor to appear in Japanese commercials for products that didn’t exist in the West, safe in the knowledge that they would be all but unseen in the US. If you’ve ever wanted to see Dennis Hopper in a bath with a rubber duck, or Harrison Ford in a sauna, then head over to YouTube. Because they jetted off to Tokyo for it, the whole scenario was almost a shameful secret; disappear for a few days, earn good money, and nobody back home will be any the wiser. Obviously that didn’t actually happen, and it was a fairly open secret, even becoming part of the plot for Lost in Translation.
Now, however, it seems like more actors than ever are willing to appear in commercials that aren’t linked to movies they are promoting. This year, Arnold Schwarzenegger – a man who until fairly recently was in control of one of the largest economies in the world, appeared in a British insurance advert with two puppet meerkats, He has since been replaced by Nicole Kidman. I’m sure as she stood on the stage after being handed her Oscar for The Hours, this is the future she saw for herself.
Schwarzenegger is not the only action star to take the money and run for appearing in a British commercial; Sylvester Stallone; the man who is Rocky, Rambo and Judge Dredd, now appears in adverts for Warburton’s bread. Now, I like their Super Toastie white sliced as much as anyone, and I’d be happy to promote, but does Stallone really need the money?
The answer may be “yes”. Sitting in the cinema with a friend a few years ago, one of the mobile commercials that Kevin Bacon appears in came on. My friend turned to me and asked “Did Kevin Bacon lose all his money?” To which I replied “yes”; he lost most of his savings in the Bernie Madoff fraud. Commercials are easy money for actors, and if they won’t be seen in your home country, it won’t do your career much damage, and do you bank balance a lot of good. Ask Patrick Stewart about his cider adverts in the US.
There’s a odd line of sexism when it comes to actors in adverts; nobody bats an eyelid when Charlize Theron or Keira Knightley appear in a perfume commercial, but when Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp do, it generates acres of newsprint and whatever the digital equivalent of newsprint is.
Adverts are more powerful than you think, howver George Clooney used the money from his Nespresso adverts to buy a satellite that monitors military movements and human rights abuses in Sudan. After being President of the Screen Actors Guild, Ronald Reagan became a spokesperson for General Electric. He toured the US giving speeches at their factories, setting himself on the path to the Presidency.
As the film industry seeks new ways of raising money for films, and actors seek to keep their profile and bank balances high, we will only see more of them taking the money and running to appear in adverts. Until then, seriously, check out Dennis Hopper in the bath. It’s almost as good as that scene he has with Christopher Walken in True Romance.
Neil Calloway is a pub quiz extraordinaire and Top Gun obsessive. Check back here every Sunday for future instalments.