Matthew McConaughey has been getting a lot of attention lately for his commercials for Lincoln Motors. The ads – which feature the Oscar-winning actor waxing poetic at the wheel of a Lincoln automobile – have become the stuff of witty parodies on TV shows like Saturday Night Live and Ellen.
Beyond that, critics have questioned why a guy riding so high, career-wise, would suddenly stoop to selling cars? The easy answer is, perhaps, that the money was good, and the opportunity to cash in was there following his Oscar-winning turn in Dallas Buyers Club. In return, Lincoln got the hottest, coolest cat in Hollywood as a spokesman. All-in-all, the commercials have worked out well for both the actor and the car company, with Lincoln experiencing a 13-per-cent rise in sales since the ads began airing.
McConaughey, however, is hardly alone among Oscar winners who have lent their considerable talent to product shilling. Over the years, many of our favorite performers have followed up a successful Oscar night with a TV plug for a car, a soft drink, and even adult diapers. Here are just a few.
14. Orson Welles
The Oscar winner who brought us Citizen Kane became a spokesman for all manner of products in the 1970s as a way to finance his film projects. Most were of the voice-over variety; his deep, stage-trained tones added a level of dignity to board games and frozen peas. His most famous commercials were for Paul Masson wine. His tag line ‘We will sell no wine before its time’ became an ad classic, as did an infamous outtake (viewable on YouTube) in which a severely inebriated Welles had difficulty remembering his lines.
13. Kathy Bates
An Oscar winner for her scary turn as the sledgehammer-wielding psycho in Misery (1990), Bates went on to reprise that role in a 2008 Directv commercial. In the advert, footage from the film was used in which Bates held a sledgehammer, about to take revenge on a bedridden James Caan. But this time, she turned to the camera for a moment to sell viewers on the virtues of Directv. Then it was back to the sledgehammer. No word on whether Caan got paid Directv money for his repurposed clip.
12. Adrien Brody
The Pianist star has lent his distinctive visage to several commercials since winning Oscar back in 2003. He played a jazz crooner in a Stella Artois ad that appeared during the Super Bowl in 2011, demonstrating some good pipes. But he’s probably best known for the facial hair he flashed – along with Gael Garcia Bernal and Andre 3000 – in a series of too cool ads for Gillette in 2012.
11. Jennifer Hudson
The American Idol seventh placer found immediate success on the big screen, winning an Oscar for her role in the musical Dreamgirls (2006). It was then that she took to reinventing herself, losing 80 pounds over four years as a commercial spokeswoman for Weight Watchers. In one memorable spot, the newly svelte Hudson sang a duet with her larger past self. She has since parted company with Weight Watchers.
10. Nicolas Cage
The Leaving Las Vegas Oscar winner is known for his eccentric performances on the big screen, and he’s reputed to be undiscerning when it comes to his career choices. But you ain’t seen nothing till you’ve seen Cage’s ‘performances’ in a series of strange Japanese commercials for Sankyo Pachinko. Cage sang, played piano, line danced with aliens in the desert, and appeared to have an acid flashback. We’re not really sure what the product was, but did it really matter to Cage? The once bankrupt actor known for his erratic spending habits is believed to take any gig that’ll help beef out his bank account.
9. Ben Affleck
To be fair, Affleck got one of his first career breaks with a 1989 Burger King ad in which he pretended to be a delivery man to win over a cute coed. These days, the Oscar winner for Good Will Hunting and Argo and star of one of the biggest movies of 2014, Gone Girl, probably doesn’t need the money. Still, his success didn’t stop him from doing commercials for L’Oreal hair care products.
His most famous commercial came in 2006. In the ad for Axe Click – set to Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson’s song ‘Gangster of Love’ – Affleck was portrayed clicking a counter every time he had a ‘moment’ with a lovely lady. He eventually got one-upped by a skinny kid in an elevator.
8. Halle Berry
Berry spent years as a model, so it’s no surprise she showed up in a lot of early commercials for stuff like Pepsi and M&Ms. In recent years, the Oscar winner for Monster’s Ball (2001) has served as the advertising ‘face’ for Revlon cosmetics in all manner of TV commercials and print ads. Now 48 and looking as stunning as ever, Berry’s relationship with Revlon shows no signs of ending.
7. Jeff Bridges
It took Bridges five tries before he scored Oscar gold with his performance in the 2009 film Crazy Heart. By then, he was already earning extra spending money as the gravelly-voiced narrator in numerous commercials for products like Duracell, Ameriquest, and Hyundai. His strangest ‘commercial’, however, came this year. In a short film released directly to YouTube, Bridges narrated an odd tale of a 1970s desert encounter with a cosmonaut. The whole project was aimed at promoting Kahlua products, though that wasn’t very obvious.
6. Fred Astaire
The legendary dance man had been in his grave for over a decade when a series of 1997 Super Bowl ads for the Dirt Devil appeared to show him dancing with that vacuum cleaner. The commercial used CGI to marry Astaire’s performances in Easter Parade (1948) and Royal Wedding (1951) with the vacuum. Movie fans were outraged. So was his widow, though Astaire’s daughter reportedly approved. The ad eventually led to the so-called American ‘Astaire Bill’, aimed at curbing the misuse of images of the dead and famous.
5. Dennis Hopper
Hopper’s name invariably comes up when people talk about the greatest Super Bowl commercials. Appearing as a referee against a Nike logo backdrop, Hopper’s 1995 advert was not just a great parody of the movie Patton, it was a great performance. The Oscar winner for Hoosiers would follow up that highlight in 2002 with a strange Gap ad in which Hopper sat around a pool with Christina Ricci, played chess and generally did nothing. Word is they were selling white shirts, but they could have been selling pool furniture. Or pools for that matter.
4. Brad Pitt
Wait a second – Brad Pitt won an Oscar? Yup. But not for acting. He won two as the producer of the films The Departed and 12 Years A Slave. Still, it’s going to take a few more awards before we forget his strange, (unintentionally?) comical ads for Chanel No. 5 in 2012. Shot in black-and-white, Pitt stood in a bare room and offered up his random thoughts. “Every journey ends but we go on,” he claimed with great conviction, though few viewers bought it. The ads became the most parodied commercials of the year. But don’t feel sorry for Pitt: The UK’s Daily Mail claimed he earned a cool $7 million for the spots.
3. Whoopi Goldberg
Was it a case of too much information? Perhaps. But you couldn’t question Goldberg’s belief in the product – Poise Pads for light bladder leakage. In a series of print and TV ads (not to mention webisodes), Goldberg claimed to be ‘one in the three’ women who suffer from this ailment. She also appeared dressed as Cleopatra, Mona Lisa, a fairytale Princess and Joan of Arc because, well, they were sufferers as well… Maybe?
2. Marlon Brando
Yes, the reclusive star – who never bothered to pick up his Oscar for The Godfather – did a commercial. It was a 1999 ad in which a cute little girl asked for a Pepsi and was given something else. Disrespected, the little girl’s voice changed to that of Brando’s Vito Corleone as she demanded her Pepsi. And she got it. Aired during the Oscars, the ad drew the ire of the National Italian American Foundation and was pulled.
1. George Clooney
The multi-Oscared Clooney can play the suave, sophisticated urbanite and the small town everyman with equal ease. So, it’s no surprise that his commercial choices run the gamut from Fiat to Budweiser. After winning an acting Oscar for Syriana in 2006, Clooney signed a long term commercial contract with coffee maker company Nespresso. The ads tend to feature a well-dressed Clooney looking cool surrounded by beautiful women – all drinking coffee in tiny cups, of course.
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