5 Embarrassing Ways Cinematic Geniuses Sold Out
Critical acclaim and award luncheons may be nice, but they don’t necessarily pay the bills, sometimes forcing even the most iconic of filmmakers to occasionally resort to commercial work in order to make ends meet … and/or purchase a 24-foot speedboat. After all, Orson Welles made Citizen Kane, arguably the greatest American film of all time, but later went on to a career of frozen pea and champagne advertisements (that were presumably an editor’s nightmare). Similarly, some other great directors have waded into the hellscape that is the advertising business, often with truly bizarre results, such as how …
Behold Quentin Tarantino’s Unfortunate Cameo in a Japanese Speaker Commercial
Quentin Tarantino is famous for directing acclaimed films like Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and Inglorious Basterds (and less famous for showing up in that one episode of The Golden Girls), but Tarantino has taken some other gigs between film work. Not just in narrative television and novelizations but also in commercials – or, at least, one commercial.
In 2009, Tarantino appeared as himself in a TV spot for SoftBank, a Japanese telecom company, which was offering a dog-shaped speaker that only the well-known director of Reservoir Dogs could properly market, apparently. The ad begins with “Uncle” Tarantino palling around with a Japanese family miming faux martial arts moves and yelling about Samurais in a cartoonishly offensive accent. Then his “wife” calls, looking for “Tara,” at which point he darts out of the room so fast you’d think he spotted a women’s shoe store across the street.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that this ad is only one of a series featuring the “White family” consisting of a father who is “a human in a dog’s body,” a son who is a Black American and a housekeeper who is the “alien incarnation of Tommy Lee Jones.”
Which, it seems, is the only specific type of “buffoonery” that Tommy Lee Jones will sanction.
David Fincher Made A Nightmarish Malt Liquor Commercial With Billy Dee Williams
With the possible exception of Robert Downey Jr. (and whoever was in charge of cleaning out Robert Downey Jr.’s collection of urine-filled jars on the set of Zodiac), who doesn’t love David Fincher? He’s made beloved movies like Se7en, Fight Club, and Panic Room, AKA Home Alone for grown-ups. But before all that, Fincher made a lot of commercials – including the American Cancer Society’s controversial “Smoking Fetus” ad, featuring a tobacco-happy fetus puppet, which some networks refused to air.
Fincher also made an outlandish commercial for malt liquor brand Colt 45 starring their then-spokesperson, Lando Calrissian himself, Billy Dee Williams. The ad is a mish-mash of rapid, nonsensical images, such as a barking rottweiler, a falling elevator, modern dancers getting sexy with each other on stage, and an ancient Egyptian statue coming to life and breaking the fourth wall and peering at the camera, quietly judging you.
And Williams seems awfully chill about a wild horse stampeding through his luxury suite.
Not to mention the part in which a nude woman is seemingly draped under a sheet and then disappears after an explosion of Colt 45 suds. Which is … more confusing than sexy.
It all ends with the classic “Colt 45. It works every time,” tagline. Really? Is this an example of this product working? Still, it’s better than that goddamn Benjamin Button movie.
David Cronenberg Went Full Cronenberg To Sell Nike Sneakers
Horror master David Cronenberg is best known as the Canadian artist with the most revolting body of work – second-most if we’re counting Nickelback. Understandably, Cronenberg’s grotesque vibe doesn’t exactly scream “commercialism,” hence why Sony TVs didn’t have a tie-in deal with Videodrome, and car companies weren’t angling to have their latest models featured in Crash.
But despite his odd credentials, Cronenberg once made a commercial for Nike – yet he still didn’t skimp on the Cronenberginess. The 1990 ad was part of Nike’s “groundbreaking media campaign for the Air 180” and showed off the attributes of their new piece of athletic footwear by illustrating how it can turn an insectile monster living inside an H.R. Giger-like pod amongst a sea of others in a desolate wasteland, into an actual human being. Can Reeboks transmogrify dystopian nightmare creatures?
Depicting their product as part of a disgusting alien ecosystem may seem like an odd choice for the company, but in retrospect, this narrative was actually likely more favorable to Nike than the shoe’s real-life production history.
Francis Ford Coppola And Akira Kurosawa Sold Whiskey Together (And Inspired Lost in Translation)
Remember Lost in Translation, the movie about a 52-year-old man who hangs around a luxury hotel with a teenage girl? Which was totally cool in 2003 because they were united in their shared love of … being weirded out by Japanese people? Really? In the movie, directed by Sofia Coppola, Murray’s character is in Tokyo to film a commercial for Suntory whiskey:
Suntory is a real brand that has a history of hiring American stars for their commercials, one of which just happened to feature Sofia’s father, Francis Ford Coppola, the filmmaker behind The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, and, to a lesser extent, the cocaine and murder-fueled trainwreck that was The Cotton Club. In 1980, Coppola appeared with legendary director Akira Kurosawa for an ad that was just the two dudes talking about movies and getting buzzed, all while a narrator boasts that the “world’s gaze is fixed on these two men right now.”
This wasn’t the strangest Japanese commercial starring Francis Ford Coppola to come out in 1980, however, as evidenced by this video in which Coppola gets to second base with a cassette tape.
Sony Hired David Lynch To Launch Playstation 2, For Some Reason
To launch the Playstation 2 gaming system back in 2000, Sony deployed a secret weapon to win over the youth of America: David Lynch. Yup, who better to win over gamers looking to play Madden NFL 2001 than the weirdo genius who made Blue Velvet?
Lynch’s commercial, “The Third Place,” features no actual footage of Playstation 2 games – nor any shots of the console itself. Instead, it’s an aggressively Lynchian short film in which a man in a suit wanders through a black and white dreamscape, loses his head (literally), and meets a clique of eccentrics, including his own doppelganger, a figure wrapped entirely in bandages, a man with a duck’s head, and of course a waving severed arm. It’s kind of like Twin Peaks -- if Twin Peaks existed purely to steal business away from Nintendo.
Judging from the behind-the-scenes footage, the making of the ad, titled “The Third Place,” was an absolute blast for everyone … except perhaps the guy who was cast as Bandage Man.
Again, all of this weirdness was ultimately in the service of a product most people used purely to pretend to be rampaging car thieves and/or Tony Hawk.
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Top Image: SoftBank/Fuji