Lights! Camera! Action! Commercial?

September 15, 2007 at 1:35 pm 2 comments

In Sofia Coppola’s 2003 ode to Tokyo, Lost in Translation, Bill Murray’s character is washed-up movie star who heads to Japan to film a commercial for Suntory whiskey. He’s lured there by promises of a big paycheck and the assumption that nobody in the United States will ever see him schilling the product.


In the U.S. we have a pretty clear “class distinction” between movie stars, TV stars, and commercial actors. Most American movie stars wouldn’t be caught dead appearing in TV commercials — they don’t want to be viewed as sell-outs — but if they’re guaranteed no one from home will see the ad, they certainly don’t mind the extra cash for a day or two’s work!

Japanese ads tend to have higher budgets, and it shows; the slick finished products usually tell a story and are shot artistically like a short film. Even Orson Welles and Audrey Hepburn starred in Japanese ads, while turning down American ones.

But these days, with everything in the world a YouTube click away, actors can’t expect their extracurricular activity to stay hidden, and the results are pretty hilarious. offers “The Five Most Ridiculous Celebrity Cameos in Japanese Ads” for your viewing amusement. The list features Arnold Schwarzenegger extolling the virtue of Vfuyy, an energy drink, and Nicolas Cage (cousin of Sophia Coppola, by the way!) endorsing a company that makes pachinko parlors.
A more recent Japanese ad stars Kiefer Sutherland playing a version of Jack Bauer, his no-nonsense character on FOX’s 24. The fast-paced commercial, for a gelatinous energy supplement called Calorie Mate, depicts Kief desperately searching for the treat while running through a train filled with Japanese schoolgirls:

Other favorites seen only in Japan, either in print or on TV:

Leonardo DiCaprio endorses the Orico credit card; Winona Ryder likes Caffe Latte; Harrison Ford finds Kirin beer refreshing; and Charlie Sheen likes Parliament cigarettes!

Sarah S.

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Entry filed under: Japanese Entertainment.

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September 2007
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