American Filmmakers in Japanese Ads: Quentin Tarantino Sells Cell Phones, Orson Welles Hawks Whisky

Amer­i­can movie stars have long found work across the pacif­ic in Japan­ese tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials: Nico­las Cage, Paul New­man, Den­nis Hop­per, Har­ri­son Ford, Jodie Fos­ter — the list goes on. If their spots aired state­side, we’d prob­a­bly buy what they sell too, but celebri­ties in their image-pro­tec­tive league have thus far shown a reluc­tance to endorse prod­ucts in their own coun­try. Japan’s ad indus­try has­n’t only sought the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Amer­i­ca’s big-name actors, though; it’s also gone after the direc­tors. At the top, you’ll see one fea­tur­ing a film­mak­er nev­er afraid of expo­sure: Pulp Fic­tion auteur Quentin Taran­ti­no tak­ing a turn in local cos­tume (and along­side a talk­ing dog) in a com­mer­cial for Japan­ese cell phone ser­vice provider Soft­bank. Just below, we have Orson Welles, he of Cit­i­zen Kane and British frozen-peas nar­ra­tion alike, in a spot for G&G Whisky.

“I direct films and act in them,” Welles says by way of intro­duc­tion. “What we’re always try­ing for is per­fec­tion, but of course, that’s only a hope. But with G&G, you can rely on it.” It may put you in the mind of Sofia Cop­po­la’s Lost in Trans­la­tion, where­in Bill Mur­ray’s char­ac­ter famous­ly turns up in Japan to shoot a whisky com­mer­cial of his own. Mak­ers of that bev­er­age have shown quite an inter­est in the impri­matur of cin­e­ma’s lumi­nar­ies, East­ern as well as West­ern.

We’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured a Sun­to­ry com­mer­cial includ­ing not just The Gofa­ther and Apoc­a­lypse Now direc­tor Fran­cis Ford Cop­po­la, but Aki­ra Kuro­sawa, the mak­er of Rashomon and Sev­en Samu­rai, known in his home­land as “the Emper­or.” It makes you won­der: do we in Amer­i­ca know our direc­tors well enough that they could sell us things? Then again, the Japan­ese did enjoy all those old Woody Allen Seibu spots when most of them still had­n’t a clue about the beloved film­mak­er’s iden­ti­ty.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Nico­las Cage, Paul New­man & Den­nis Hop­per Bring Their Amer­i­can Style to Japan­ese Com­mer­cials

Aki­ra Kuro­sawa & Fran­cis Ford Cop­po­la Star in Japan­ese Whisky Com­mer­cials (1980)

Woody Allen Lives the “Deli­cious Life” in Ear­ly-80s Japan­ese Com­mer­cials

The Best Japan­ese Com­mer­cial Ever? James Brown Sells Miso Soup

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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  • rad says:

    You for­got Tom­my Lee Jonesnn

    • Ali says:

      Tom­my Lee Jones isn’t afraid to sell in the US as well. He’s in ads for a finan­cial com­pa­ny, cur­rent­ly.

  • Alexo says:

    What’s the real sto­ry here? You are giv­ing free adver­tis­ing for all these brands in our glob­al inter­net econ­o­my? Or are you draw­ing atten­tion — with­out men­tion­ing it — to the fact that these actors are hap­pi­ly pros­ti­tut­ing them­selves for yet more mon­ey?

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