For decades, American celebrities have traveled to Japan to make a quick buck by advertising products. They might be engaged in horrifyingly goofy situations to the average American fan, but they don’t expect these commercials to ever reach their American fanbase. Friends ridiculed this late in the run, revealing Joey’s secret commercial for men’s lip stick.
Lost in Translation took the filming of one of these commercials to be a plot point, as Bill Murray’s character films a commercial for Suntory Whiskey.
It’s a profitable venture for most. In 2012, the Internet age has been in full force for a number of years, and it means we’re more than capable of seeing this noted actors, many award winning, shilling simple products in Japan.
Tommy Lee Jones
He may team up with Will Smith and fight aliens, but Tommy Lee Jones is more known as “Spaceman Jones” in Japan. He’s an alien visitor to Earth, out to figure out our culture… and promote BOSS Rainbow Mountain Blend Coffee. Of special note, the actor Tommy Lee Jones exists in the world of Spaceman Jones, and it is pointed out that the two resemble one another.
Easily one of the most profilic American actors to go to Japan (if he’s not technically from America, he’s definitely made his mark in the states), he’s largely been the face of Cup Noodle and V-Drink. The Cup Noodle face he gives is one of solemn contemplation on how good the noodles are; the one as V-Drink is an insane creature who energizes all who imbibe, yelling what sounds like “Chin Chin Pui!”, even transforming into this character a la Ultraman at one point. He also was featured in a West Coffee commercial as the Terminator, or at least, a reasonable facsimile. To complete the meals he’s helped out, drink some Hop’s beer.
Riding the high that came from 24, Keifer Sutherland traveled to Japan to advertise CalorieMate, an energy supplement. These adds are obvious homages to his 24role, complete with counting clock. While he may speak English in the commercials, subtitles are a part of the video for Japanese viewers, and he does parse his words different than normal (and calls a coworker by a honorrific that we don’t have in the states).
“My life? Love, courage, and Kirin Canned Beer.” Stallone, the second Expendable on this list, may not have even had to travel to Japan for these commercials; one notable location is a particular spot in California’s desert (it’s where Captain Kirk fought an alien, Bill and Ted started their Bogus Journey, and the Power Rangers called their base). Beyond Kirin Canned Beer, Stallone advertises for Knorr Soup and a certain christmas ham commercial that seems inspirational of Murray’s aformeneted Suntory Whiskey.
Everybody drinks Kirin Lager Beer, as Harrison Ford declares in this commercial circa Air Force One.
Michael J. Fox
Marty McFly promotes this unspecified drink as he plays an errant lawn care technician. I prefer to believe that he is playing Marty McFly, having traveled to (what appears to be) the White House to change the future
Mr. Pink and the star of the, sadly cancelled but entertaining, Lie To Me, may hail from England, but he’s definitely starred in his fair share of American productions. This older commercial for Maxim Coffee has him more in a Four Rooms-esque silent role that utilizes his facial mugging skills.
They may be the stars of the longest running American animated show, sitcom, and prime-time series, but in Japan, they’re primarily selling C.C. Lemon, a lemon vitamin drink.
When the movie did come out in Japan, they still promoted food, such as Mr. Donut, fittingly.
Still in his Saturday Night Fever mode (having not reached the career rebirth that Pulp Fiction would offer him), John Travolta dances for Tokyo Drink.
Ben Stiller (or “Shiller”, as the case may be) promotes a lemon drink from Kirin in this commercial. At least, his body does. Due to the extensive amount of Japanese used in the commercial, he appears to have been dubbed over for most of it.
Jean Claude Van Damme
The third Expendable in this article, Jean Claude van Damme, promotes the energy gum Black Black. The commercial screams two things: one, it’s very 1990s in the editing, and two, Jean Claude van Damme was once a notable actor. Sure, he’s Belgian, but he made his mark in America.