Pitt's five million reasons to do a beer advert
By Hugh Davies
He once worried about sullying his image by appearing in television advertisements but Brad Pitt appears to have swallowed his reservations with the help of a reputed $5 million (£2.6 million) sweetener.
The 41-year-old, who might be needing a drink following his marital split with Jennifer Aniston, will be seen promoting beer by more than 90 million American viewers tomorrow night.
In a 60-second slot during the Superbowl, the televisual highlight of the US year, Pitt will be seen dodging paparazzi on his way to pick up a six-pack of Heineken. The twist is that the photographers are not out to snap the star, but drink his beer.
Fox Television is charging Heineken at least £2 million to run the advert from the game in Jacksonville, Florida.
Just how much the Dutch brewer has paid out altogether is uncertain. But Pitt is thought to have insisted that his fee be higher than the $3 million (£1.6 million) paid to Nicole Kidman for a Chanel No 5 advert created by her chosen director, Baz Luhrmann.
Pitt also had one his favourite directors, David Fincher, who made Fight Club and Se7en with him, to shoot the commercial.
Until recently, such blatant money-making was Hollywood's little secret as actors were unwilling to risk the scorn of their admirers by being seen to sell their supposedly artistic souls.
Nevertheless, almost everybody did it - with the exception of Scientologist Tom Cruise - but went to exceptional lengths to keep US fans from finding out.
Usually Pitt imposes strict "image and exposure conditions" for the commercials he makes, such as one in Europe in which he promotes a Swiss watch. At his request, the watch adverts will not be seen in the US.
In the past, the most lucrative source of advertisement income for Hollywood stars has been in Japan, with contracts stipulating the adverts are never shown in the West.
Fans of Sean Connery may be surprised to learn that he has allowed himself to be seen in Tokyo sipping a glass of Japanese scotch, as well a carrying a ham into a room to a James Bond tune.
Ringo Starr, who still earns £3 million a year nearly 40 years after the Beatles' last concert together, has promoted an apple drink, while David Bowie has advertised Vittel water.
Harrison Ford, naked but for a towel, is seen in a sauna advertising Kirin beer, while Nicolas Cage is seen in an advertisement shouting his love of pachinko, Japan's obsessive street casino game.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was used to sell a television company and Sylvester Stallone played a double bass to advertise ham.
Audiences finally learned of the Japanese advertisements through the Oscar-winning film Lost in Translation, in which Bill Murray plays an out-of-luck, self-loathing actor who goes to Tokyo to advertise whisky.
Japan Market Intelligence, a consulting company in Tokyo, said the "going rate" for talent was between $1 million and $3 million (£500,000 and £1.5 million).
Alan Soiseth, a Vancouver-based English teacher who runs such adverts on his Japander website, calls his enterprise "a little bit of fun with an alternate view of celebrities".
But not all of those celebrities agree. Lawyers for Leonardo DiCaprio and Meg Ryan have reportedly used legal persuasion to get him to remove their clients' adverts from the site.
Jonathan Holiff, whose Hollywood-Madison Group, finds celebrities such as Dennis Hopper for company adverts, said yesterday in Los Angeles that in the 1970s it was considered fine for stars such as John Wayne to promote Camel cigarettes.
In one of his adverts Wayne, who died of lung cancer, said: "After you've been making a lot of strenuous scenes you like to sit back and enjoy a cool, mild, good-tasting cigarette, and that's just what Camel are: mild and good-tasting. I know. I've been smoking them for 20 years. So why don't you try them yourself. You'll see what I mean."
Mr Holiff said with the advent of television "there came a feeling in Hollywood that commercials devalued a star. So they went to Japan but, with the internet, people began realising what stars were doing. Fans are no longer taken aback to see celebrities jumping into the advertising game.
"It really started when Catherine Zeta-Jones began promoting T-Mobile on US television. It no longer seems to be a stigma, and if Brad Pitt's ad is a great commercial, it will not hurt his image one bit."
Miss Zeta-Jones was paid more than £10 million for a four-year contract. Now, even Robert De Niro is selling American Express cards, albeit in elevated company. Martin Scorsese, who is in talks with De Niro about a sequel to Taxi Driver, was wooed by the company to make the commercial.
But the Superbowl adverts are the big one. The event, notorious for the exposure of Janet Jackson's nipple as she danced with Justin Timberlake at half-time, is the most watched show in America. Pitt's six-pack, his sponsors hope, will become as iconic as Willie Nelson's advert last year. The singer, noted for his run-ins with the revenue service, pushed H & R Block, a tax advice company.
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