Actors who Began their Careers in Commercials

6 mins read

From Brad Pitt for Pringles to Morgan Freeman for Listerine, to Kristen Stewart who was too young at the time to drive herself to school in the Porsche to Jodie Foster reminding us not to be a ‘paleface,’ for Coppertone, these global mega stars began their careers as many of us do – in the commercial industry.

Have you ever asked yourself – do I really need a commercial agent? Influencers & social media are handling all of the advertising, nowadays right? Although a huge percentage of product pushing is done from the ultra tech of our smart phones, the key to advertising has always been an inviting face who can talk to the talk. We want someone to decide we need something for us and make us feel our lives will benefit from having it. Whether that be a candy bar or luxurious sports car, we have all given in to the well-lit and overly sensationalized commercial, where the actor acts as though their life is more positive because of this amazing product, service, or idea.

Now let’s talk money. Because, that’s why we all really want to do commercials right? The national campaign pay out? The large day rate for maybe a weekend worth of work?

To many, the commercial world, especially commercial auditions can be the absolute sole suck of us artists. I have been in that room both on the acting side and on the casting side, and let me tell you, both views are terrifying. I know we all have the ridiculous stories of the time we were given a fake baby and told to react to said folded blanket when it laughed, cried, and pooped. Or the time when we had to wear a bathing suit and pretend a shark was chasing us in a fake swimming pool, or where we had to ‘discover’ that magical shade of lipstick in our perfectly choreographed getting ready routine, while we spun three times, did not touch our hair, and landed on each individual mark twice before winking at the camera as we exited stage right. Or was is left…

Just me?

I double dare you to share 😉

Right the paycheck. The ideal circumstance is to book a few commercials a year that pay your annual overhead. This means your rent, car payments, food, etc etc. The basics are covered so you can quit your serving job and focus more on acting. Now these commercials can’t be ‘too big,’ in case they conflict with booking a TV series or a film because your face cannot be too marketable so that audiences don’t conflict you with the Pepsi guy. (Nothing wrong with being the Pepsi guy!)

Let’s talk Oreos (stay with me here, will circle back to the mula). I knew a lovely casting director who was casting for an Oreo’s commercial. The character notes were specific to male Asian children ages 5-7. This casting director wanted to cast a real boy (sorry Pinocchio) so she went to a Chinese school at 3:15pm just as class was getting out for the day. She waited as the bell rang and kept her casting eyes sharp for the perfect little candidates. By professionally approaching the parents with her business card, she managed to round up 5 young guys who’s parents didn’t think it was a total scam, and booked them in for an audition. The producers of the commercial and Oreos executives loved this one lucky winner, who we will call Buddy.

Buddy was paid $20,000 for that commercial. This was after his day rate from five days of filming, his negotiated residuals, as well as his later national buyout after Oreo’s extended his contract. His parents were needless to say extremely grateful as Buddy now has some solid college money all from eating cookies on set for five days.

To circle back – get a commercial agent. I know the auditions will be forever awkward, but wouldn’t you rather a little awkwardness for a potentially large reward?

In order to make you feel better here are some familiar faces lighting up the screen with full advertising conviction:

Robert De Niro 1970 Rare Car Commercial AFI

Leonardo DiCaprio 1988 Bubble Yum (Not Gum) Commercial

Courtney Cox for Tampax 1985

Kristen Stewart for Porche, 1999

Morgan Freeman, 1970 – Listerine

Jodie Foster, 1965 for Coppertone

Brad Pitt for Pringles, Roots Energy Drinks, Integra, Evance Watches 70s, 80s, 90s

– Written by Therés Amee

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