If you’re familiar with the plot of the film Lost in Translation you’ll remember Bill Murray’s character Bob, an out of favour Hollywood actor approaching retirement, is in Japan to film a whiskey commercial, to earn a fee big enough to pay for some home refurbishments and a nestbed for his retirement.
The inspiration for this is that it’s actually incredibly common for western actors and pop stars to do exactly this – appear in adverts in Japan they know will not appear in the west and therefore not compromise their artistic reputations, nor breach conflicts of interest that might otherwise see them unable to endorse products in the US associated with their on screen roles, while collecting extremely high fees. Actors and artistes you might have thought of as class acts such as Ewan McGregor, Whoopi Goldberg, Lucy Liu, David Bowie, and even Andy Warhol have all cashed-in in this way. Notably Bill Murray has not – he just played someone in a movie who was.
The same trend sees actors like Kevin Bacon, Samuel L Jackson, George Clooney and Ryan Reynolds appearing in adverts on British television that they know are unlikely to be seen in their home country.
Perhaps the most offensive example though is this ad for instant noodles featuring home video footage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, sanctioned by Yoko Ono who collected the fees for it: