By Jeff Pfeiffer, ReMIND Magazine
Never underestimate that unknown actor you see cutting his or her teeth with roles in television commercials — that person might be a star of tomorrow. Cases in point are the personalities below, all of whom got some of their earliest starts working on TV ads back in the 1980s and have gone on to fame, fortune and accolades.
Here are a few notable names, and the (sometimes embarrassing) ’80s commercials they starred in before they were famous. (Note: All of these commercials can be found online with a Google search.)
Brad Pitt — Pringles (1988). Around the time he was also guest-starring on Growing Pains, Brad Pitt was featured in an oh-so-’80s commercial for Pringles potato chips. Shirtless, and with his youthful golden-boy appearance, he looks a natural fit in an ad that is set among the surfer dude and dudette crowd, who — amid the commercial’s many jump cuts, quick zooms and other music video-like elements — are all ecstatically enjoying the “Fever Reliever” that is Pringles. (Please note: Pringles do not literally relieve fevers; don’t use as a substitute for medical advice.)
Leonardo DiCaprio — Bubble Yum (1988). In this commercial, 14-year-old, pre-man bun Leo compared the loud popping of the bubble he creates with his Bubble Yum gum to the loudness of that ’80s mainstay — a boom box. Both are known for their blasts, Leo tells us, eventually blowing out his speakers even as Bubble Yum maintains its bubble before it, too, bursts, as all things must.
Jack Black — Pitfall! (1982). Jack Black was just about hitting his teens when he starred in part of this commercial for the Activision video game Pitfall!, which was designed for the Atari 2600. Among others, he raved about the adventures he was experiencing with the game’s protagonist, Pitfall Harry, an enthusiasm I certainly shared at the time (and now, to be honest). Weirdly, Black for once isn’t the oddest part of one of his projects here. That honor might fall to the little girl at the end of the ad who seems to have a crush on an 8-bit video game character.
Meg Ryan — Burger King (1982). Adorned in a hideous brown and orange Burger King cashier uniform in this ad, eventual big-screen “America’s Sweetheart” Meg Ryan brings plenty of perkiness and exuberance as she tries to get us to enter the “Aren’t You Hungry? Whopper Game,” enticing us with lines like, “You can win a million dollars!” as she flashes a cheerful smile. You can’t fake enthusiasm like this! … Oh, wait, actually you can, according to Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally… Acting!
Bryan Cranston — Preparation H (early ’80s). Looking almost exactly like you would expect an early-’80s pharmacist or doctor to look like (complete with ginormous glasses, of course), pre-fame Bryan Cranston is deadly serious as he strides toward the camera intently and tells us how we can relieve inflamed hemorrhoidal tissue by using Preparation H (with Oxygen Action). Seeing Cranston’s take here, where you almost expect him to demand of us to “Say my name!” while he holds up the yellow box, it should be clear that the eventual Emmy winner has never half-assed any of his roles.
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