Things famous actors do today that they never did before

Bad thread title. I suspect this has been discussed before, but yikes, how do you search for it? Maybe y’all can help. But I digress.

Lately, I’ve been a little surprised by two developments engaged in by famous actors (Hollywood and UK) that I thought was only rarely ever done:

  1. Appear in TV commercials.
  2. Make fun of their (current) character on a comedy sketch, using ideas, themes and memes from the “still in theaters” media property.

As far as famous movie actors appearing on TV, especially in commercials, it just wan’t done all that often. I think there once was a taboo of sorts associated with the cheap crassness of TV? So that highly paid and respected actors just stayed away. If you actually DID appear in a TV commercial it could mean you were retired and just didn’t care, or maybe you were desperate for money and exposure.

However, perhaps starting with the Japanese trend of hiring famous Hollywood types to fly over to Japan, get paid upwards of $1 Million, and within a few days shoot a commercial then leave, we started seeing such actors appear on US TV. I definitely recall seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger appearing in various Japanese TV commercials, and this was a well known “thing” about 20 years ago. It’s even the story line in the movie “Lost in Translation,” in which the Bill Murray character is a famous US actor in Japan briefly to film a Suntory Whiskey commercial or two.

(FWIW, they also used visiting American athletes, typically baseball players, in commercials an awful lot, thanks to the celebrity status these guys enjoyed in Japan. But outside of Japan, I had no idea who they were, not being much of a baseball fan myself…)

As for making fun of the hot property that has paved your way to fame and fortune, I have seen this multiple times recently, and am not sure what to think of it. Could it be a new cultural norm? I am not sure that wasn’t always the case. Two recent examples:

a. Commercials, probably mostly European, using Game of Thrones actors to reprise their roles (loosely, in the case of The Mountain, or exactly, in the case of the "Shame, shame! sequence). Holy cow. Link.

b. Saturday Night Live sketch, featuring Adam Driver, playing Kylo Ren as Imperial Navy intern, in a mock Undercover Boss episode. It’s actually pretty darn funny, he (famously?) says “OK Boomer” to a room full of millennials. Link.

Yeah, I can think of some similar instances in the past, like the Star Wars Holiday special and Mark Hamill’s appearance on the Muppet Show. I just can’t get past the fact that they’re diluting their brand, making fun of it, while the show / movie is still being marketed. And we’re talking the HUGE brands, like Star Wars and GOT.

I must be totally out of it, if this is a common thing. Is it?

Here’s the 1990 parody of “Twin Peaks” starring Kyle McLachlan - broadcast during the run of Twin Peaks - and mocking the character and programme pretty thoroughly. So this kind of thing was happening 30 years ago.

And in 1986 Shatner insulted Trek fans on SNL while Star Trek IV was still in theaters.

It wasn’t that long ago that your #1 would be “Appear on tv.” Movie stars did not do tv shows. If they did it was because they were washed up. TV actors wanted to leave TV and become movie stars. Now there are so many choices and prestige TV shows that line is now gone.

That was a recreation of Evil Captain Kirk from episode 37 “The Enemy Within.”

People were lining up to be on the Muppet Show back in the day.

And what makes you think ‘famous actors’ are all great, dignified artistes who would never stoop to degrading their profession? I’m sure being paid millions of dollars to do a psoriasis commercial figures into it, and THEY don’t lie awake at night fretting over ‘diluting their brand’. I don’t know what commercials Arnold S. made in Japan, but no matter how undignified, crass and cheap, the great dedicated thespians get off their high horses right quick when money is waved under their surgically altered noses. Why not? I certainly don’t think less of them, and enjoy their doing parodies or commercials or whatever. (I think of Jim Carey and Owen Wilson in ‘Dumb and Dumber’ - appearing on Saturday Night Live in a skit or doing a candy bar commercial in Japan are steps up from their thought-provoking bodies of work.)

Oh. And some tv is so far advanced over the endless onslaught of superhero movies, there are plenty of movie actors doing quality work they would otherwise not be getting.

In case you didn’t know, there are at least two of these sketches, both funny.

In an episode of the “Armchair Expert” podcast, Dax Shepard and Rob Lowe made the interesting point that 99% of Screen Actor’s Guild members don’t make enough money from acting to pay their bills. So yeah, the intelligent actor will take pretty much anything that has a paycheck and screw that hoity toity attitude stuff. Baby needs shoes!

Some actors who are pretty well known do 30 minute TV infomercials. I guess it pays the bills when nothing else is available .


Wilford Brimley, shown here, made the word diabeetus pretty well known.

SNL has had famous movie actors as hosts and sketch participants from its first season (Elliot Gould -twice, Madeline Kahn, Candice Bergen, Peter Boyle, Jill Clayburgh, Raquel Welch, Dyan Cannon, Anthony Perkins). I’m pretty sure they would have been spoofing some of their classic roles in at least some of the sketches.

Back in the 1960s, Irene Dunne appeared in TV commercials. It’s true she was a bit of a maverick, but she certainly didn’t do it because she needed the money-- and the commercials were for beer, of all things. The upshot of commercials was that the beer she was advertising was so good, she served it at partied along with her expensive wines and imported liquor.

Keep in mind that in her heyday, Irene Dunne was MORE POPULAR than Katharine Hepburn. She never won an Oscar, but she was nominated 5 times, and that was a lot of politics-- Dunne was so popular, that she was able to remain a free agent, and not sign with a studio after her first contract with RKO expired; what that meant, though, was that she didn’t usually have a studio pouring money into ads for her Oscar win, the way they usually did when one of their contract stars was nominated.

She did get a Kennedy Center lifetime award honor, though.

She was once paid $100,000 over her salary to allow Cary Grant top billing over her name in a film.

The reason she’s less remembered than other actresses of the time is that nearly all her films were remade– because they were some of the top-grossers of the 30s and early 40s-- and the remake studios bought the rights to the originals and would not distribute them.

Just pointing all that out so that it’s clear that she wasn’t a B-lister. She was at the top of the A-list in her time.

She also appeared on a few game shows, such as* What’s My Line*, and game show panels were often made up of A-list Hollywood celebrities in the early days-- there weren’t yet such things as “TV stars.” Olivia de Haviland of Gone with the Wind was a panelist on an early incarnation of Match Game.

You have to remember that the format commercials take now (shows selling advertising spots) was an invention of the 1960s. In the 50s, a show had a single sponsor, and either someone from the show, or a “spokesman” from the company came of an pushed the sponsoring product at intervals. That was the way radio had worked, and it carried over to TV, until television was reconceived as shows produced independently by studios. IIRC, I Love Lucy was the first show to break with the format-- don’t quote me, though-- it may be Desilu studios that broke, but not with I Love Lucy.

[Oblivious Trek fanboy]“The Enemy Within” was episode 5.[/Oblivious Trek fanboy]

In the days if radio, stars often appeared on shows kidding their image.

Ronald Coleman appeared occasionally on the Jack Benny show as himself as Jack’s neighbor.

I wanted to check the claim in post #8 that only one percent of actors make their living at it. I found a couple of relevant websites. One says that two percent of actors make their living at it. One says that fifteen percent make at least $16,000 a year, which is required to get insurance through the actors’ union. The way I’d put it is that one percent make their living through acting, while fifteen make some significant percentage of their living through acting:

Since you are a fanboy you know that I was quoting directly from the skit

I don’t know exactly when movie stars started appearing in tv shows, but in the early seventies, when tv movies started being made, Big Crosby was in such a movie. He played the title character in s film called “Dr, Cook’s Garden”

Fanboy Inception!

Along with actors spoofing their roles on SNL, here’s a great one from Seth Meyers - Melisandre at a baby shower