Actors in TV ads: are they selling out?

"Any performer that ever sells a product on television is for now and all eternity removed from the artistic world." Standup comedian Bill Hicks was rather unforgiving about performers starring in TV commercials.

It's that Lost in Translation moment. A Hollywood actor stars in a foreign TV commercial, but attempts to keep their credibility intact by making sure it never airs in the US. They get to keep the money, but remain pure and unsullied in the eyes of their homeland fans. David Duchovny is doing just that. The X-Files star can be seen grinning for whisky in a Kiwi ad that I assume will never air in the US.

Duchovny is the latest in a string of Hollywood actors to star in New Zealand commercials. Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel and, er, Vincent Gallo have all been in Steinlager ads. Hugh Jackman dances around on the telly all the time trying to sell us iced tea, of all things.

But, of course, the internet has changed everything. A simple Google search means anyone in the US can now see their beloved movie actors doing the equivalent of tap dancing for loose change.

It means I can show you Arnold Schwarzeneggar starring in this utterly bewildering Japanese ad:

And I can show you Woody Allen in this really rather good Telecom Italia ad:

But, to my mind, the most utterly shameless example is Dennis Hopper in this Ford ad:

Hopper not only sells himself to Ford, but he also sells the auto giant his 1960s counterculture gem Easy Rider. I suppose you could argue it is an actor's decision to sell out, but do you have to sell out your entire generation and all its values at the same time?

Did you see that little grin just before Hopper leaves his younger self in the dust? Altamont or Charlie Manson didn't spell the end of hippie culture, it was right there in that smug grin.

So, do you care? Is starring in an ad a shameless sellout that means they are no longer artists, or is it just a bit of fun? Do you agree with Bill Hicks or should we let them off the hook?

Have you got any good examples of Hollywood stars secretly selling their souls? If so, put the YouTube link in the comments section below and I shall compile them for a post next week.

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