11 Amazing Actors Who Appeared in Commercials

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Who can resist the allure of cold, hard cash? For that matter, who can resist it when the finished product is only a minute or two long? No, these folks aren’t just lending their voices. For better or worse, you can see their faces and everything.

1. Sir Laurence Olivier for Polaroid

Olivier did only one commercial in his career, this 1972 spot for the Polaroid SX-70. He was paid $350,000, and insisted that it not be shown in England. He still makes a persuasive case!

2. Nancy Marchand for Wonder Bread

Known for her ferocious portrayal of mob matriarch Livia Soprano in The Sopranos, Marchand also played newspaper publisher Margaret Pynchon in Lou Grant (1977 to 1982). It’s that earlier role that seems to inform this spot, which uses Marchand’s no-nonsense delivery to tout the health benefits of white bread.

3. James Gandolfini for American Airlines

Staying with Sopranos cast members for a moment, Tony Soprano himself (also known as James Gandolfini) starred in a series of spots for the air carrier.

4. Al Pacino for Sky Fibre

Pacino’s known for playing outrageous guys in films such as Scarface and Scent of a Woman, so it’s no great stretch to imagine him living the crazed life shown here. But why the commercial ends up being a British spot for broadband internet—well, that’s a greater mystery.

5. Orson Welles for Paul Masson

In his later years, master director and actor Welles was in dire straits. He could never find the financing needed to produce or finish the ambitious films he envisioned, so he tried to work his way to solvency. He appeared in many commercials, and in nearly any film that would have him. His spots for Paul Masson wines are some of his most famous—although he clearly wasn’t the easiest person to work with.

6. Robert DeNiro for American Express

There’s a twofer going on in this ad, an especially lustrous example of the celebrity-driven spots that have long been an American Express trademark. The star is Robert DeNiro (who manages to work in some promo for his Tribeca Film Festival) and the director is longtime DeNiro collaborator Martin Scorsese. If all this seems too highfalutin for you, you can always check out DeNiro in this pre-fame car ad. Or perhaps dressed up as a pilgrim.

7. Meryl Streep, also for American Express

We said it was a trademark.

8. Kevin Spacey for Olympus

There must be something about cameras and heavy-hitting actors. Here Mr. House of Cards himself, Kevin Spacey, makes the case for the Olympus Pen camera.

9. Bill Murray for the Charleston RiverDogs

As explained in the ad itself, actor and comedian Murray co-owns the minor league Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs. He also serves as their “Director of Fun.” A pre-existing hall-of-fame speech is used as source material for this commercial, which is better than Garfield.

10. Jimmy Stewart for Firestone Tires

Screen icon Stewart’s career was on a downward slope by the late ’70s and early ’80s, when he starred in a series of elaborate ads (check out the period costumes!) for Firestone tires. But his contract with the company was still worth some $1 million. According to a spokesman, Stewart had ''warm personal relations with the Firestone family.” A cool million will do that.

11. Bette Davis for General Electric

Television was in its infancy in 1933, when a young Davis appeared in this promotional film for GE’s astonishing appliances. But it wasn’t meant for TV—it was instead shown in movie theaters, where such ads were becoming a controversial way to pitch products.