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Hollywood Stars in JDM Car Ads

Celebrities cash in while keeping it corny

Matt Rodriguez
Aug 12, 2014

As obsessed as US import enthusiasts are with all things Japanese, it's not hard to believe things are just the opposite in the Land of the Rising Sun. Beyond car styles, American trends and lifestyle are dissected and studied regularly. This isn't something new, as this phenomenon goes back many decades.

Hollywood actors have always been a point of fascination with the Japanese, so much that there are few better ways to pitch a product than by having a globally recognized actor spit out a few lines and ad some extra "umph" to a TV commercial.

On the actors end, it's a pretty sweet deal. Though the commercials are, well, let's just say "outside the box," in most cases they'll never reach the US. At least that's what most of these actors probably thought when they cut these strange ads - alas, with technology and the magic of YouTube, they'll be around forever and ever (oh, the horror).

Here then are 10 Japanese car commercials starring some very recognizable faces.

Bruce Willis, Subaru Legacy

Mr. Die Hard himself, Willis looks to be deep in thought during this spot shilling Subie's mid-sized all-wheel drive.

Kyle McLachlan, Subaru Impreza

This ad starred McLachlan, who was just coming off of the not-so-successful Twin Peaks and just prior to the comedy film Showgirls (wait, that wasn't a comedy?) The one-time sex symbol uses his incredibly dangerous punching display in one, and his boyish charm to hook the Japanese consumer in the other.

Meg Ryan, Mitsubishi Dingo

What. The. Hell. Ryan stars in this commercial produced sometime in the late 1990s/early 2000s, and it's as campy as it gets. Her kids point out a UFO and Meg drives for miles in her Mitsu, only to end up in la-la land with shooting stars overhead, which I believe is supposed to be another planet. She's confused and when she asks where they are, her kids blurt out "Navi, Navi!"

Bruce Willis, Daihatsu Mira

The action star is back, this time with a number of ads to promote Daihatsu's Mira e:S Kei car. It's all in Japanese so I don't exactly know what's going on but Willis plays it cool, as always, and based on the number of commercials he did with them, was probably paid handsomely for his services.

Eddie Murphy, Toyota Celica

Before he made millions as the voice of Donkey in Shrek, and well before he stopped being funny in order to don a fat suit in multiple films to try to milk a laugh, Murphy was hilarious. In fact, he was the king of comedy in the 1980s and Toyota capitalized on his notoriety as he starred in a few 5th gen Celica ads.

Brad Pitt, Toyota Corolla Altis

I don't know that Pitt would ever cruise around in a Corolla Altis, but he will do a commercial for one. In the spot he ditches his team of assistants in order to drive around town in an Altis while one of the most annoying songs ever created is blasting.

Paul Newman, Nissan Skyline

Nothing funny or odd about this commercial - it's just plain awesome! Newman blasting around in a Skyline racecar while a quirky song is playing in the background. In life, Newman was a huge motorsports fan and actively raced throughout the years. His involvement with the Skyline was a personal one as Nissan produced a limited edition "Paul Newman Skyline" model that sold only in Japan.

Leonardo Dicaprio, Suzuki Wagon R

I've taken the liberty of transcribing Leonardo DiCaprio's entire script for this Suzuki wagon commercial that stars a plastic swordfish so that you can follow along. "That was fun. It was fun. (laughs) I love it. Go Wagon R." Yup, he got paid for that.

Roger Moore, Toyota Corona

This Toyota Corona 5-door commercial features Mr. Smooth himself and my personal favorite James Bond player of all time, Roger Moore. It was 1983, right as the classic Octopussy was in theaters, and a Bond-like role was used to pitch the Corona. They even included a Bond-babe waiting for him with the seats reclined because Moore is just a boss like that.

Harrison Ford, Honda Legend

What better way to promote the Honda Legend than by using a legend like Harrison Ford? This 1992 spot hit right around the time Patriot Games was in theaters and production costs are definitely in the millions, with a helicopter, yacht, and of course Mr. Ford's paycheck.

By Matt Rodriguez
33 Articles



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