By Kristina Bostley
Long before these celebrities appeared on the big screen, strutted their stuff on red carpets, accepted dazzlingly shiny awards, and became household names, they struggled to make themselves a mere blip on the Hollywood radar. In fact, some of the most famous A-listers out there got their start on the small screen. What was meant to be a short 15 seconds of fame lasted years, in some cases decades. Though they may believe these short clips landed on the Island of Forgotten Commercials, some rigorous digging has turned up some real gems from years past.
Brad Pitt: Pringles & Levis
Years prior to becoming the superstar he is today, Brad Pitt – born William Bradley Pitt – once starred in a Pringles commercial. The father of six and very significant half of Brangelina was once very distressed over his car breaking down, but three gorgeous gals came to the rescue with a can of Pringles. And once he popped, he couldn’t stop – appearing on screen, that is. After Brad’s 1989 Pringles commercial, he went on to star in a steamy 1991 Levi’s commercial, which featured the straight-as-an-arrow Brad getting out of jail, minus his jeans. Once again, a girl came to his rescue, bringing him another pair of Levi’s and the chance to show off his romance in front of a guard. Of course, Brad has gone on to flaunt his many romances – both on-screen and off – around Hollywood since then.
Ben Affleck: Burger King
Ben Affleck and his buddy Matt Damon might have scored big with their 1997 drama Good Will Hunting, but it was on a Burger King commercial that Ben first thought he might score big. When Ben receives a well-timed call on his car phone, he spins the wrong phone number mishap into an opportunity to hand-deliver Burger King to the doorstep of a beautiful girl. Too bad his father called to interrupt just as she answered the door! After a few independent films and the success of Good Will Hunting tucked under his belt, Ben received many more calls to star in movies such as Dogma, Armageddon, Sum of All Fears, and Argo. These days, Ben has been hanging out behind the camera, directing movies such as The Town and Argo.
Bruce Willis & Sharon Stone: Seagram’s Wine Coolers
While the careers of Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone have taken very different paths, they intertwined while starring in a commercial for Seagram’s Wine Coolers. The bald-headed bad guy had a full head of hair and a set of pick-up lines to match in this 1987 commercial. Sharon Stone sits down and can’t decide on a drink when Bruce intervenes, both trying to seduce her and urge her to try the new wine coolers. She obliges and sips on the drink while making it clear his chances are slim to none. Bruce Willis had better luck picking up roles in blockbuster movies, such as the Die Hard series, Pulp Fiction, and The Sixth Sense. Sharon Stone moved on from Bruce and didn’t look back; instead, she was cast to play in movies such as Total Recall opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger and Basic Instinct with Michael Douglas.
Leonardo DiCaprio: Bubble Yum
Long before Leonardo DiCaprio burst onto the hottest Hollywood red carpets, he popped his way into a 1988 commercial for Bubble Yum. Comparing the power of Bubble Yum to a giant speaker, the young and wild-haired Leo touts the long-lasting gum to his audience. It’s his career that’s proved to be long lasting, beginning on family sitcom Growing Pains before he grew up and into roles in movies such as Titanic, Catch Me If You Can, The Departed, Blood Diamond, and The Great Gatsby. The actor, who won a Golden Globe for his role in the Aviator and has several other nominations to his name, has spent a great deal of time and money in his philanthropic efforts. Recently, Leo donated $61,000 during the GLAAD Awards in April 2013 – on top of the million he donated to the World Wildlife Fund in 2010.
Demi Moore: Diet Coke
Demi Moore showed great taste when choosing a Diet Coke from her fridge, but it all goes out the window when it – and she – wanders onto the ledge of a seemingly very tall apartment building, falling right into the chair of a gentleman who is coincidentally also drinking the same beverage. Though she had a soap opera (general hospital) and a movie (st Elmo’s fire) already added to her resume before this 1988 superbowl commercial, her career certainly took off after it aired. Her unquenchable thirst for acting roles led her to star in movies such as Ghost, for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination, Indecent Proposal, earning an MTV moon man for best kiss, and Striptease, for which she became the highest paid actress for her role in the movie.
Channing Tatum: Mountain Dew
Channing Tatum channeled his inner Vin Diesel during this 2002 Mountain Dew commercial. The scatterbrained heartthrob forgets his Mountain Dew on top of a car outside a convenience store and races back in epic fashion to grab it out of the hands of a man who tried stealing the abandoned soft drink. Channing Tatum soon traded in his driving skills for dancing shoes for his role in Step Up, where he met his now-wife, Jenna Dewan-Tatum. Channing has graced the silver screen ever since, starring in everything from romantic comedies (Dear John, The Vow) to action thrillers (go joe) to comedies (magic mike). Most recently, he’s played the role of Dad for new daughter, Everly, born in May 2013.
Morgan Freeman is hard to recognize underneath that bright yellow construction hat, but his unique voice confirms his identity in this 1973 Listerine commercial. He explains to his friend just how well Listerine works – and for a man whose trademark voice has become so utterly discernible, he must have taken very good care of the mouth from which it comes. The 76-year-old actor didn’t begin his career in the entertainment industry; Morgan graduated from high school and turned down a scholarship to Jackson State University to join the US Air Force. After leaving his flying career, his acting career took off. He started off on stage, both Broadway and off-Broadway, before getting his big break in Robert Redford’s movie Brubaker in 1980. Since then, he’s gone on to star in classics including The Shawshank Redemption, Seven, Million Dollar Baby, and narrates faster than we can keep a tally.
Mila Kunis: Glitter Hair Barbie
Nine-year-old Mila Kunis first landed a commercial alongside Glitter Hair Barbie in 1993. She and her blonde-haired friend marvel over Barbie’s newest fashion accessory, glittery hair, made possible by combing a special gel into Barbie’s – and their own – long locks. Five years later, the Ukranian-born actress settled into her role as Jackie Burkhart on That ‘70s Show, which aired for 8 seasons. Mila has also provided the voice of Meg on animated comedy Family Guy, currently in its 13th season. She made the jump from the small screen to the big screen in 2008, starring in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and (with the exception of Family Guy) has stayed there even since. Mila has even garnered a Golden Globe nomination for her role in the dark 2010 drama Black Swan, also starring Natalie Portman.
John Travolta: US Army and Safeguard
John Travolta pulled off a double feature on TV in the mid-1970s. First, he starred in an Army commercial, publicizing the importance of showing American pride by joining the Armed Forces while bringing to light some of the benefits of joining the army. Two years later, John’s smiling face graced the television again, as #46 and team smilingly sang their way through a Safeguard commercial. The road to stardom was anything but slippery for John, singing and dancing his way onto the Broadway stage for Grease, landing a role on television show Welcome Back, Kotterr, and starring in Saturday Night Fever and Grease (the movie). The New Jerseyan has starred on the silver screen, playing a range of characters including a hit man in Pulp Fiction, an FBI agent in Face/Off, a firefighter in Ladder 49, and Bolt in Disney’s animated movie Bolt.
The next time you think about fast-forwarding through the commercials, you might want to think twice. You may spot the next up-and-comer advertising a bar of soap, dog treats, or allergy medication!