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14 TV Commercials Made By Famous Movie Directors

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It takes a long time for movies to be written, produced, shot, and edited for audiences—that's why, on average, a director releases a movie every two to three years. In between, some notable directors keep in practice by making commercials for high-end name brands including Chanel, Gucci, and Apple Computers. Here are 14 TV commercials from famous movie directors made between film projects.

1. Wes Anderson: American Express

Before the release of The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, Wes Anderson was part of the “My Life, My Card” campaign for American Express. Anderson was the star of the commercial as it followed him throughout a tough shooting day. Actor Jason Schwartzman and cinematographer Robert Yeoman were at the center of the commercial, along with Wes Anderson’s trademark other meticulous indie quirks.

2. Wes Anderson: Stella Artois

Anderson also did a commercial for Belgian beer brewery Stella Artois with co-director Roman Coppola. This commercial also featured Anderson’s attention to detail in re-creating French spy movies from the 60s.

3. Spike Jonze: Gap

In 2005, Gap commissioned Spike Jonze to make a new commercial that would signify a new era with the San Francisco-based clothing line. What they received was Jonze’s penchant for being anti-establishment and a prankster. Gap was not happy with the TV ad featuring Gap employees and customers destroying one of their retail stores. The commercial ran in a few cities before Gap pulled the plug.

4. David Lynch: Sony PlayStation 2

After the release of Mulholland Dr., David Lynch made an eerie commercial for Sony PlayStation 2 that resembled many elements of his 1977 film Eraserhead. While it’s unclear what this had to do with video games, Lynch made an unforgettable commercial with disturbing imagery.

5. David Lynch: Clearblue Pregnancy Test

Not all commercials are works of art. Lynch directed a surprisingly straightforward commercial for a pregnancy test. Was David Lynch really passionate about the Clearblue Brand or was the paycheck that good?

6. Sophia Coppola: Christian Dior’s Miss Dior

After the production of her upcoming film The Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola directed a TV commercial for Miss Dior that premiered during the 85th Academy Award ceremony. The commercial starred Natalie Portman and captured Coppola’s trademark cinematic whimsy. The ad also featured singer Grace Jones’ rendition of “La Vie en Rose.”

7. Darren Aronofsky: Yves Saint Laurent

After the release of Black Swan in 2010, Darren Aronofsky directed a commercial for Yves Saint Laurent’s La Nuit de L’Homme cologne featuring French actor Vincent Cassel, who appeared in the aforementioned film. The commercial showcased Aronofsky’s ability to play with color and light, which reflected Cassel’s playful nature. The TV ad also features the music of Clint Mansell, a longtime Aronofsky collaborator.

8. David Fincher: Apple

In 2009, David Fincher directed a commercial for Apple’s new iPhone 3GS titled “Break In.” Fincher worked with one of his collaborators, cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, who did the photography on Fincher’s 1999 film Fight Club.

9. David Fincher: Nike

Released the same year he was nominated for an Academy Award for directing The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fincher directed a TV spot for Nike that featured NFL superstars LaDainian Tomlinson and Troy Polamalu. Much like the film he was nominated for, the Nike commercial “Fate” followed the life cycle of two pro football players (only in chronological order, unlike Benjamin Button).

10. Sergio Leone: Renault 18 Diesel

In 1985, after the release of his last film Once Upon a Time in America, Italian director Sergio Leone made a commercial that showcased the power of the Renault 18 Diesel car. The commercial also showcased Leone’s love for the Western genre and featured music from collaborator Ennio Morricone. The commercial would be the last film Leone would direct; Leone died four years later in 1989.

11. Joe Wright: Chanel Coco Mademoiselle

In 2011, British director Joe Wright made a commercial for the Chanel Coco Mademoiselle fragrance, starring actress Keira Knightley—who appeared in Wright’s literary film adaptations Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, and Anna Karenina. The ad is seductive, sexy, and highly stylized. It also features singer Joss Stone’s cover of “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”

12. Michael Bay: Victoria’s Secret

Director Michael Bay is known for making movies that are excessive and loud. So when he was commissioned to direct a commercial for Victoria’s Secret, why not feature one with motorcycles, explosions, and numerous leggy supermodels in lingerie. The shoot also served as a casting call: When actress Megan Fox didn’t return to the Transformers film series, the 48-year-old director replaced her with Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whitely in the movie Transformers: Dark of the Moon, who appeared in this commercial.

13. Ridley Scott: Apple Computers

Considered the greatest commercial of all time, Ridley Scott’s “1984” TV ad for Apple Computer's new Macintosh premiered during Super Bowl XVII in 1984. While the Orwellian ad only aired once, the commercial was very influential on future marketing and the overall success of Apple in the early 80s. Apple CEO Steve Jobs chose Ridley Scott to direct the TV spot because of the dystopian future world he created in the 1982 film Blade Runner.

14. Baz Luhrmann: Chanel No. 5

In 2004, Australian director Baz Luhrmann made a commercial that reunited him with his Moulin Rouge! star Nicole Kidman. Based on the William Wyler film Roman Holiday, the 3-minute commercial was lush, flamboyant, and decadent. The commercial was so extravagant that it’s considered the most expensive commercial of all time with an estimated budget of a whopping $33 million. Nicole Kidman received $3 million for appearing in the ad.

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Karl Walter, Getty Images
When the FBI Investigated the 'Murder' of Nine Inch Nails's Trent Reznor
Karl Walter, Getty Images
Karl Walter, Getty Images

The two people standing over the body, Michigan State Police detective Paul Wood told the Hard Copy cameras, “had a distinctive-type uniform on. As I recall: black pants, some type of leather jacket with a design on it, and one was wearing combat boots. The other was wearing what looked like patent leather shoes. So if it was a homicide, I was thinking it was possibly a gang-type homicide.”

Wood was describing a puzzling case local police, state police, and eventually the FBI had worked hard to solve for over a year. The mystery began in 1989, when farmer Robert Reed spotted a circular group of objects floating over his farm just outside of rural Burr Oak, Michigan; it turned out to be a cluster of weather balloons attached to a Super 8 camera.

When the camera landed on his property, the surprised farmer didn't develop the footage—he turned it over to the police. Some local farmers had recently gotten into trouble for letting wild marijuana grow on the edges of their properties, and Reed thought the balloons and camera were a possible surveillance technique. But no state or local jurisdictions used such rudimentary methods, so the state police in East Lansing decided to develop the film. What they saw shocked them.

A city street at night; a lifeless male body with a mysterious substance strewn across his face; two black-clad men standing over the body as the camera swirled away up into the sky, with a third individual seen at the edge of the frame running away, seemingly as fast as possible. Michigan police immediately began analyzing the footage for clues, and noticed the lights of Chicago’s elevated train system, which was over 100 miles away.

It was the first clue in what would become a year-long investigation into what they believed was either a cult killing or gang murder. When they solved the “crime” of what they believed was a real-life snuff film, they were more shocked than when the investigation began: The footage was from the music video for “Down In It,” the debut single from industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, and the supposed dead body was the group's very-much-alive lead singer, Trent Reznor.

 
 

In 1989, Nine Inch Nails was about to release their debut album, Pretty Hate Machine, which would go on to be certified triple platinum in the United States. The record would define the emerging industrial rock sound that Reznor and his rotating cast of bandmates would experiment with throughout the 1990s and even today on albums like The Downward Spiral and The Slip.

The band chose the song “Down In It”—a track with piercing vocals, pulsing electronic drums, sampled sound effects, and twisted nursery rhyme-inspired lyrics—as Pretty Hate Machine's first single. They began working with H-Gun, a Chicago-based multimedia team led by filmmakers Eric Zimmerman and Benjamin Stokes (who had created videos for such bands as Ministry and Revolting Cocks), and sketched out a rough idea for the music video.

Filmed on location among warehouses and parking garages in Chicago, the video was supposed to culminate in a shot with a leather-jacketed Reznor running to the top of a building, while two then-members of the band followed him wearing studded jumpsuits; the video would fade out with an epic floating zoom shot to imply that Reznor's cornstarch-for-blood-covered character had fallen off the building and died in the street. Because the cash-strapped upstarts didn’t have enough money for a fancy crane to achieve the shot for their video, they opted to tie weather balloons to the camera and let it float up from Reznor, who was lying in the street surrounded by his bandmates. They eventually hoped to play the footage backward to get the shot in the final video.

Instead, the Windy City lived up to its name and quickly whisked the balloons and camera away. With Reznor playing dead and his bandmates looking down at him, only one of the filmmakers noticed. He tried to chase down the runaway camera—which captured his pursuit—but it was lost, forcing them to finish shooting the rest of the video and release it without the planned shot from the missing footage in September of 1989.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the band, a drama involving their lost camera was unfolding in southwest Michigan. Police there eventually involved the Chicago police, whose detectives determined that the footage had been filmed in an alley in the city's Fulton River District. After Chicago authorities found no homicide reports matching the footage for the neighborhood and that particular time frame, they handed the video over to the FBI, whose pathologists reportedly said that, based on the substance on the individual, the body in the video was rotting.

 
 

The "substance" in question was actually the result of the low-quality film and the color of the cornstarch on the singer’s face, which had also been incorporated into the press photos for Pretty Hate Machine. It was a nod to the band's early live shows, in which Reznor would spew cornstarch and chocolate syrup on his band members and the audience. “It looks really great under the lights, grungey, a sort of anti-Bon Jovi and the whole glamour thing,” Reznor said in a 1991 interview.

With no other easy options, and in order to generate any leads that might help them identify the victim seen in the video, the authorities distributed flyers to Chicago schools asking if anyone knew any details behind the strange “killing.”

The tactic worked. A local art student was watching MTV in 1991 and saw the distinctive video for “Down In It,” which reminded him of one of the flyers he had seen at school. He contacted the Chicago police to tip them off to who their supposed "murder victim" really was. Nine Inch Nails’s manager was notified, and he told Reznor and the filmmakers what had really happened to their lost footage.

“It’s interesting that our top federal agency, the Federal Bureau of [Investigation], couldn’t crack the Super 8 code,” co-director Zimmerman said in an interview. As for Wood and any embarrassment law enforcement had after the investigation: “I thought it was our duty, one way or the other, to determine what was on that film,” he said.

“My initial reaction was that it was really funny that something could be that blown out of proportion with this many people worked up about it,” Reznor said, and later told an interviewer, “There was talk that I would have to appear and talk to prove that I was alive.” Even though—in the eyes of state, local, and federal authorities—he was reportedly dead for over a year, Reznor didn’t seem to be bothered by it: “Somebody at the FBI had been watching too much Hitchcock or David Lynch or something,” he reasoned.

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ZUMA Press, Inc., Alamy
5 Fascinating Facts About Koko the Gorilla
ZUMA Press, Inc., Alamy
ZUMA Press, Inc., Alamy

After 46 years of learning, making new friends, and challenging ideas about language, Koko the gorilla died in her sleep at her home at the Gorilla Foundation in Woodside, California on June 21, 2018. Koko first gained recognition in the late 1970s for her ability to use sign language, but it was her friendly personality that made her a beloved icon. Here are five facts you should know about the history-making ape.

1. SHE KNEW OVER 1000 SIGNS.

Francine "Penny" Patterson, then a graduate student at Stanford University, was looking for an animal subject for her inter-species animal communication experiment in the early 1970s when she found a baby gorilla at the San Francisco Zoo. Originally named Hanabiko (Japanese for "fireworks child," a reference to her Fourth of July birthdate), Koko took to signing quickly. Some of the first words Koko learned in "Gorilla Sign Language," Patterson's modified version of American Sign Language, were "food," "drink," and "more." She followed a similar trajectory as a human toddler, learning the bulk of her words between ages 2.5 and 4.5. Eventually Koko would come to know over 1000 signs and understand about 2000 words spoken to her in English. Though she never got a grasp on grammar or syntax, she was able to express complex ideas, like sadness when watching a sad movie and her desire to have a baby.

2. SHE CHANGED WHAT WE KNEW ABOUT LANGUAGE.

Not only did Koko use language to communicate—she also used it in a way that was once only thought possible in humans. Her caretakers have reported her signing about objects that weren't in the room, recalling memories, and even commenting on language itself. Her vocabulary was on par with that of a 3-year-old child.

3. SHE WASN'T THE ONLY APE WHO SIGNED.

Koko was the most famous great ape who knew sign language, but she wasn't alone. Michael, a male gorilla who lived with Koko at the Gorilla Foundation from 1976 until his death in 2000, learned over 500 signs with help from Koko and Patterson. He was even able to express the memory of his mother being killed by poachers when he was a baby. Other non-human primates have also shown they're capable of learning sign language, like Washoe the chimpanzee and Chantek the orangutan.

4. SHE HAD FAMOUS FRIENDS.

Koko received many visitors during her lifetime, including some celebrities. When Robin Williams came to her home in Woodside, California in 2001, the two bonded right away, with Williams tickling the gorilla and Koko trying on his glasses. But perhaps her most famous celebrity encounter came when Mr. Rogers paid her a visit in 1999. She immediately recognized him as the star of one of her favorite shows, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and greeted him by helping him take off his shoes like he did at the start of every episode.

5. SHE WAS A LOVING CAT MOM.

Koko was never able to have offspring of her own, but she did adopt several cats. After asking for a kitten, she was allowed to pick one from a litter for her birthday in 1985. She named the gray-and-white cat "All Ball" and handled it gently as if it were her real baby, even trying to nurse it. She had recently received two new kittens for her 44th birthday named Ms. Gray and Ms. Black.

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