When he's not busy making movies, Charlie Sheen peddles shoes in Japan. Mickey Rourke sells whiskey. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the physical fitness maven, pitches a stimulant-loaded "energy" drink.
Switch to almost any channel in Tokyo, and one can find some of Hollywood's biggest moneymakers pushing Japanese products, lured by fat paychecks to satisfy the Japanese hunger for the famous faces of the American screen.Most are stars who are rarely seen risking their reputations on American television. And most are here for one main reason: to sell Japanese goods to the Japanese.
Take Sheen, the young star of "Wall Street," "Platoon" and other box- office hits. Apart from selling shoes, he appears on the small screen for Tokyo Gas Co., calmly smiling next to a slogan that in the United States might be considered somewhat scatological but seems to work here: "My life, my gas."
Schwarzenegger, the righteous avenger of many action-adventure movies, is known for his public service ads on U.S. television, as chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness.
On Japanese TV, however, he portrays a spike-haired maniac screaming his enthusiasm - literally - for one of the perky energy drinks so popular in this workaholic nation.
Other names seen pitching Japanese products would light up any marquee from Los Angeles to New York. Among them: Sylvester Stallone, Frank Sinatra, Sigourney Weaver and Michael J. Fox.
Britain's Daniel Day-Lewis was the most recent big-name debut, his marketability ensured by the Academy Award he won last year for best actor. The star of "My Left Foot" sells a men's cosmetics line, uttering two words: "It's pure."
The Japanese sponsors make their trips worthwhile. Top fees in 1990 were commanded by Schwarzenegger and Fox at about $750,000 per commercial.