(CNN)For A-list celebrities, maximizing revenue can be tough.
Before YouTube, slipping quietly across the Pacific to produce a TV spot promoting an obscure foreign product was a quick and easy way to replenish the bank account without having to live with the embarrassing results.
These days, though, it’s becoming more and more legitimate.
Studio City, a casino resort in Macau owned by Melco Crown, has dropped a reported $70 million on a short film which is the centerpiece of a new ad campaign, bringing together some of the brightest stars in Hollywood’s firmament, and placing them under the watchful eye of Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese.
In a teaser for «The Audition» (yes, this ad is so ambitious it has a title, and a preview), Scorsese stalwarts Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio bump into each other in Studio City’s lobby. Both are preparing for the titular audition by practicing lines — for the same part, it transpires. The trailer plays out like any theatrical release preview, with a tantalizing glimpse of Brad Pitt rounding out the triumvirat
The short film plays heavily on Scorsese’s distinctive style — albeit with a greater element of humor — and riffs on «Casino,» one of Scorsese’s previous collaborations with De Niro. Together they have made eight movies; DiCaprio and the legendary director have made five.
So the overseas ad cash-in has come a long way.
But back in the day — particularly in Japan, which saw a proliferation of such ads in the economic bubble years of the 1990s and early 2000s, — stars would happily produce some truly cringeworthy performances for a quick paycheck, safe in the knowledge that no-one back home would ever see them.
In the age of YouTube, however, no star is safe. CNN digs through the archives to bring you five of the best.
Leonardo DiCaprio is no stranger to endorsing products in Asia, with «The Audition» merely his latest effort. In 2011, he starred in a campaign for Oppo, a China-based cellphone company. A late addition to the genre, these slick, movie-traileresque ads feature Leo desperately searching for a mysterious woman on the streets of Paris. Blink and you might even miss the phone.
Brad Pitt/Edwin Jeans
Back in the late 1990s, Leo’s purported «Audition» co-star Pitt was supplementing his income from movies such as «Meet Joe Black » and «Fight Club» by taking money from a number of Japanese brands in exchange for appearing in TV spots that he likely assumed would never see the light of day back in the U.S.
One such brand was Edwin, a denim manufacturer. In these spots, he mispronounces the name of the style, 503, in Japanese as «go mari sun.» His poor Japanese later became a theme of the ads. In other Edwin commercials, he utters timeless lines such as «Let me ask you something. Do you like… my ass?»
Arnold Schwarzenegger/Arinamin V vitamin drinks
In one of the most outlandish examples of U.S.-based celeb TV ‘commercials, early-1990’s «Schwa-chan» — who was at the time one of Hollywood’s biggest box-office draws — stars as a office salaryman who transforms from the butt of his office’s jokes into the bizarre, energetic «Devil King V,» — all thanks to a sip of his vitamin drink.
James Brown/Nissin Cup Noodles
Japan’s bubble years were salad days for American superstars. Or, in the Godfather of Soul’s case, noodle days. In this 1992 ad, James Brown sings a cleverly altered version of «Sex Machine,» replacing the immortal line, «Get on up!» with «Miso’d up!» referencing the fermented soybean paste that flavors his Nissin instant noodles. Like his famously hyperactive live shows, in this ad the late Brown doesn’t hold anything back in his quest to sell polystyrene cups of soup-based snacks.
Paul Newman/Maxwell House
And finally, a classic. He may have had 10 Oscar nominations, but that didn’t stop Paul Newman from lending his acting talents to coffee brand Maxwell House for this Japanese ad in 1980. Newman has no lines, but his hand gestures say it all.