London - Yes, he may have been paid more than £4-million (about R55-million) to do it - but how Brad Pitt must regret taking part in the preposterous Chanel No 5 advertising campaign.
Not just because it has just been voted the worst advert of 2012. Not just because the centrepiece television ad is quite possibly the most pretentious 30 seconds ever captured on film (and I am including all Bono footage, plus the collected speechifying of Lady Gaga, Salman Rushdie and Madonna in this category).
The Brad Chanel No 5 television ad is the essence of nonsense. Credit: Victoria Will/Invision/AP
Not just because it has damaged Brad’s own reputation and that of the iconic perfume itself - first invented in 1921 and famously worn by Marilyn Monroe in bed. Not just because it has put a crimp in the standing of the House of Chanel and a question mark over the judgment of boss Karl Lagerfeld, whose idea it was to hire Pitt in the first place.
Mostly because it has made Brad a total laughing stock. A joke. A silly fool. A bit of a great hairy nit.
All those years spent trying to prove he was something more than a pretty face or just another bit of arm-candy for Jen and then Angelina? Gone in a woosh of the world’s most celebrated perfume.
In the ad, Pitt is depicted as a beardy in a shirt, mumbling existential inanities in the corner of a room for the greater good of no one. I know! That makes him sound like Rowan Williams giving a sermon on a wet Sunday - but if anything, the reality is even drearier.
What actually happens? Not much. The Brad Chanel No 5 television ad is the essence of nonsense. The eau de drivel. The scent of the utterly absurd.
The A-list Hollywood actor stands alone in a room, looking downcast. What kind of a room? It could be a padded cell, a prison, a lavatory, a secure unit, a Kwik-Fit garage. Your guess is as good as mine. All you need to know is that it is filmed in black and white, darlings, which means it is Art with a capital A.
Hush now. Brad is talking. Who is he talking to? A perfume bottle or a woman? It is impossible to say. Is he talking about the perfume or to the perfume? Who knows, but his voice is hoarse and gruff with the effort of trying to distil all the wonders of the world and mysteries of the universe, life and love itself into 40 words of the kind of banal gobbledegook that passes for profundity amongst the fashion set.
“It’s not a journey,” he begins, gazing soulfully into the distance. “Every journey ends but we go on. The world turns and we turn with it. Plans disappear, dreams take over,” he continues, and then - this is the money shot - he turns and stares directly into the camera: “but wherever I go, there you are. My luck, my fate, my fortune. Chanel No 5. Inevitable.”
It makes no sense at all. And what is with Brad’s weird intonation on luCK and faTE and forCHUNE ? It sounds like he has sandpapered his throat, gargled with actual Chanel No 5 and is determined to be heard through a mouthful of heavily scented meringue.
And it is also kind of creepy. “Wherever I go, there you are?” What are you, some kind of a stalker? Brad’s got people who get paid a great deal of money to deal with all that. Someone call security.
Inevitable? What quickly became inevitable was that the Brad ad would become one of the most spoofed in history. Comedians, talk-show hosts and satirists fell upon it with glee, ripping it apart like vultures feasting on the choicest perfumed carrion.
This huge advertising campaign, which was rolled out in October on both sides of the Atlantic on TV and in magazines, newspapers and on billboards, is one of the most expensive in Chanel’s history. The media-spend in Britain and America alone was estimated at £25 million, with Brad’s fee added on top of that.
The TV ad was shot in London and directed by Joe Wright, whose credits include Pride & Prejudice (the 2005 version), Atonement and this year’s Anna Karenina. Wright said that even he didn’t understand the ad’s script, which was written by Glenn O’Brien, a fashion insider who writes a column called The Style Guy for American GQ magazine.
O’Brien, in an interview with New York Magazine, revealed that Pitt was a funny guy who did impersonations of Marlon Brando and Dennis Hopper on the Chanel set. He sounds a scream! But in a recent chat-show appearance, Brad admitted he didn’t have a clue what the Chanel ad was about either.
And O’Brien gave little away about the true meaning of the script, if indeed it had one - and he was unfazed by all the mockery. “You’ve always really got it made when that happens,” he said.
This is a sentiment echoed by Claire Beale, editor of Campaign, the trade magazine for the UK advertising industry. She says: “There is no doubt this is a real stinker of an ad but it’s so bad it’s become one of the most noticeable campaigns out there - one of the most high-profile campaigns Chanel has ever run, though also one of the most expensive.
“Fragrance ads are often so bland that they’re incredibly easy to ignore but the Brad ad has real talk-about value. On the whole, I think it’s given Chanel a new angle and visibility, though it would have worked better if it had been more playful.”
But she agrees that it has been a personal disaster for Brad Pitt.
“The real damage was done to him, not Chanel,” she says. “He has lost any residual cool he might have had.”
Poor Brad. Like I said, all those years of trying to prove he was more than a coupla pound of prize beefcake, gone in a spritz of flowery top notes with a musky dry down. All the politics, all the posturing, all the hanging out with Nelson Mandela, all the peace conferences attended with Angelina, all the ambassadorships for world poverty, for international hunger, for refugees, all that campaigning to end sundry African wars, to stop torture, to just quit it with all the bad stuff, people! All the adopted children, all the well-meaning political intervention, going, going, gone in a blast of Chanel.
This is the first time Chanel has used a man as the face and voice of Chanel No 5 - will it be the last? Certainly, sales of the perfume are booming - but then again, they always are at this time of year.
And although devoted Brad fans adore everything he does, many female consumers have been left confused by the mixed messages that the ad sends out. Are we supposed to buy Chanel No 5 because Brad likes it, and if we buy it he might like us, too? Somehow I think not.
And in the end, all those throaty voiceovers and frightening Brad-ish close-ups just make me focus on what an odd shape his face is - a wedge of hairy cheese trying to be profound - and wish he would shave off that irritating goatee.
But perhaps that’s just my luck, my fate, my fortune.
THE Brad ad has been parodied across the internet from Italy to Arizona by everyone from schoolboys to former rock stars.
I particularly liked Mark Paton on the website The Daily Buzz, whose wig-wearing Brad was portrayed as a know-nothing dumb blond looking in the wrong direction.
‘The camera is over here, Brad,’ he is told.
‘Oh, right,’ he says, and starts the script. ‘Channel 5,’ he says.
‘It’s actually Chanel, Brad,’ he’s told.
‘Oh. German. Cool,’ he replies.
Another spoofer has ‘Brad’ saying; ‘Wherever I go, there I am. Lucky me.’ This Brad-a-like also points out that the ad is ‘the most important thing mankind has ever done. You can tell because of the lighting’.
The satirical American show Saturday Night Live has Brad as Hammy the Talking Hamster (‘My wheel turns, and I turn in it’), while The Pet Collective website has a Brad dog in a Brad shirt making a Brad ad for something called Kennel No 5.
The husky voiceover says: ‘It’s not a walk. Every walk ends but we go on. The stick flies and we chase after it. Whatever I fetch, there you are. My wag, my treat, my belly rub. Kennel No 5. Adorable.’
American chat-show host Conan O’Brien featured a nightmarish naked torso superimposed on the read Brad ad. It looked like Brad was caressing himself lovingly as he spoke the Chanel script - truly hideous.
And so it goes on. There are Spanish spoofs and even a not-very-funny Scottish spoof, which somehow manages to drag Buckfast fortified wine - the choice of McAlkies everywhere - into the heady mix. - Daily Mail