Remembering Alan Arkin, Moosehead spokesman (oh, and Oscar winner)

Alan Arkin, who died on June 29 at the age of 89, was a versatile actor whose career spanned seven decades and included everything from feature films, to TV and Broadway.

He won a Tony Award for his role in “Enter Laughing” in 1963, a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his comedic turn in Little Miss Sunshine, and more recently provided the voice of reclusive American author J.D. Salinger in the animated series BoJack Horseman.

But tucked away deep inside a resume that ultimately totalled hundreds of roles was a little-known turn as a spokesperson for Moosehead Breweries in 1992.

Terry O’Reilly, longtime Canadian ad-man and host of CBC’s Under the Influence, shared the story on Twitter this past weekend, but the tale of how a well-respected actor became a pitchman for a small Canadian beer brand was also featured in a 2018 episode of his program.

O’Reilly, who was one of the writers on the campaign from now defunct agency Harrod & Mirlin, said that because the beer category was so active at the time their search for talent led them to NewYork.

The casting director there had worked with Arkin, who just so happened to have a a summer place in Cape Breton and was an avowed fan of the brand. When he heard the scripts, the veteran actor asked if they’d consider him for the role, and promised to make himself “affordable.”

“We were gobsmacked—a perfect storm in a business where the storms are seldom perfect,” Harrod & Mirlin co-founder Ian Mirlin told The Message.

With O’Reilly’s words as his guide, Arkin perfectly captured the character of the Moosehead brand while teasing out what Mirlin described as an “edgy, yet  still charming” performance.

The veteran actor was the only talent in the spots, which featured him sitting at a bar and talking directly to camera with that distinctive voice of his about the brand’s unchanging values and taste.

“Is it going to change now? No. Is it going to change in the next fiscal year? No,” he informs viewers in one spot. “Is it going to change never? Yes. Never. What do you think about that?”

In another spot, he took direct aim at Molson and Labatt, then responsible for 94% of the beer brewed in Canada, and asks viewers to imagine if they could only choose between two vegetables, two types of dogs, or, in a query that probably wouldn’t fly today, if there were only two girls in the world. “Who of us would get dates?” He then touts Moosehead as a beer “for those who like to make choices.”

Arkin earned plaudits for his wry, unvarnished performance, and the work went on win a Gold in the campaign category at the annual Bessies awards. “For Terry, myself and those involved at the agency, the experience remains one of our dearest memories from the days of Harrod & Mirlin,” said Mirlin.

Chris Powell