Video thrills the cameo stars

From Kate Bush to the Beastie Boys and beyond, musicians are once again turning to actors and celebrities to spice up their promos

From a hiding place in the woods, Bigfoot's cuter, blue-furred relation spies a woman flagging down a car. The forlorn figure spots his chance for escape and tries his paw at hitchhiking. A car slows and the driver emerges – it is none other than Jon Hamm, better known as the Mad Men advertising mogul Don Draper.

This is not the opening scene of an off the wall arthouse flick – it is the latest music video from the French indie stalwarts Herman Dune, the latest act to get a recognisable figure to help plug a new release. Along with the Beastie Boys and Kate Bush, the US-based duo are helping celebrity cameos enjoy a resurgence, after a period in which directors have been more keen to use sex and violence to attract attention.

Since music videos began, famous faces have been persuaded to add glamour or curiosity value to someone else's three-minute wonder. In 1976, Bryan Ferry got his then girlfriend, the model Jerry Hall, to swing a tail for "Let's Stick Together", but the tactic became properly entrenched in the 1980s. In 1984, Tracy Ullman persuaded the Labour leader Neil Kinnock to play a political canvasser in the video for her Madness cover, "My Guy". Kinnock failed to persuade the youth vote he was "with it" and politicians have since stayed away from such stunts, but the use of big-name pulling power took hold. For "You Can Call Me Al", the first single from the Graceland album, Paul Simon called on the services of Chevy Chase. When George Michael refused to do promotional duties for his second solo album, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, the "Freedom! 90" director David Fincher used a bevy of lip-synching supermodels, among them Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista and Cindy Crawford.

Subsequently, the actor Robert Downey Jr starred in the promo for Elton John's 2001 release "I Want Love". The actor's demanding role, in a production by the artist Sam Taylor-Wood (the video was one long shot), was his first job since being treated for drug addiction.

Music videos have also allowed film stars to show different sides to their on-screen personas – think Christopher Walken dancing in the Spike Jonze video for Fatboy Slim's "Weapon Of Choice", a Grammy winner in 2001.

In recent times, though, such appearances became rare, as promos lost their glamour. Attempting to connect with their audience, music acts have become more likely to invite their fans to a shoot – this has been tried by indie bands and by the US hip hop stars 50 Cent and Soulja Boy.

With family-friendly chart shows in short supply, despite the plethora of television channels available, blanket coverage of a glossy video is hard to achieve. Artists and directors have thus come to rely on shock value, turning promos into viral hits that look to be banned by MTV, in order to generate controversy. MIA was probably pleased when YouTube limited access to her video "Born Free", which saw redheads being gunned down, and sexual content has become nigh-on essential, from naked dancers with The Cribs to Shakira grinding away in a cage.

If there have been celebrity cameos in such videos, they have been mere adjuncts to the main aims of titillation and attention-seeking. Beyoncé, for instance, cropped up in the short film that accompanied Lady Gaga's "Telephone", though the piece's lesbian kissing and murder scene garnered most column inches. The professional gossip Perez Hilton has a crawl-on part in the video for Rihanna's "S&M", which caused complaints over its explicit depiction of leftfield sexual practices and earned censure from the broadcasting watchdog, Ofcom, when it was shown before the watershed.

Recent weeks, however, have seen a more playful use of famous names, who have become the headline rather than the content. The Beastie Boys corralled a studio-full of stars to appear in a 30-minute film, Fight For The Right Revisited. With Adam "MCA" Yauch being treated for cancer, the hip-hop trio needed something different to promote their new album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. To commemorate 25 years since their first hit, "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)", they came up with a follow-up, in which Elijah Wood, Seth Rogen and Danny McBride play the Beasties' younger selves, facing off against present-day versions played by Will Ferrell, Jack Black and John C Reilly. The film also features blink-and-you'll-miss-'em cameos from (among others) Steve Buscemi, Kirsten Dunst and Orlando Bloom.

Kate Bush has gone down a more gentle route on her long-awaited comeback. To accompany "Deeper Understanding", a song originally from her 1989 album The Sensual World, Bush, who directs her own videos, has used Robbie Coltrane, Frances Barber and Noel Fielding.

Both projects have been given event status. Bush's film was "premiered" on YouTube, following a teaser, and the Beastie Boys' offering was given a slot on terrestrial television. The video for Herman Dune's "Tell Me Something I Don't Know" has gone straight to the clips website Vimeo, but its impact should still be measurable.

For the writer and singer Yaya Herman Dune, the idea was to get somebody unexpected but recognisable to take the blue bigfoot puppet to a gig in Austin, Texas. Hamm "is funny, can say a lot of things with his face and is also a great father figure, looking so manly and all", according to Yaya, a Mad Men connoisseur. He continues: "Now, Jon might have liked that he was a candid and honest man as The Driver in the video... I'm not sure," before adding that Hamm would not have taken part if he did not like the song.

That might explain why stars continue to crop up in music videos. Regardless of their own status, they can be big fans, just like the rest of us.



Herman Dune's single "Tell Me Something I Don't Know" is out 23 May on Fortuna POP!

Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
News
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?