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The Craziest Stunts Used to Promote Movies

The Craziest Stunts Used to Promote Movies

By Tim Butcher

If you were in Phoenix last Thursday and in need of a ride, you had the chance to get picked up by none other than Optimus Prime himself. The ride sharing service Uber got their hands on the articulated truck used in Transformers: Age of Extinction and were ferrying people around as a way of spreading the word about its release. Pretty neat, although (one suspects) not the vehicle you want turning up if you actually had to get somewhere fast. Still, It got us thinking about other over-the-top stunts that studios have pulled off over the years to create buzz about their movies. Here are some of our favorites.

Office Space

Back in 2003, David Blaine stunned audiences across the world by living suspended in a glass box for 44 days. And by “stunned” we mean “mildly entertained.” But as it turns out, Blaine wasn’t even the first person to pull off such an awe-inspiring feat! Back in 1999, a man lived in a glass cube for a week to promote the movie Office Space. Perched atop a building in Times Square, the hapless guy had to work away at a desk, answering phone calls and filing reports, while onlookers stood by and gawped all the live long day. So, not only was it an endurance stunt, it was also an extended theatrical performance! Kinda makes David's thing look a little pedestrian, huh?

Devils Due

What's the quickest and most direct way of getting peoples' attention? Easy! Just scare the hell out of them! That was presumably the thinking behind this stunt for the movie Devil’s Due, which saw a demon baby in a remote controlled pram terrorizing a succession of unsuspecting New Yorkers. As people approached the buggy to check on the baby inside... suddenly out popped a hideous animation contraption, screaming and projectile vomiting all over the shop. Sure, it’s a little mean, but it’s also surprisingly entertaining—and genuinely a little bit creepy too! The problem with this prank is that it’s actually slightly more entertaining than the movie itself, which, by all accounts, is a bit of damp squib.

I’m Still Here

Remember when Joaquin Phoenix appeared on the Letterman show with a big scraggly beard acting all spaced out and weird? Remember how we laughed and pointed and cast aspersions on the state his mental health? “Ha, ha!” we said. “He appears to be in the midst of a total breakdown!” Well, it turns out that the joke was on us. Phoenix was merely in character, drumming up buzz for the mockumentary I’m Still Here, in which he plays a weird, scragglier version of his real life self. What we all thought was the sight of a career ending in flames was actually the resurgence of one! Now Phoenix is a bigger star than ever, most recently appearing in the smart and sensitive Spike Jonze sci-fi flick Her. Well played, Mr. Phoenix, well played. Does this mean that Justin Beiber’s recent transgressions are all part of some performance art piece too?

The Dictator

Considering that many of his movies are pretty much feature-length pranks in and of themselves, it’s no surprise that Sacha Baron Cohen is no slouch in the "crazy promotional stunts" department. Particularly memorable is the time he was escourted off the Oscars red carpet in character as Admiral General Aladeen (from his movie The Dictator) after pouring the “ashes” of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il all over Ryan Seacrest's Tuxedo. According to Cohen, it was one of the late dictator’s final wishes. Seacrest, to his credit, was magnanimous about the incident, turning to camera and saying: “Anything can happen and it most certainly did, all over my lapel” Atta boy, Ryan! Hopefully General Aladeen put a little something towards the dry cleaning bill.

The Blair Witch Project

The most creative promotional campaign of all time, however, has got to be the one deployed to spread the word about this groundbreaking found-footage horror movie. Now, the idea may seem silly and quaint now, but when The Blair Witch Project first came out, a sizable portion of the population was under the impression that the events of the film actually took place in real life. The makers put together a clever, convincing website (one of the first to promote a feature length movie), featuring “information” about the film’s characters, the circumstances of their disappearance, theories on what happened etc. And just imagine how awesome and scary that would have been, going in to watch the movie believing that it was all totally real! Not since Orson Welles’ reading of War of the Worlds terrified the nation back in 1938 had anything even remotely similar been achieved, and never again since!

Have you ever been caught in the middle of a promotional prank?

Tags: movies, promos, transformers: age of extinction, promotion

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