Celebrities have been endorsing big-name brands for years, from sneakers and soda to skincare products and makeup. But you might be surprised to find out that there are actually a slew of celebs who have appeared in fast food commercials over the years — some well before anyone knew their names. Here’s a look at 12 famous people who have used their talents to promote fast food restaurants.
In 2006, Pizza Hut hired pop star Jessica Simpson to promote their fast food pies. She appeared in a number of commercials for the chain over a two year period, including two ads that aired during the Super Bowl. One of the most memorable was this “Cheesy Bites” ad, which features the sexy Simpson singing a reimagined version of “These Boots Were Made for Walking” with the lyrics “These bites were made for popping.” We’re also fond of this ad for the chain’s Buffalo Chicken Pizza that includes little sis Ashlee Simpson and a classic line from Jess reminiscent of her Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica days — “I know, buffalos don’t have wings.”
Long before he was an A-lister (and years before he dated J.Lo the first time around), Gone Girl actor Ben Affleck starred in this commercial for Burger King. Airing in 1989, it features a 17-year-old Affleck making an impromptu Burger King pick up for an attractive female. While the ad was not Affleck’s big break, it did teach him an early lesson about being in the spotlight. “That was my first experience with fame,” he said in a 2016 appearance on Good Morning America. “Because The Economist did a big story about how Burger King’s current campaign was failing, and they used the picture of me from that commercial. First time I ever got in the press was for bombing, apparently.”
In 2012, soccer star David Beckham was tapped to promote the healthier side of Burger King by appearing in a series of ads for the fast food chain’s new line of fruit smoothies. The humorous commercials, which play up the athlete’s famous good looks, were part of a campaign designed to showcase Burger King’s new, health-conscious menu additions.
NSYNC landed a couple of major fast food endorsement deals during their heyday. In 2000, they teamed up with Britney Spears for a McDonald’s commercial to promote the chain’s release of limited-edition HitClips, which were basically prehistoric digital audio players. Two years later, the best-selling boy band filmed two ads for Chili’s, which was sponsoring their “Celebrity” tour. The most memorable of the two features the guys singing their own soulful rendition of the chain’s famous “Baby Back Ribs” jingle.
Supermodel Heidi Klum signed a big sponsorship deal with McDonald’s back in 2004. However, you may not remember the ads that featured her because they only aired in Klum’s native country of Germany. Luckily, thanks to the magic of YouTube, we can now watch the America’s Got Talent host enjoy the chain’s McChicken Salad and peddle their Chicken Gourmet sandwich. But unless you speak German, you won’t understand a word they’re saying.
Before he became everyone’s favorite boss, comedian Steve Carell found success in a couple of fast food commercials. In 1989, he appeared in this 1989 commercial for Chicago-area chain Brown’s Chicken. A few years later, The Office star became the face of an early ‘90s ad campaign for McDonald’s “$3-For-All” value meals, which included a triple cheeseburger, large fries, and a medium Coke Classic — all for just three bucks.
Patrick Duffy became an international superstar in the late 1970s thanks to his iconic role as Bobby Ewing on the primetime soap opera, Dallas. He also spent most of the ‘90s starring on the hit sitcom Step by Step, and appeared in a number of made-for-TV Dallas movies in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. But before all that, the actor made his TV debut in a 1976 commercial for fast food chain Taco Bell. He plays a bright-eyed Taco Bell employee helping an indecisive customer complete his order.
Before he was Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Elijah Wood was a child actor who appeared in a number of movies, including Avalon, Forever Young, Radio Flyer, and Flipper. He also had a face for commercials and appeared in a couple of fast food ads, including this 1994 spot for Wavy Lays Potato Chips and this early ‘90s ad for Pizza Hut.
Jodie Foster is another Hollywood star who got her start as a child actor. While she gained worldwide notoriety for her role in the 1975 hit Taxi Driver, she also made a memorable appearance in this wacky 1970s ad for McDonald’s. In the commercial, Foster and another young kid are upset because Grimace (a strange purple blob character featured frequently in old McDonald’s ads) was stealing all of the fast food chain’s cups, making it impossible for diners to enjoy their milkshakes and Coca-Cola. Luckily, Ronald McDonald saves the day by distracting Grimace so the cups can be returned and a pint-sized Jodie Foster can enjoy her milkshake.
Will & Grace star Megan Mullally played an enthusiastic McDonald’s employee in this 1983 ad for the fast food chain’s $0.99 Egg McMuffin. Bright-eyed and bushy tailed for the early morning breakfast rush, Mullally is the opposite of the boozy Karen Walker in this commercial. Watch closely, and you’ll see another major star before he hit it big – The Connors’ John Goodman taking a big bite of his breakfast sandwich.
Back in 1985, a pre-Seinfeld Jason Alexander (with hair!) starred in this spirited ad for McDonald’s. The commercial features the actor singing and dancing up a storm in celebration of the fast food chain’s new McD.L.T. — a hamburger served in a special Styrofoam container to keep the tomato and lettuce separate from the meat. As the actor sings, “The beef stays hot, the cool stays crisp. Put it together you can’t resist the hottest taste, the coolest dish.” Unfortunately, this innovative menu item was discontinued in 1998.
Before she became the queen of the rom com thanks to movies like When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and You’ve Got Mail, Meg Ryan was a very perky Burger King employee in this 1982 commercial. Just 21 years old at the time, Ryan is eager to tell audiences about the fast food chain’s new “Aren’t You Hungry for a Whopper” scratch-off game, which gives dinners the chance to win $1,000, $5,000, or $1,000,000 (and maybe a free Whopper or Coke).