28 Years Later, Rob Liefeld Remembers Being Directed by Spike Lee for Levi's TV Commercial, Button That Fly

Once upon a time, Youngblood and Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld was in a TV ad for Levi's Jeans. 28 years ago precisely. And on Facebook, he wanted to revisit those heady days with his memories of the shoot, with director Spike Lee. He reminds us,

I had answered a contest from Levi's to "pitch your job that you do in your 501's". After initially setting up to film it at my office in Fullerton, a week prior to shooting they told me that they were going to stage it at Spike Lee's studios in Brooklyn. We shot the spot in one day in May, 1991. I brought pages with me from X-Force #3 to draw in the hotel and on the set. Upon arriving on set I witnessed the Hollywood style magic up close as they had staged my office exactly as it was back home, matching photos and video they recorded the week before. 2 Levi's ladies proclaimed "HE HAS NO ASS! OMIGAWD, HE HAS NO ASS!" When I tried on their jeans. I remember feeling completely emasculated by these two hysterical women but I just shrugged and smiled, because, in truth, I have NO ASS! If this spot relied on me as an ass model, we were truly screwed! After a few more fittings they settled on the mustard t-shirt that I wear through much of the spot and we were off. Spike Lee wanted me to speak the dialogue out loud while O was drawing, he wanted me to shout it out. I told him, I'm not an actor, I didn't think I could do it. A dolly went all around me as I mumbled my lines, Spike asked me to speak up, I froze. "Why'd we get this guy again?" An exec blurted out. Spike paused the shoot and moved to change things up, he had an idea… 

He huddled with his team and came back and told me he was going to interview me, would I be comfortable with that? I was thrilled to pivot and they reset the cameras and Spike went on to talk to me about comics, casually for about 20 minutes. He improvised using all his comic book knowledge, he's the real deal. Following the interview portion he asked me to draw him as a super hero. I had about a 30 minute head start on the drawing as they re-set to film, Spike stood over me asking about the drawing and Spikeman was born. We broke for lunch and afterwards they set me up in the platform with the big green screen and Spike repeatedly asked "Is your fly buttoned?" which I would shout out, "Yeah, it's buttoned!" 30 times. Apparently none of those takes worked and he brilliantly used the outtake in the finale. My buddy Marat, who had accompanied me on the entire trip and I headed over to the Marvel offices when we wrapped and had a quick visit and I informed them that I had shot a commercial and Levi's would need to clear images with them. I flew home and heard nothing for months. Late in August a Marvel rep called me and told me they had a copy of the spot and he told me, and I quote "You come off terrible! You're so bad!" I laughed and asked if they could send me the tape. I got it the next day and I howled, having lived through it, I thought Spike put together a great cut! It arrived as X-Force #3 hit the stands and ran thru 1993, 7 cycles. It was on all the time. Comic books were on tv all that time! Last January Deadpool 2 brought me to the Critics Choice Awards where I spotted Spike and thanked him again all these years later. He nodded, smiling. It was wonderful closing of the circle

And here it is…

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

twitter   facebook square   instagram   globe