It could be argued that Dos Equis’ “The Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign has produced the most iconic beverage personality of the modern era. The campaign’s central character has become the alpha male of a generation through his anecdotes of gentleman’s wisdom and timeless stories of chivalry and adventure, transcending beverage culture and earning a well-deserved place within the mainstream popular culture of the United States and beyond.
In this latest and most glorious edition of the Mutineer Interview, we go behind the scenes and set sail on the mighty Pacific with actor Jonathan Goldsmith on his live-aboard sailboat on a mission to understand exactly how one goes about playing The Most Interesting Man In The World.
Mutineer Magazine: Was the role of “The Most Interesting Man in the World” designed specifically for you?
Jonathan Goldsmith: No. I don’t think they knew who it was written for, but they had a concept. I got a call about this character that they had in mind and they didn’t know exactly what they were looking for, but it was going to be done on an improvisational basis, and the end line was, “And that’s how I arm-wrestled Fidel Castro.”
So I went to the audition and there were 300 people whom I thought looked more right for the character then I did. I thought my agent sent me on a wild goose chase and that I didn’t have a chance in the world. But I put on an accent and improvised and they let me go on for a little while. Afterwards, I called my agent up and said, “Thanks, but this is ridiculous. They’re not looking for me.” A month went by, I was called back, and now there were only 100 in the room. Another month passed and I had totally forgotten about it. My agent told me that they were looking around the country and they hadn’t found who they wanted. We got another call, and this time there were only three of us. They did a full screen-test and I got it. I was the lucky guy.
But now I have a chance to make people laugh, to perhaps make some social comments and to affect people to the point where they remember more of the lines than I do.
What is your previous experience as an actor?
I’ve had a very good acting career in television. I’ve guest starred in over 350 shows and I did a lot of great television. I was on “Knots Landing” for half of a season, as well as Dallas and Dynasty, and I did some very good pilots with great writers. Again, it goes back to having good luck. I starred in a TV pilot for Sidney Furie, who did marvelous pictures like “Lady Sings the Blues”.
Over my entire career what I wanted to do most was comedy. However, I was the bad guy, always killing somebody or being killed…actually, one time I did have a chance at comedy in a TV pilot. And despite the fact that the director said, “My God, we’ve found the comedy discovery of the year!” the pilot didn’t sell and I went back to playing bad guys. But now I have a chance to make people laugh, to perhaps make some social comments and to affect people to the point where they remember more of the lines than I do.
In a way it’s kind of bittersweet. Though I always thought I was a good actor, the proverbial brass ring had eluded me…until now.
Can you talk about the experiences filming “The Most Interesting Man In The World” campaign?
It’s like a movie set. There is a huge crew and the people are the best. I’ve never worked with a finer group in my life, each of whom shares in the success of this campaign.
At first, it just felt like a great job and I had no idea that it would ever go past the first three or four days of shooting. I was delighted when they called me back again. I could see that there were other dimensions to this character, that he wasn’t just a one-liner. He has a past life that is continuously revealing itself through the creative process.
I’ve tried to find nuances within this character where I can merge some of my own life experiences with his. It is nice to be able to make some social comments and pass on a legacy of sorts that brings a smile to people’s faces.
Did you anticipate this kind of a response to the Dos Equis campaign?
No. And now we’re in our fourth year now. I appreciate the writing and think it’s wonderful, by a group of very talented, young, hip people. From the beginning I said, “This will be fun,” and it has been. The good writing has gotten better and better, and the campaign has gone far beyond what I think anybody could have anticipated. We’ve won numerous awards, and I think the newest batch are the funniest yet. I’ve been very lucky.
People will stop me at random and ask me to sign an autograph, which makes me feel really good of course. A fellow came up to us recently and said, “Yesterday, I was asking my 7-year-old son what he wanted to be when he grew up, and he said he wanted to be The Most Interesting Man in the World.” At seven, how ambitious! Prior to that, we were on a bus in Manhattan, and an elderly gentleman with a cane came over and said, “When I come back, I want to come back like you.” This of course makes me feel good. The whole thing is a feel-good campaign and I love doing it.
Do you have any daily beverage rituals?
Yes, I look forward to a martini before dinner, and I have a trick. Instead of drinking a large martini, I put a lot of ice in the glass with two olives stuffed with feta cheese to take up more room, then a good shot of gin.
What kind of cigar are you smoking right now?
This is from CAO, and it’s kind of like a Hoya de Monterey I would say. It’s medium-bodied with a maduro wrapper. I smoke one a day; don’t tell my doctor. Every puff of a good cigar with every sip of a good Armagnac is the best, and always compliments a good meal.
What is your bar setup on the boat?
We have a beautiful silver tray and on it we have three decanters; one has bourbon, one has scotch and one has Armagnac. One of the things about living on a boat is that you prioritize the things that are significant to you because you don’t have much room. There is a little silver antique shot glass, and in it we have picks for the olives. That’s one part of the bar. We have to move everything when we go sailing, except for our liquor locker which has cut-outs for the bottles. In the freezer we have the gin and the vodka. So yeah, I enjoy liquor, though beer is far and away my favorite drink. I have a large cooler always well stocked with Dos Equis on the stern of the boat.