The ad opens with actor John Malkovich in extreme close-up. You soon realize he is not staring at you through the TV screen. He is glaring at his own computer screen. He looks vexed.
“How is it that JohnMalkovich.com is taken?” he asks with comic incredulity.
A woman approaches and stares into the screen. “Somebody already snatched it,” she says.
“But I’m him,” Malkovich sputters. “There’s a film about me being me.”
The Super Bowl ad is a 60-second spot for Squarespace, an all-in-one publishing tools company that is urging you to get your own web domain name before it’s gone. The movie Malkovich mentions is 1999’s Being John Malkovich, and the spot captures that film’s fabulist weirdness. Some Super Bowl ads go for belly laughs; this one goes for wry smiles.
The 60-second spot will air during the Super Bowl pregame show. The story continues in a 30-second spot that will air during the game. Taken together, they are a sort of droll teleplay about Malkovich trying to get a domain name in his name so he can sell his fashion line online.
It plays like an elaborate gag but is actually based on real events.
Malkovich really has a fashion line. Someone really had his domain name, he says. And now he really has JohnMalkovich.com, hosted by Squarespace, where he sells his menswear collection.
So is this an ad for Squarespace or his fashion line?
“I think it’s kind of both,” Malkovich said. “This particular thing is for Squarespace ... but it’s also for me because I have never had a web presence” before.
Malkovich, 63, is well known as an actor. He’s also a producer, a director and a fashion designer who once studied costume design. He believes people can be very good at more than one thing.
“I am not much one for pigeonholing myself,” he says, “or anyone else.”
Squarespace founder and CEO Anthony Casalena says his company gives people “control over how you want to be presented online, no matter what the public might already know you as. It felt like a great fit with John’s story.”
The ads were made in Paris last summer a week before Malkovich was directing a play in London. Malkovich will miss the Super Bowl; he is leaving for France the day before the game is played and his ads air.
“The internet is such that it is very difficult if everybody else can use your name and you can’t,” he says. “I even had that issue with a film called Being John Malkovich.”
In the ad, though, the woman looking into the screen with him says: “Isn’t it a movie about other people being inside you?”
“Sure,” the ad’s Malkovich says. “Why not?”