By Jeff Labrecque
Updated February 19, 2013 at 11:43 PM EST
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Clooney wasn’t at his most eloquent as he justified starring in Italian coffee commercials during a Newsweek pre-Oscar roundtable last year, but his blunt assessment captures the bottom-line truth that lures many Hollywood celebrities. Look at Leonardo DiCaprio, whose Japanese commercial for Jim Beam recently popped up on the internet and instantly raised eyebrows. Why is Leonardo DiCaprio, arguably the most famous Hollywood celebrity in the world, making commercials?

In the United States, when a famous actor appears in a commercial, there are fears that it can undermine, or at least cheapen, his celebrity. (For example, what was your reaction when Adrien Brody pitched Stella Artois during the 2011 Super Bowl? “Smooth!” or, “Oof, did he already pawn his Oscar?”) American celebs are more willing to provide their voices to a commercial than their faces, and when they do lend their fame to a product in faraway places like Japan or Italy, they often have contractual reassurances that evidence of the corporate relationship never makes it back to the States. (To which the Internet says, “Haaaaa-ha!”)

So why do they do it? Duh, money. Lots of it, as Clooney admitted. ”I couldn’t believe the money they were paying me,” the late Dennis Hopper once told EW, after popping up in an unusual TV commercial for Japanese bath products. ”If I could do one of these every year, I could retire.”

Dennis Hopper? Playing in the bath with a rubber ducky? Yes, that really happened — and David Lynch was not involved. But don’t look down your nose at him or the other celebs who’ve turned two days of work in Tokyo into a bucolic vacation home in the south of France. Celebs have sold their fame in foreign commercials — typically in Asian markets — for decades. Orson Welles and Sean Connery were peddling Japanese whiskey long before Bill Murray’s fading movie star in Lost in Translation went East for a quick payday. It makes you wonder what a beloved Hollywood icon like Paul Newman would have said about all this trading on fame. Fortunately, back in 1980, he addressed the issue directly. Click below for Newman’s refreshing take, and then peruse some of Hollywood’s biggest celebrities starring in foreign commercials. (Quick! Before their legal minions force their removal from the web!)

Paul Newman for Maxwell House (Japan): Coffee… but no popcorn?

Jennifer Aniston for Heinken (Netherlands)

George Clooney for Nespresso (France)

…but I think this Spanish Clooney ad — for Emidio Tucci men’s clothing — is the piece de resistance.

NEXT: Julia, Brad, Scarlett, and Leo

Julia Roberts for Lavazza coffee (Italy): Roberts reportedly banked more than $1 million for a simple wink and a smile

Brad Pitt for Softbank mobile, directed by Wes Anderson (Japan)

Scarlett Johansson for Mt. Rainier Coffee (Japan): The Lost in Translation circle is complete.

Leonardo DiCaprio for Oppo Mobile (China): DiCaprio is no novice when it comes to Asian commercials. These ads for a Japanese mobile company feel like promos for Inception: The Cologne.

NEXT: Gwyneth, Harrison, Tommy Lee, and Jodie

Gwyneth Paltrow for Martini (Italy)

Harrison Ford for Kirin Beer (Japan)

Tommy Lee Jones for Boss Coffee (Japan): An entire nation is under the impression Jones is an alien.

Jodie Foster for Honda (Japan)

NEXT: Nicole, Hugh, Quentin, and Sly

Nicole Kidman for Schweppes (France)

Hugh Jackman for Lipton Tea (Japan)

Quentin Tarantino for Softbank Mobile (Japan)

Sylvester Stallone for Russian vodka (Russia)

NEXT: Nic, Drew, Meg, and Arnold

Nicolas Cage for Sankyo (Japan): No, this was not an extra on the Wicker Man DVD. But it should have been.

Drew Barrymore for Baskin Robbins (South Korea)

Meg Ryan for Navi Navi Dingo (Japan)

Arnold Schwarzenegger for… everything (Japan): This compilation of Arnold’s many, many Japanese commercials deserves its own VH1 special.

NEXT: Mariah, Ben, and Madonna

Mariah Carey for Nescafe (Japan)

Ben Stiller for Kirin Beer (Japan)

Madonna for Takara (Japan): She’s pure, see.

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