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Future Of Philanthropy

Can The Most Interesting Man In The World Convert Commercial Stardom To Doing Good?

Actor Jonathan Goldsmith might no longer be his iconic character, but he's lending his recognizable face to more noble causes.

Can The Most Interesting Man In The World Convert Commercial Stardom To Doing Good?

After beer company Dos Equis officially wrapped its "Most Interesting Man in the World" ad campaign this March with a commercial that packed their spokesman into a rocket ship on a one-way trip to colonize Mars, Jonathan Goldsmith, the 77-year-old actor who’d played the Spanish-accented, Hemingway-esque figure for nearly eight years faced an odd conundrum: Finding a more interesting next gig. "I’m so damn lucky. Who knew?" he says.

As numerous one-liner lists have logged, The Most Interesting Man was an icon so suave and macho that the world often reshaped itself to accommodate him. The Most Interesting Man, like Chuck Norris before him, could bend the rules of physics ("He can slam a revolving door."), linguistics ("He can speak French. In Russian."), and even personal relationships ("If he mispronounced your name, you’d feel compelled to change it."). Off set, Goldsmith realized most of what he was doing people found interesting, too, because of that association. (Here's an example: He doesn't even have to speak in this ad for Virgin Hotels spot with Richard Branson.) Now he wants to do something similar for important causes. "Because I have this high public recognition, I’m thrilled I can call attention to things and I have a platform," he says.

Goldsmith recently shot a public awareness commercial for the Make a Wish Foundation in Vermont, where he lives. "I just did a little event for the Sheriff’s Department in Bennington, Vermont," he adds. "We have an epidemic, as you may know, with heroin. It’s a really serious problem here and they are trying to raise money for drug dogs." He’s been dedicating honorariums from numerous commencement addresses at small schools and colleges, and pep talks for everyone from poker tournament players in Canada to Harvard alumni to a local no-kill shelter and a couple hunger relief groups.

All of these are small, somewhat disjointed efforts. Now that he’s more available he hopes more nonprofit groups will figure out ambitious ways to use him. For instance, a couple years ago, Goldsmith joined with Clear Path International, a nonprofit assisting civilian victims of war, to draw attention the work of Mines Advisory Group, which locates and removes undetonated ordinance leftover from various wars. He then publicized those efforts by posting videos, a link for donations, and doing a Q&A about his own life on Reddit under a title that played on a Dos Equis catchphrase, "I don’t always drink beer, but when I do I prefer Dos Equis. The forum thread "I don’t always post to Reddit, but when I do, I do it from Central Vietnam’s former DMZ." drew 1 million hits in 24 hours, he says. To raise money for the Morris Animal Foundation, which researches ways to improve the health of companion animals, horses, and wildlife, he and his own dog Willie starred in an online commercial about a cover-dog contest for outdoor retailer Orvis; the more votes each candidate got, the larger the company’s eventual donation. The commercial is low budget but has a couple Most Interesting Man-style accents, like Goldsmith clutching a cigar near a roaring fire. The campaign raised over $1 million for canine cancer research.

Goldsmith already has a nice record of philanthropic work. In between saving a man from hypothermia, and rescuing a woman from drowning (no seriously, both actually happened), at times worked with, a group that brings art programs to abused, neglected, and impoverished kids, and taught acting classes to offenders in the California state prison system. (For a video montage of what his alter ego accomplished, you can click here.)

This fall, Dos Equis will reportedly debut a younger Most Interesting Man, but Goldsmith isn't rattled. "I can understand anybody changing a campaign, that makes sense, but I don’t know . . . If I was the Most Interesting Man in the World, how can there be another one?" In the meantime, he plans to continue working with charities—and hopes more call him. "Your legacy is determined by what you do today," he says. "So many people just take up space, just live that quiet life of desperation. It’s more my point of view that’s a pretty fucking boring way to live. Make a difference, leave something behind. I feel like I’m a very lucky guy. To not do that would be sinful."

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