Danny McBride Explains That Bizarre 'Crocodile Dundee' Super Bowl Ad

The star-studded promo was produced to create "film-induced tourism" without a film.

Is the best person to promote Australia an American from the state of Georgia? The creators of an innovative ad campaign that culminated with a Super Bowl spot apparently think so.  

For several weeks, the internet has been abuzz over trailers for a reboot of Crocodile Dundee, the hit fish-out-of-water movie from 1986 that featured Paul Hogan as an Australian bushman brought to New York. 

The new trailers feature actor Danny McBride as the son of Dundee opposite Australian star Chris Hemsworth, while sporadic scenes highlight prominent Aussie actors such as Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher and Ruby Rose. Given the star power, many speculated whether the movie is real, but an ad that aired during Super Bowl LII on Sunday confirmed that the teasers and trailers are part of an elaborate campaign to promote Australian tourism.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, McBride, the star of HBO's Vice Principals and who has appeared in movies such as Pineapple Express and Alien: Covenant, says the idea for a Dundee reboot “seemed silly enough that it’s something that Hollywood would do, and in this day and age, to get people’s attention by doing a fake movie trailer for a fake franchise seemed like a great idea." 

Tourism Australia teamed with ad firm Droga 5 to create the campaign, part of a two-year, $27 million effort to lure Americans to the country. U.S. tourism is worth about $3.7 billion to the Australian economy annually, according to the agency, which has a goal to increase the spend to about $6 billion by the year 2020.

Enter Droga, which researched the last major spike in U.S. tourism to Australia and discovered it was thanks to the Dundee movie and its sequel, which coincided with Hogan’s participation in spots promoting the country. The firm took the idea of film-induced tourism and married it with the Hollywood hype machine and the current obsession with reboots and sequels.

“Can you create that tourism effect that film so uniquely creates without actually making the movie and taking $200 million and calling it a Hollywood blockbuster?” posits Droga’s group strategy director Will Davie. “The thought here is we know films are motivating, we know films are things people love and bind with. Rather than creating more ads that sell Australia with a video and an inspirational soundtrack — because that stuff can just be turned into wallpaper — we wanted something that’s a little bit different. It’s a prank, but also a demonstration of that truth.”

The firm went to Hogan, now 78, who controls the Dundee rights. He agreed to license the property and take part for free. The Australian actors also participated free of charge. (It helps that Hemsworth already is the country’s tourism ambassador.) 

It was Hemsworth’s idea to reach out to McBride to star in the campaign, according to Davie. The actor and comedian has already been a pitchman for brands such as Xbox and Mountain Dew.

The spots were directed by Steve Rogers, a noted commercial helmer, with cinematography by Russell Boyd, who was the director of photography on the original 1986 film. They were shot in such picturesque places as Lawn Hill Gorge, Mission Beach and Kangaroo Island, as well as such urban locales as Montalto Winery and the Quay Restaurant in Sydney’s Harbour. The quick shoot took place mostly in December (it’s currently summer in Australia), with the cameos added last month. 

Over the next two years, there will be close to 150 pieces of content for the campaign that will feature McBride interacting with other Australian celebrities, such as crocodile wrangler Matt Wright, singer-actress Jessica Mauboy and celebrity chef Curtis Stone. 

“People were confused and wondering what it was,” says McBride of the ads. “They were talking and speculating. Ultimately, that’s what a good ad is supposed to do.”