News that Dos Equis was wrapping up its advertising campaign revolving around “The Most Interesting Man in the World” caught a lot of people off guard, but Jonathan Goldsmith, who has portrayed the iconic character for the past nine years, says the writing was on the wall.
“We had a feeling the campaign was going to go in another direction … but I didn’t know for sure,” he tells Fortune. “That was verified and it was nicely done.”
Dos Equis nearly tripled its business since the campaign began, said Andrew Katz, vice president of marketing for Dos Equis. But he told USA Today that Dos Equis, owned by Heineken, feels it is time to revamp the commercials for a younger generation. “Our Millennial drinker has changed quite dramatically, and the competition has only exploded with the advent of craft (beer). We just want to make sure that the (Most Interesting Man) story evolves,” he said.
The final ad featuring the character, whose popularity has reached a level where he’s now an Internet meme, sends him on a one-way trip to Mars, using the tag #AdiosAmigo.
But Goldsmith’s interests now that his time with the brand is up, are more terrestrial. Long active in many charities, he says he plans to leverage the access the ad campaign has given him to help causes such as the Global Teaching Project and helping his local sheriff’s department raise money for a drug-sniffing dog.
And, like any actor, the 77-year-old is on the hunt for the next gig.
“There are some wonderful opportunities that are available to me now that I couldn’t do before, like being an ambassador for other brands and television pilots,” he says. “I feel a sense of freedom that I didn’t have before because of the contractual restrictions.”
Still, no matter what his next role is, it’s hard to imagine it will be as iconic as the World’s Most Interesting Man. The unexpected popularity of the character gave Goldsmith opportunities he never expected to have, he says. He’s thrown out the opening pitch at a Dodgers game, been a guest at the Kentucky Derby, served as grand marshal of New York City’s Halloween parade and introduced Senators at charity functions.
Highlight of the career
The most memorable perk, though, was the time four years ago he spent a weekend at Camp David with President Barack Obama and some of the president’s closest friends.
“He was meeting with 10 of his oldest and best friends and I was invite as his surprise guest,” says Goldsmith. “I think he thought it was going to be George Clooney and I hope he wasn’t disappointed, but I spent an enchanting weekend with him. It was one of the highlights of my life.”
How he got the role of a lifetime
Ironically, Goldsmith almost missed out on it all. Initially, he says, he almost bypassed the interview. It was the insistence of his then manager and now wife Barbara that got him there.
“I didn’t want to go on the audition to tell you the truth,” he says. “She urged me to go -- and I said ‘she’s cute, but she’s wrong’. She said you’re a good actor and have an improvisational ability, so stay there. … I didn’t hear from them for a couple of weeks, then they called me back for another audition. … Then another month went on and I was the lucky one.”
It’s natural, when actors embody a role for an extended period, for people to confuse them with the character. For many performers, that can be frustrating, but Goldsmith says it’s something he’s never really minded.
“Sometimes if you have a role that’s particularly odious, you don’t want to be identified with it. but with this role, I love being identified with it,” he says. “Although he was older, he was capricious and childlike and fun loving. … There was nothing ugly about this campaign. It was so upbeat. It just delighted people. I felt I accomplished as much as I could. I gave it my all and loved what I was doing.”
And while the campaign does seem to have reached it natural conclusion, Goldsmith says he’s not completely ready to give up on the World’s Most Interesting Man. .
“Who knows?” he says with a chuckle. “They brought Matt Damon back from Mars.”
This story originally appeared on Fortune Magazine