The Delahaye ‘Johnnie Walker’ posters
The Delahaye ‘Johnnie Walker’ posters. In June 2015 I was contacted by Elizabeth Bruneau, the head art buyer at New York advertising agency Anomaly, an agency that this year won the Advertising Age magazine’s prestigious Creativity Innovators of the Year award. Elizabeth was proposing the commission of two posters and five key frames for an upcoming commercial. This would be an eleven-minute online film for Johnnie Walker Blue Label whisky, starring Jude Law and Giancarlo Giannini, and directed by Jake Scott (son of Ridley Scott) of RSA Films. For the posters, which were to promote the film, I was given an open brief: “Just create two of your posters”, said art director Mark Sarosi. The five key frames would be animated as a ten-second sequence in the film. At this point, I have to say that in my long career I’ve not enjoyed the experience of an art director saying, effectively, “Do whatever you want.”
The commercial was to be a sequel to last year’s gorgeously shot six-minute movie, also by Jake Scott, called ‘The Gentleman’s Wager” in which two wealthy friends, spending some leisure time on Giannini’s beautiful luxury yacht, “rarer than rare”, agree to a bet. Law says that he wants the boat, but is told it’s not for sale. He says, “I don’t want to buy it. I want to win it. With a dance.” Jude Law wins the bet and the boat.
“The Gentleman’s Wager II” finds us in Giannini’s wonderful Italian country house, where Jude Law is shown a treasured 1936 Delahaye 135S racing car, again “rarer than rare”. This car has not been driven for forty years, and Law bets that he can get the car running and drive it to Monaco by noon the next day. Giannini accepts the wager, adding rather recklessly that if Law succeeds he will throw in the house as well, and the film follows his progress. (I won’t spoil it for you, you can watch the full commercial here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TgSW9EjnqE&t=21s). Along the way, you can enjoy an appearance by the lovely Chinese actress Zhao Wei and cameo spots by Jenson Button and Mika Häkkinen.
To find a reference for the car I drove the 250 miles from my home in Suffolk to the immensely impressive Haynes Motor Museum in Somerset where the Delahaye 135S is stored for display. Here the staff were extremely gracious and cooperative, and gave me exclusive access, bringing the car into the yard for me to photograph. This was the actual car used in the film, and is indeed ‘rarer than rare’, as there were only twelve built and each of them is unique in its bodywork. The car, incidentally, was originally owned by racing legend Rob Walker, who died in 2002 (you can read his fascinating life story here: http://bit.ly/1kvrJH7) and was heir to the Johnnie Walker company. Walker, in his passport, described his occupation as ‘gentleman’, and I suspect this film is as much a tribute to Rob Walker as a promotion of the whisky brand. The commercial premiered at the Villa Mondragone on Saturday, October 31 in Rome, an event hosted by Jude Law and Giancarlo Giannini.
By my standards, I didn’t have very long to complete the work; just five weeks, and considering I would normally allow myself pretty much that amount of time to complete one poster this is what I call a rush job. The first poster features Law driving through the mountains of central Italy, and the second shows the race towards Monaco. The animated key frames show the section through the tunnel into France.
The premiere was a huge success and in an email to the agency, a Diageo representative wrote, “The vintage car drive blew the socks off of people! And the premiere at the villa – really wish you were there! By the way – that retro poster stole the show and I mean it! It was surreal to see it outside the Sofitel Villa Borghese! And then of course at the premiere! People took them home so happily and asked for another copy in case the one they were carrying got spoilt in transit!”
It feels great to get such a heartfelt commendation from the client.
For copyright reasons, I am unable to sell copies of the above posters. Neither, apparently, am I able to sell adaptations of the posters seen below.