If Mountain Dew Zero Sugar’s Super Bowl LIV commercial has you going “WEDNTM,” you’re not alone. In a move that would either please the late Stanley Kubrick (or make him roll over in his grave), the soda unveiled its new Zero Sugar brand during the Feb. 2 game by recreating an iconic scene from 1980’s The Shining. Bryan Cranston takes on the role made famous by Jack Nicholson — and does a phenomenal job of it — by limping along the Overlook Hotel with an ax in one hand, a bottle of MTN Dew in the other. As he wails against a bathroom door with Tracee Ellis Ross on the other side, the Black-ish star lives out her full “terrified Shelly Duvall” fantasy. When enough of the door has been hacked away, Bryan delivers the classic line (“Heeeeere’s Mountain Dew Zero?”), and Tracee is actually relieved.
Cue the elevator full of blood MTN Dew and one last lingering shot of those eerie twins (who are also Bryan.) “I apologize for any damage that does to any person’s psyche, but it is funny,” Bryan told AdWeek. The Breaking Bad actor said that the commercial’s concept was presented to him in a way that was “clearly a parody,” and that was “how they hooked me.”
Casting for the commercial was harder than it looks. “We did not want to find actors who would simply do imitations of the original cast, rather we set out to find amazing modern actors who could put their own spin on this,” Amy Ferguson, executive creative director for TBWA\Chiat\Day New York, the firm behind the commercial, told AdWeek. “They needed to be talented enough to play the part convincingly, but also have the comedic chops to deliver the entire thing with a wink.”
Eagle-eyed viewers would catch that instead of “REDRUM,” the word “WEDNTM” (or “MTN DEW” written backward) is written on the bathroom door. Eagle-eared listeners would hear that Bryan said that the soda “maybe” be better than Mountain Dew classic, and that suggestion was intentional. “We loved this positioning and this open-ended question for two reasons. It drives trial, and it inserts Mountain Dew into the remake versus original conversation, which is super relevant right now,” said Amy Ferguson. “It also opened up a whole wonderful world for us creatively and gave us permission to remake a classic in a cheeky way. After that, it was just the daunting task of finding the boldest, funniest thing to remake.” Being that a 2020 audience wouldn’t get any Citizen Kane references, going with The Shining was the next best thing.