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Meet 'The Most Interesting Man In The World'

Sep 15, 2012
Originally published on September 16, 2012 3:50 am

He led a flock of endangered cranes across Siberia on a motorized hang glider. He dominates opponents in judo. He rode a Harley across the deck of a battleship, and he's been photographed riding a horse ... shirtless.

He's Russian President Vladimir Putin, and for all his eclectic activities — even his classical piano training — he is not "The Most Interesting Man in the World."

That title belongs to actor Jonathan Goldsmith. Actually, the trademark technically belongs to beer maker Dos Equis — but Goldsmith does play him on TV.

Superlatives aside, Russia's president does impress Goldsmith.

"I've been consulting with him for some time," Goldsmith tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz. "I get regular reports from Sarah, who says he can see his house from hers."

Goldsmith has been doling out advice and standing in for all things spectacular and cool on the White Plains, N.Y., beer company's commercials since 2006, which he signs off with the tagline "Stay thirsty, my friends."

In real life, his shirts may wrinkle and he has not, despite the commercials' claims to the contrary, won the lifetime achievement award twice. But Goldsmith has lived an interesting life; he even rescued a stranded climber on Mount Whitney in California.

Fernando Lamas, actor and father of Lorenzo Lamas, was his sailing buddy and became his inspiration for the character.

"His voice was so distinctive and special, and I emulated him," Goldsmith says. "He was the best raconteur I've ever known. It was wonderful to be around him and to listen to him, and he made everybody smile."

To become the most interesting man in the world, you just have to audition. Goldsmith says his agent, whom he later married, told him he needed to do an improvisation to get the role. The requirement: He had to end with the line "And that's how I arm-wrestled Fidel Castro." So Goldsmith — who could be Ernest Hemingway's distant cousin — went for it.

"It was a cattle call. Most of [the actors] looked like that charming man from the coffee commercial, Juan Valdez," Goldsmith says. "I just went into a stream of consciousness, I became outlandish, and the further out I went, the more they seemed to like it, and I was the lucky guy that got it."

Goldsmith now lives with his wife in Vermont. Perhaps it's not the most interesting place in the world, but when you're the most interesting man in the world, you need a refuge, and Goldsmith says the Green Mountain State is exactly that. But, the cerveza symbol says being hugely recognizable isn't all that bad.

"I was sitting in a little Mexican restaurant with my wife ... and a gentleman came over with his young son in tow and said, 'The other day I asked my son what he wanted to do when he grew up.' " Goldsmith says. "And he said 'I want to be the most interesting man in the world.' He was 7."

On a bus in New York City, an elderly man stopped him and said, "When I come back, sonny, I wanna be you."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

GUY RAZ, HOST:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has become the king of the photo op. last week, he actually strapped into a motorized hang glider and led a flock of endangered cranes on their first migration in Siberia.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOTOR RUNNING)

RAZ: In the past, he's been photographed riding horseback shirtless.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOOFBEATS)

RAZ: He's thrown opponents to the mat in judo competitions.

(SOUNDBITE OF BANGING)

RAZ: These are all really sounds of Putin, by the way. He's even ridden around a battleship on a Harley Davidson.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOTORCYCLE REVVING)

RAZ: Apparently, he's also a concert pianist. So it got us thinking, could Vladimir Putin actually be...

(SOUNDBITE OF DOS EQUIS' AD CAMPAIGN)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: The most interesting man in the world.

RAZ: You know the ads.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOS EQUIS' AD CAMPAIGN)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Cuba imports cigars from him.

RAZ: The Ernest Hemingway-esque world traveler with the impressive resume.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOS EQUIS' AD CAMPAIGN)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Mosquitoes refuse to bite him purely out of respect.

RAZ: Now, the real most interesting man in the world also promotes Dos Equis beer.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOS EQUIS' AD CAMPAIGN)

JONATHAN GOLDSMITH: I don't always drink beer. But when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.

RAZ: His name is Jonathan Goldsmith, and he's on the phone with us from his home in Vermont. And, Jonathan, for some reason, I didn't imagine that the most interesting man in the world would live in Vermont.

GOLDSMITH: Oh, it's absolutely paradise on Earth to us.

RAZ: I was wondering if you, you know, when you were sort of thinking about all these things, about Vladimir Putin, does it make you a little nervous? I mean, he's pretty interesting.

GOLDSMITH: Well, he is pretty interesting, and he follows direction very well. I've been consulting with him for some time.

RAZ: I didn't realize. So he has actually called you up and tried to figure out how he could become more interesting.

GOLDSMITH: Absolutely. And I understand that he's doing rather well. You know, I get regular reports from Sarah, who can see his house from hers.

RAZ: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. I see.

GOLDSMITH: And apparently, he's doing very well.

RAZ: He does spend a lot of time in Siberia, actually.

GOLDSMITH: He does. It's a great place to go bare-chested while hunting polar bears.

RAZ: Jonathan, I want to ask you about you, because you are actually, aside from all those things that you have done, you know, your shirts never wrinkle and apparently, you've won the lifetime achievement award twice, but you have actually - and this is true - you have rescued a stranded climber on Mount Whitney...

GOLDSMITH: That is true.

RAZ: ...you sailed the high seas with a friend named Fernando Lamas, who is actually the inspiration for your character, the most interesting man in the world.

GOLDSMITH: Right. Absolutely is, yes. He was my sailing buddy for many years. In fact, when he passed on, I scattered his ashes.

FERNANDO LAMAS: I think he's wonderful. I always felt that the stage separates the men from the boys, you see? You're on your own. There is a different story.

GOLDSMITH: His voice was so distinctive and special, and I emulated him. He was the best raconteur I've ever known. It was wonderful to be around him and to listen to him. And he made everybody smile.

RAZ: And, Jonathan, you have been an actor for pretty much your entire career. How did you land this role?

GOLDSMITH: This role was - it was a day like any others. I got a call from my agent, who is now my wife, and she said: You have to do an improvisation for this commercial, and you have to end with the line: And that's how I arm-wrestled Fidel Castro. Well, fine.

(LAUGHTER)

So - and I just went into a stream of consciousness. I became outlandish. And the further out I went, the more they seemed to like it. And I was the lucky guy that got it. And this is the sound of knocking wood.

(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING)

GOLDSMITH: There you go.

RAZ: What's been your favorite moment in the interesting man saga?

GOLDSMITH: Well, there were two interesting moments. I was sitting in a little Mexican restaurant with my wife, that we like, and a gentleman came over with his young son in tow and said: The other day, I asked my son what he wanted to do when he grew up. And he said: I want to be the most interesting man in the world. He was 7.

(LAUGHTER)

And I guess a week or so later, we were on a bus in New York City. and as an elderly gentleman with a cane was getting off, he did a double take. He saw me, and he tapped me, he knighted me on the shoulder, and he says: When I come back, sonny, I want to be you.

(LAUGHTER)

And so I guess those were two wonderful moments that I had among many.

RAZ: So, you get - I'm assuming, you get recognized quite a bit.

GOLDSMITH: I do. It's one of the reasons we moved to Vermont.

RAZ: That's Jonathan Goldsmith. He's the actor who plays the most interesting man in the world for the Dos Equis ad campaign. And, Jonathan Goldsmith, thank you so much. And stay thirsty, my friend.

GOLDSMITH: Thank you. And you as well.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RAZ: And you're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.