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Michael Bay's First Blockbuster Hit Was Actually... A Milk Commercial?

While today Michael Bay is probably best known for CGI-laden spectacles like "Armageddon" or the "Transformers" movies, his first smash hit was a much more humble one. In 1993, two years before he made his feature film directorial debut with "Bad Boys," Bay directed the very first "Got Milk?" commercial, kicking off an ad campaign that would permeate popular culture for decades.

The commercial, titled "Aaron Burr," sees an Alexander Hamilton fanatic eating a peanut butter sandwich when he suddenly finds himself the contestant of a radio trivia contest. For $10,000, all he has to do is answer a question that should be easy for him: "Who shot Alexander Hamilton in that famous duel?" But with his mouth too sticky with peanut butter to answer, the hapless historian rushes for a glass of milk, only to realize he's fresh out. As the time expires before he can get the answer out, the screen fades to black, and, for the first time ever, we are asked if we've "got milk?"

The campaign would spawn more than a hundred commercials and print ads throughout the '90s and early 2000s. Celebrities from Taylor Swift to Harrison Ford to Angelina Jolie could be found sporting milk mustaches as the war against calcium deficiency continued over the years. Even the likes of Garfield and Mario made sure you were getting enough vitamins and minerals. While the commercial was definitely less bombastic than Bay's regular fare, its impact was undeniably explosive.

No expiration date here

Beyond the ensuing campaign, the commercial got a second life when the California Milk Processor Board, citing popular demand, began running it again in 2002, nine years after it debuted. In 2009, it was inducted into the Clio Awards Hall of Fame. In 2015, Leslie Odom Jr., who played Aaron Burr in "Hamilton" on Broadway, recreated the ad to promote the show. In 2020, during the "Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time" special, contestant Brad Rutter mimicked the commercial when responding to the clue: "In the 1990s he was the answer to a famous 'Got Milk' commercial." The slogan even appears via bumper sticker in Peacock's "Twisted Metal." 

And it wasn't just Bay who would gain recognition for the commercial. Sean Whalen, who plays the Hamilton obsessive in the TV spot, told Yahoo! in 2018 that the ad caught the eye of none other than Steven Spielberg. The legendary director was apparently so impressed with the actor that it led to a role in the Amblin Entertainment-produced "Twister" in 1996. 

Though he's since moved on to billion-dollar blockbuster franchises, the first time Michael Bay ever really rocked the pop culture landscape was through a simple milk commercial.