Meet the guy picked to play life sized Pac-Man for a Bud Light commercial

By Gillian Telling
Updated February 01, 2015 09:45 PM

He was chosen at random to play a life-sized game of Pac-Man on a night out with friends – and suddenly he can’t go anywhere without being recognized.

Riley Smith, 30, the charming real-life guy (not an actor!) who stars in Bud Light’s “Coin” commercial, says in the week since the ad was released in advance of the Super Bowl, his life has been “turned upside down, shaken, and flipped on its side. I can’t even explain it,” he says. “It’s surreal. People stop and ask if they know me. A lady in my hotel just stopped to take a selfie!”

The best part? The personal assistant from L.A. had no idea any of this would happen. “No idea at all,” he says, of the now-fateful event “I went up to the bar, and the lady said, ‘If I give you a Bud Light, would you be up for whatever?’ I thought nothing of it, and it ended up being the craziest experience of my life.”

Nick Kelly, spokesperson for Bud Light, says there’s a good reason they chose a real person instead of hiring an actor for the job. “We found out that millennials value experience more than tangible goods,” he says. “So all year long we’ve created these “Up for Whatever” experiences for our real consumers who are drinking Bud Light. It’s really just finding people at drinking events, and if they’re drinking Bud Light, rewarding them with awesome experiences.” (Some other experiences include meeting football players, doing the coin-toss at games, and riding with DJs to their sets at dance music festivals.)

But how did they come up with life size Pac-Man?

“That game really just brings that sentimental moment from when you used to play it,” Kelly says. “It transcends the demographics. I played it when I was a kid, and it’s also appealing to people in their 40s, 50s, 60s. You may never have even played it, but everyone knows what it is.” And now their vision is suddenly in-demand. Since the commercial aired, Kelly says he hears the same thing over and over from friends and colleagues: “I just really want to run that maze.”

Once they figured out the idea was actually feasible, the set was built in Los Angeles over the course of four days, Smith was picked to play the game, and the had to get the shot all in one take – and cross their fingers that their randomly chosen man would actually enjoy it.

“Riley was fantastic and had a great time,” says Kelly. “I don’t think we could have picked a better personality. He really embodies everything we were looking for.”

“It was thrilling,” says Smith. “When those doors opened and I saw 2500 people, it was like whoa!” he says. “I just started running around to get the pellets, and couldn’t even see what I was doing. And then I was crowd surfing, and I was just like “What is going on?!”

“His reaction was very awesome and genuine,” says Kelly. “We really got lucky.”

Smith agrees that they did indeed get lucky.

“I had just eaten all these appetizers and cheese and had a bunch of coffee,” he says. “So when you see me running around in there…they’re more than lucky I didn’t barf!”

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