By his own admission, Brian Cox isn't the world's biggest Caddyshack fan. "I think I saw it once a hundred years ago," the beloved Succession star confesses to Yahoo Entertainment with a laugh. "I thought it was just another comedy. I didn't realize Americans took it to heart!"
But Cox is a consummate connoisseur of all things Ted Knight, the late Mary Tyler Moore Show fan favorite who had a career-defining role in Harold Ramis's 1980 sports comedy. So when he was offered the chance to walk in Knight's golf shoes for Michelob Ultra's Caddyshack-themed Super Bowl spot, he couldn't turn it down.
"I'm a huge, huge Ted Knight fan," Cox says. "He was such a wonderful and committed actor. He was always identified with his character from Mary Tyler Moore [vainglorious newsman Ted Baxter], but he was a pretty amazing performer. I was very happy to be channelling him." (Watch Cox's homage to Knight in the Michelob Ultra ad below. The spot will also play during Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12.)
The minute-long Super Bowl spot recreates the climactic Caddyshack links duel between Knight's Elihu Smails and Rodney Dangerfield's Al Czervik — with assists from Chevy Chase's Ty Webb and Michael O'Keefe's Danny Noonan. Playing opposite Cox is none other than tennis superstar Serena Williams, who effortlessly channels Chase's cool, while her co-star recreates Knight's hilarious bluster. O'Keefe himself makes a cameo in the spot, quoting the same advice that Ty gave to Danny all those years ago: "Be the ball."
Funnily enough, when Yahoo Entertainment interviewed O'Keefe in 2020 for Caddyshack's 40th anniversary, the actor remembered that Knight didn't have to work too hard to channel Smails's frustration. "Ted was, of all of us, the most professional and prepared," he said. "So this kind of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, carry-around-salt-shakers-filled-with-cocaine scene was not something he was enamored of. After six or seven weeks of that he was bored, and in retrospect who could blame him?"
Fortunately for Cox, Caddyshack's behind-the-scenes chaos was the one aspect of the film that Michelob's Super Bowl spot didn't recreate. "There wasn't a lot of small talk — we were there to do a job," the Scottish actor says with obvious gratitude. "And Serena was amazingly committed. Working with the greatest female athlete of all time was fun. I'm still pinching myself that I played golf with Serena Williams!"
Re-watching Caddyshack isn't the only American tradition that Cox doesn't entirely understand. He's also not a particularly big football enthusiast or "rugby with helmets" as he prefers to call it. "The problem with football is that you stop all the time," he says, chuckling. "I keep saying, 'Why are the stopping? Why don't they just get on with it?' It's a strange American pastime; we don't do that [in Scotland]. We just play to the end and we get beat or we win. I don't understand why there's any need for discussion in these games!"
But the actor is learning to stop worrying and love "rugby with helmets" with the help of his grown sons, who have been teaching him the nuances of the game in the run-up to the Super Bowl. "I've watched a few games now, and they've been explaining it to me. I've begun to enjoy it now that I understand it!" He's also given Caddyshack another chance. "I re-watched it recently, and I was impressed — particularly by Chevy Chase," Cox says. "He's really good in the film." Quick — someone get Chase and Cox together for a Spies Like Us reboot.
Super Bowl LVII airs Feb. 12 on Fox.