The new episode of Undercover Lyft stars Jason Sudeikis as an in-disguise driver and Will Forte as a chatty third wheel, with Olivia Wilde directing the video and the ACLU popping up in a cameo.
It’s no accident that these forces are combining—it’s part of a Lyft integration into Wilde’s indie coming-of-age comedy, Booksmart, in which Sudeikis’s high school principal character side hustles at the company.
It’s also an entirely on-brand alliance for the rideshare service, which promotes its round-up-and-donate program in the celeb-heavy digital short. The ACLU, which is on the app’s list of charities, is a cause near and dear to Wilde, who serves on the Southern California board of the non-profit organization.
“We look for the right people and entertainment properties that match up with our values and mission,” says Ari Avishay, director, Lyft Entertainment. “This movie highlights so many issues that we believe in, like inclusiveness, LGBTQ rights and encouraging people to be themselves. And it’s so engaging that we just wanted to be involved.”
The movie, dubbed “the female Superbad,” has earned a 99% fresh ranking on Rotten Tomatoes. It opens Friday, with first-time director Wilde saying of the Lyft tie-in: “It was fun and meaningful to work with people who are as passionate about gender equality as I am.”
The seeds of the deal were sown more than a year ago. Lyft execs, scouting for product placement opportunities, started discussions with Booksmart’s team of female writers and its production company, Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures (Vice, Sorry to Bother You, Zero Dark Thirty).
They decided that Sudeikis’s character would drive a Lyft to supplement his public school income, which Avishay describes as a natural “not forced” fit into the script, and Lyft would pitch in on production costs, allowing the scrappy feature to shoot an additional day’s worth of footage.
The Lyft integration into the movie comes as Sudeikis unwittingly picks up a few of his students (co-stars Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever) who are trying to jumpstart their pre-graduation partying. Awkwardness and hilarity ensue.
Extending the placement into the real world, Wilde directed the 3-minute Undercover Lyft episode, which launches Friday on digital and social platforms. The celebs involved are hyping it, too, and it’s airing with the festival-favorite film at ACLU-sponsored screenings around the country.
Undercover Lyft, which recently won a Webby for its Chance the Rapper episode, has featured Taraji P. Henson, Shaquille O’Neal, Joe Jones, Demi Lovato, DJ Khaled and other famous faces masquerading as gig workers and chatting up unsuspecting riders.
The latest episode is the first to put a celebrity behind the camera, and Lyft execs say it’s in keeping with their goal (and the broader Hollywood push) to hire more female directors.
Lyft’s Round Up + Donate, which includes Girls Who Code, Habitat for Humanity and other groups, has donated nearly $15 million since it started in 2017.