It’s Martin Freeman in 'The Hobbit', Not Morgan Freeman: Do Film Notables with Similar Names Hurt Careers?

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Let's be honest and say that when you give a cursory read to an article about Martin Freeman playing Bilbo in upcoming "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", you see the name Morgan Freeman instead. That becomes more acute when you have two similar-named actors from different countries and you're used to seeing Morgan Freeman's name mentioned more consistently. It's a situation that could only be amended if the equally great actor Martin Freeman ends up becoming more of a household name in the United States.

Based on that certainty, there's going to be a career-long risk of Martin Freeman always being mistaken in name only for Morgan Freeman.

It's why this short list of other glaringly similar names in the film industry should still take heed in how they've already been or will be affected in their careers.

The Baldwin Brothers

It's not easy being a group of brothers trying to carve out individual acting careers. It also isn't easy when you basically look alike as well. Now you know why the Marx Brothers deliberately made themselves to look distinct from their respective siblings through wigs and differing guises.

We all know how successful Alec Baldwin is based on a more distinguishable characteristic from his brothers Daniel, Stephen, and William. The latter three, however, have likely been mistaken on paper when in consideration for movie roles. And that isn't necessarily a blessing when Stephen Baldwin differs wildly from the other brothers in political and personal views.

Vanessa L. Williams and Vanessa A. Williams

When the actress, singer, and former Miss America Vanessa Williams had to add an initial of "L" in-between her name, her name lost a bit of its poetic quality. That was all due to another actress named Vanessa A. Williams from the 1990s TV series "Melrose Place" becoming well known. There was also the odd irony in the latter actress being born the same year as the former.

Today, there may not be as much confusion between the two based on Vanessa L. Williams being a bit more ubiquitous. However, Vanessa A. Williams must still receive movie offers asking if she can sing and dance.

The Directors Anderson

What are the coincidences that the world would have three of the modern film industry's most astute directors with the last name of Anderson and not be related? In America alone we have Paul Thomas Anderson and Wes Anderson, two of the most celebrated filmmakers extant. In Great Britain, it's Paul W.S. Anderson who may not be quite as feted, despite making some very good sci-fi movies.

Someday these directors will meet up and create the most genre-defying movie ever made starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Bill Murray.

The Late Actor Steve McQueen and the Living Director Steve McQueen

What is it with hip directors of the modern era having similar names to iconic show business monikers? In the case of Spike Jonze the movie director/producer (real name: Adam Spiegel), it's strictly a tangential reference to the satiric bandleader Spike Jones of the 1940s and '50s. For British director Steve McQueen, it really is his birth name.

Not that we'll assume the director McQueen would ever be mistaken for the late actor Steve McQueen. But as with all famous names, we've been conditioned to respond to them in some capacity merely by seeing them out of the corner of our eye rather than knowing who they really are.

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