The actor Michael Keaton had to change his original name before he could get work. Why? Because his original name was Michael Douglas. A conflict, you see. (Bad enough that there was also a talk show host at the time named Mike Douglas!) In most cases, under SAG rules, different screen actors cannot perform under the same name. Thus, Bill Macy goes by "William H. Macy" to avoid being confused with Bill Macy, the actor from Maude, who had the name first. Certain names are too common to avoid, however. Below are eighteen souls from past and present who have occasionally been mistaken for each other when their names were used out of context.
- John Paul Jones. The American Revolutionary War hero known for his battle cry, "I have not yet begun to fight!" Also the bassist for Led Zeppelin.
- Francis Bacon. English philosopher in the 16th/17th century; Irish painter of disturbing portraits in the 20th century.
- Paul Simon. Bowtie-wearing U.S. Senator from Illinois, now dead, and diminutive singer-songwriter, still alive.
- Roger Taylor. This one's particularly confusing: Drummer for Queen? Or drummer for Duran Duran?
- Theo van Gogh. Theo the First was the brother of tormented post-Impressionist Vincent van Gogh. A century later, his great-grandson of the same name, a controversial documentary filmmaker, was murdered on the streets of Amsterdam by a Muslim zealot.
- Dave Thomas. Founder of Wendy's hamburger joints; Canadian comic actor best known as one half of "Bob & Doug McKenzie" from SCTV. Take off, eh?
- Julie Brown. Zany comic actress/singer best known for "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun" and Earth Girls Are Easy. She had her own show on MTV in the late 1980s, coincidentally at the same time British-born "Downtown" Julie Brown was an MTV veejay.
- Thomas/Tom Wolfe. Two celebrated novelists. Thomas Wolfe wrote Look Homeward, Angel. Tom Wolfe, born seven years before the elder Wolfe (no relation) passed away at the tender age of 37, wrote Bonfire of the Vanities.
- Engelbert Humperdinck. Crazy as it may seem, 20th century British crooner Gerry Dorsey adopted the hilariously nerdy name of 19th century German composer in order to stand out.