8:30am PT by Chris Gardner
What Happens When Two Talent Reps With the Same Name Represent Multiple Hemsworths?
Two industry power players are caught up in a game of mistaken identity that has resulted in hilarious encounters with colleagues, clients and even one confused spouse — plus the occasional accidental exchange of confidential information. And the only people they have to blame are their respective parents for giving them the same name: Will Ward.
It’s a true-life tale that’s surely good enough to inspire a solid screenplay, and both Will Wards know that all too well as they work in the representation business. ROAR's Will Ward, 46, is a founding partner of the management-production company where he reps the Hemsworth brothers (Chris, Luke and Liam), Ken Watanabe, Luke Bracey, Cobie Smulders and the Zac Brown Band, among others, while WME's Will Ward, 37, is a co-head of the agency's endorsements group, handling brand deals for clients including Charlize Theron, Ryan Reynolds, Jude Law, Liam Hemsworth, Rooney Mara, Michelle Williams, Tom Hiddleston, Dakota Johnson, Robert Pattinson and James Franco, among others.
The two have such a long history of being mistaken for one another that they now have an imaginary trophy they pass around to the winner of the most random encounter, dubbed "The Wrong Will Ward Awards." Previous winners include WME agent Elyse Scherz and UTA agent Louise Ward, the latter of whom is actually married to ROAR's Will Ward.
"We get so many of each other's calls and emails," WME's Will Ward laughs. "The Wrong Will Ward Awards started for habitual offenders. There are a lot of people we both know who will get us wrong because their offices have both numbers, but there's always an immediate tell."
That tell? WME's Will Ward is from England and has the accent to match, which sometimes only amps up the punch line. "It's only when we start speaking that people are like, 'F—, wrong Will Ward," says the WME agent, who as co-head of the department with Jessica Thomas, oversees a team of 26 agents. "One time my phone rings and it's Louise Ward, his wife, saying, 'I'm running so late from work, can you pick up the kids?"
What may not be funny to some is the amount of proprietary information the two have seen as a result. "There have been so many times, whether it's internal stuff or getting copied on emails, that we get each other's communications," explains ROAR's Will Ward. “It’s understood now that if it's proprietary information, we have a gentleman’s agreement just to forward it along without looking. What’s great about this is that he’s a great guy. It easily could be that we have the same name and no appreciation for the other guy as a human being, but that’s not the case. He’s a great guy and he’s great at his job.”
The two first became aware of each other not long after WME's Will Ward landed in Los Angeles in June 2005, when he took a job at then-Endeavor.
ROAR’s Will Ward started his career as an agent, first in the trainee program at CAA followed by the feature talent department at Endeavor. After leaving Endeavor to launch ROAR in 2003, he was working with client Watanabe on securing a visa through his agency, also Endeavor. When he received visa paperwork in his own name, he assumed it must’ve been a mistake, so he called Endeavor’s business affairs department to alert them of the supposed error. It was then he discovered that the agency had just hired a young British agent of the same name, the newly settled Londoner Will Ward, and he had received the latter’s visa paperwork.
“I had never met anyone else with the name Will Ward,” ROAR’s Will Ward admits, though his own father goes by one that's close — Bill Ward. “I had been gone from Endeavor for more than a year, so the agency also gave him my old email address, which I had for four years. He starts getting emails meant for me, and all sorts of personal stuff. That’s how it started out.”
For WME's Will Ward, he remembers getting a call from reception during his first few days at Endeavor alerting him that he was late to a meeting. "I walked into this room and didn't recognize a single person," he recalls. "I walked around the entire room and introduced myself, shaking everyone's hand. The last person I met was Will Ward. The receptionist must've thought I needed to be there, but I was in the wrong room."
These types of encounters have continued over the years, with the most recent one happening during last month's Sundance Film Festival.
"I got a text from someone that said, 'Can you talk?' And I responded, 'Who is this? How can I help you?' They responded with, 'I think the deal is done. I'm on set.' Ah, the wrong Will Ward again," laughs ROAR's Will Ward, who jokes that if they ever decided to combine forces, between the two's business interests — film and TV clients mixed with endorsements — they could create the Will Ward Company.
But still, the confusion would be too much to handle on a daily basis. "Still to this day, there are some people who just think we're being really weird," WME's Will Ward laughs. "That there really isn't two people named Will Ward."
Hollywood, take note: There are two Will Wards.
A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.