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Naomi Watts's surprising connection to new 'Sports Illustrated' swimsuit cover

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
Naomi Watts and her brother Ben Watts, a photographer who shot the new Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2018 cover, at the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party. (Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage)

The new Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue has launched model newbie Danielle Herrington into the stratosphere. Obviously, her good looks made this shot cover material, but she couldn’t have done it — literally — without professional photographer Ben Watts, who took the photo.


Watts is an acclaimed photographer — more on that in a minute — but he is also the older brother of actress Naomi Watts. Yes, the Oscar nominee. The siblings were born in London — their dad was Peter Watts, road manager for Pink Floyd — before moving to Australia. We know what Naomi went on to do; Ben attended Sydney College of Arts and became a photographer’s assistant. He soon started shooting for Australian Vogue, among other publications. He later moved to N.Y.C. — like his sis — and has shot advertising campaigns for major companies, such as Apple and Polo Ralph Lauren. He has also shot a slew of cover pics for celebrities — ranging from his sister, of course, to Hugh Jackman, who has used him many times, as well as Chris Hemsworth, Ashley Graham, Henry Cavill, and Fergie, to name just a few.

Watts celebrated the new SI swimsuit cover on Tuesday by sharing some behind-the-scenes shots from his time with Herrington on Harbour Island, Bahamas, where the shoot took place, as well offering his congratulations. She’s clearly the new “it” girl, earning kudos for the cover from everyone from Tyra Banks to Kate Upton.



For the record, this isn’t Watts’s first SI swimsuit cover. He was also the man behind Hannah Jeter’s super racy photo in 2015. You remember — her bikini bottoms were pulled down so low that we were educated about her waxing preference, and stories like What Does the Sports Illustrated Cover Teach Our Kids? were plentiful.


Watts clearly has a good touch with swimsuit models — he’s also worked with Victoria’s Secret ladies too — but celebrities love him too. Last month, some of Watts’s archival photos of the late Heath Ledger were well loved across the internet when Naomi and others shared them around the 10-year anniversary of the actor’s death. (Naomi dated Heath.)


He has a bunch — and they’re pretty incredible.




As we mentioned, Watts is a preferred photographer for Jackman. He photographed the actor for The Greatest Showman — as well too photos for Jackman’s promotion of the film.


Earlier in 2017, Watts also shot Jackman for Logan


…including this Entertainment Weekly cover. (Hugh was ready for his close-up that day.)


Alec Baldwin swung some clubs in Watts’s direction — but all in good fun. This was the November issue of British GQ.


Ashley Graham struck a pose for Watts in the summer of 2016.


He has also worked with Jay-Z.  “We spent a week with him,” Watts noted of the 2008 adventure.


This shot of Henry Cavill became a cover for Men’s Fitness in 2016.


Photo: Ben Watts: Men’s Fitness

Hey there, Kardashians. He shot this Glamour cover for Kim Kardashian and “ko.” in 2012.

Photo: Ben Watts for Glamour

He had some fun with Matt Damon for GQ in 2012.

Photo: Ben Watts/GQ)


He got Selena Gomez to be brave.

Photo: Ben Watts/Seventeen

And also did this Seventeen shoot with Justin Bieber.

Photo: Ben Watts/Seventeen

He definitely has the in with the Aussies, having grown up there. He was behind the Sexiest Man Alive shoot with Chris Hemsworth.

Photo: Ben Watts/People


He’s also shot covers for Chris Pratt, Chris PineFergie, Ruby Rose, and Miranda Lambert — and, of course, his sister.


She’s clearly a favorite subject; she’s all over his Instagram feed. (Her kids are too.)




Watts is also known for taking #shhhhh photos — models and celebrities making that gesture. Ariana Grande has done it.


Naomi…


Ashley…


Selena…


Jamie Foxx…


And Chris Pine…


But his talent isn’t a secret. Ben Watts is in demand, and his photos are coming soon to a magazine cover near you.


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