Alan Smithee

Alan Smithee is a Hollywood director. He is a direct descendant of the ancient poet Anonymous. Or she; Alan could be a she.

Just The Facts

  1. Alan Smithee was a pseudonym used by members of the Director's Guild of America from 1968 to 2000(ish).

The Scenario

Okay, you're directing your Magnum Opus, and you decide that Scene 42A, which is the fulcrum of your movie, calls for a close-up of a flower. But then some Big Shot (we'll call him "BS") at the company (the company that's financing your work of art, mind you) decides that the scene would work better with a downblouse shot of his girlfriend's bosom. This is, of course, preposterous! You point out the fact that this flower symbolizes the fragility of the human interaction that is occurring in the film. BS agrees, but then counters with the fact that the cleavage symbolizes the large breasts contained in the blouse. You protest again, exclaiming that you are the authority on the film's direction. BS exclaims that he is signing the checks. What do you do? You have no choice but to give in to the company's demands, but now your name is associated with a film that sucks ass (artistically speaking). Or is it?

Not necessarily! Enter Alan Smithee.

The History

In the olden days, the Director's Guild demanded that directors use their real names. Originally, this was to protect the directors. But in 1969, the film Death of a Gunfighter went through two directors before finally being completed. And neither director wanted credit/blame for the final project. The Director's Guild decided that instead of using either director's name, they would use the pseudonym Alan Smithee.

The idea was such a hit that disaffected directors from all walks of life started using it.

Famous/Infamous Examples

Although Jud Taylor's movie Fade-In was completed before the advent of the Alan Smithee age, he petitioned to have the moniker applied to his film retroactively. The DGA agreed.

In 1989, an expanded version of David Lynch's 1984 film Dune was pieced together-without Lynch's help or permission. Lynch insisted on his name as director being replaced with "Alan Smithee" and his name on the screen writing credit being replaced with "Judas Booth," which is a combination of the names Judas Iscariot and John Wilkes Booth. Hollywood insiders believe that David Lynch might have been trying to make a subtle point with this choice of names.


Reels within reels...

Kevin Yagher started as the director of Hellraiser: Bloodline (aka "Pinhead in Space"), but constantly struggled with producers over, well, everything. He finally gave up and was replaced by Joe Chappelle. After completion of the film, the Alan Smithee tag was added.

And it's not just movies!

The pilot for the television show "MacGyver" listed Alan Smithee as the director. (For those who don't remember, this was episode where MacGyver used a ring of bologna, an overdue library book, and a mullet to create a sailboat, thus thwarting the bad guys.) In a rare case of Smithee having ovaries, Floria Sigismondi replaced her credit for directing Sarah McLachlan's "Sweet Surrender" video with the name Allen Smithee. In the 2005 album, Miracle: Happy Summer from William Hung, Alan Smithee expanded his repertoire to playing guitar.

Slash and Hung

Oh dear God, Slash, no!

In the only known appearance in the world of sports, Raymond Domenech, the coach of France's entry in the 2010 World Cup, has asked that his name be replaced with Alan Smithee. The DGA responded by telling him to piss off.

Hollywood Goes Meta

In 1998, Arthur Hiller directed the film An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn, where Eric Idle plays a director named Alan Smithee who wants to have his name taken off the credits of a film he has made. But he can't, because it would just end up being replaced with his real name anyway. In mathematics, this is referred to as a contradiction; in Hollywood, this is called good writing. Speaking of writing, at one point in the film, a character comments that the film (the fake one being made, not the Hiller film) is worse than Showgirls. The script for Showgirls was written by Joe Eszterhas. But get this: the script for Burn Hollywood Burn was also written by Eszterhas. Is your brain bleeding yet? Well it gets messier. The film sucked. (The actual Hiller film, not the fake film in the movie.) So Hiller asked to have his name replaced with (you guessed it) Alan Smithee.


Okay, Hollywood, that's enough out of you