Sometimes a film director or other entertainment creative is so unhappy with the way a movie turned out that they don’t even want their names publicly associated with it. For decades, the solution was to attribute the movie to a fictional, pseudonymous director named “Alan Smithee.” Here are some entries from “his” filmography.
City in Fear
Inspired by the terrifying “Son of Sam” murders that rocked New York City in 1977, this movie is about a serial killer (Mickey Rourke), whose crimes are sensationalized by a newspaper. Jud Taylor directed the 1980 movie, but after he thought production had wrapped, the studio secretly shot four gratuitous murder scenes. Taylor was “offended,” and had his name taken off the film.
Legendary cult filmmaker David Lynch tried to go mainstream with his 1984 adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sprawling sci-fi novel Dune. He’s listed as the director on the version that played in theaters, but not the cut that aired on TV. Producers assembled a three-hour cut without Lynch’s knowledge or involvement. He wanted his name stricken on that version. So, the TV Dune was directed by “Alan Smithee.”
Twilight Zone: The Movie
This big-screen version of Rod Serling’s classic TV anthology features three separate stories. It’s notorious for one sad section in which Vic Morrow plays a racist who suddenly finds himself the victim of racism and oppression, such as lost in a jungle and hunted down during the Vietnam War. A helicopter accident on set decapitated Morrow and killed two child actors. Segment director John Landis was tried (and acquitted) of manslaughter, while assistant director Andy House was not credited at all, in favor of the Alan Smithee pseudonym.
An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood
Arthur Hiller directed this 1998 showbiz satire about a director actually named Alan Smithee (Eric Idle) who tries to disown his own bad movie, but can’t because his name is Alan Smithee. Ironically, Hiller thought one of the movie’s producers interfered so much that it ruined the film, and he had his name removed from the final cut. That means An Alan Smithee Film was credited to…Alan Smithee.
After the release of An Alan Smithee Film exposed Hollywood’s secret fake-naming convention, the movie industry had to find a new pseudonym for disheartened directors. Walter Hill didn’t want his name on the 2000 sci-fi movie Supernova, so it’s attributed to “Thomas Lee.”