An Alan Smithee Thread

At last! My fifteen minutes of fame! My moment in the sun!

Just one thing–why didn’t they ask ME to write it?

How do we know they didn’t, and you weren’t happy with Ed’s editing and thus took your name off it and changed it to Jim Beaver? :slight_smile:

There is a typographical error in the column in question. “Coincidentally, director Arthur Hiller removed his name from the credits of Alan Smithee and thus it actually is Alan Smithee film.” should read, "Coincidentally, director Arthur Hiller removed his name from the credits of Alan Smithee and thus it actually is an Alan Smithee film.

When I read that column, I just knew that the one, the only Doper Alan Smithee would have to check in. Ah… now I can die happy.

Is there a list somewhere of these new pseudonyms? I already have a rare (real life) name, and it might be useful someday to pull a name out of my pocket that doesn’t belong to anyone.

I just popped in to say how nice it was to see Jim Beaver posting here!

A Hollywood legend.

Not many people know this, but “Robert Altman” is actually used more and more for this purpose. Lately, he doesn’t seem to mind.

I’m confused. I thought the point of the Alan Smithee pseudonym was that it was known. It was a way for a director (with Guild concurrence) to claim “Look what they did to my movie!” Smithee sent an unambigous message that the director knew the final cut of the movie was bad but the Guild agreed that it wasn’t his fault.

Substituting a random name doesn’t carry the same message. Anybody with a few minutes access to IMDB is going to know who the real director was. And the use of a fake name could imply that the director was hiding his identity for some obscure contractual reason or because he knew he was doing some hackwork and wanted to conceal it or for some other strange reason. It makes it ambiguous how responsible the director may have been for what was on screen.

One of the caveats about the Alan Smithee name was that you couldn’t blab that you were the Alan Smithee. There was an interesting documentary on one of the cable networks about the history of the pseudonym which featured an interview with the director of American History X, who wanted to Smithee his credit but also blabbed about doing it and how Edward Norton edited in more footage of himself (the reason the director wanted to take his name off). Because it was known, the DGA wouldn’t let him use the Alan Smithee name. He had a second choice, but the DGA forced him to use his real name. I guess they thought “Directed by Humpty Dumpty” would be too obvious (and yes, that is really what the director wanted his fake name to be).

I wouldn’t think that would fly. You might be sued for crapping on the financial prospects of the movie.

It certainly has been done. David Lynch, well-known as the director of Dune (although I notice neither he nor his publicists mention this anymore), took his name off the released-for-TV version, and it’s credited to Alan Smithee, even though everyone knows who the director is. He was clearly making a statement.*
Heck, people in the arts have done this plenty of times. Harlan Ellison famously took his name off the V show “The Starlost” and insisted it be credited to “Cordwainer Bird”. Typically for Ellison, he wasn;'t at all quiet about this.

  • Ironically, the TV version, which adds elements which had been shot but not used in the as-released film, isn’t bad. I’ll argue this with anyone. Whatever else the TV version might be, it’s clearly the work of someone who both knew and loved the books, and it amplifies the film and tells a coherent story. I wouldn’t call it the work of a hack. At worst, it’s the work of a high-functioning hack.

And Lynch’s screenplay credit was changed to “Judas Booth”–his WGA registered pseudonym.

Lemme guess: Alan Smithee’s phone number begins with 555.

Were there other uses for the Smithee name? In 1996 I saw an Intel industrial on the making of chips which I noted was directed by Smithee. While not a classic of the industrial art, I can’t imagine it was butchered badly enough for the director to want to take his name off. I’d guess that a “real” director, needing the money, did it, and used the Smithee name so as not to cheapen his real name. Anyone know if this is plausible and if was common?

I have no idea if this was a union film, but I doubt it, so a union director working non-union might also have reason to disguise his identity.