Alan Smithee

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Alan Smithee (also Allen Smithee) is an official pseudonym used by film directors who wish to disown a project. Coined in 1968 and used until it was formally discontinued in 2000,[1] it was the sole pseudonym used by members of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) when directors, dissatisfied with the final product, proved to the satisfaction of a guild panel that they had not been able to exercise creative control over a film. The director was also required by guild rules not to discuss the circumstances leading to the movie or even to acknowledge being the project's director.[2]


Before 1968, DGA rules did not permit directors to be credited under a pseudonym. This was intended to prevent producers from forcing them upon directors, which would inhibit the development of their résumés.[1] The guild also required that the director be credited, in support of the auteur theory, which posits that the director is the primary creative force behind a film.[2]

The Smithee pseudonym was created for use on the film Death of a Gunfighter, released in 1969. During its filming, lead actor Richard Widmark was unhappy with director Robert Totten and arranged to have him replaced by Don Siegel. Siegel later estimated that he had spent 9 to 10 days filming, while Totten had spent 25 days. Each had roughly an equal amount of footage in Siegel's final edit, but Siegel made clear that Widmark had effectively been in charge the entire time.[2] When the film was finished, Siegel did not want to take the credit for it and Totten refused to take credit in his place. The DGA panel hearing the dispute agreed that the film did not represent either director's creative vision.[1]

The original proposal was to credit the fictional "Al Smith", but the name was deemed too common and was already in use within the film industry. The last name was first changed to "Smithe", then "Smithee",[1] which was thought to be distinctive enough to avoid confusion with similar names but without drawing attention to itself.[2] Critics praised the film and its "new" director, with The New York Times commenting that the film was "sharply directed by Allen Smithee who has an adroit facility for scanning faces and extracting sharp background detail,"[3] and Roger Ebert commenting, "Director Allen Smithee, a name I'm not familiar with, allows his story to unfold naturally."[4]

Following its coinage, the pseudonym "Alan Smithee" was applied retroactively to Fade In (also known as Iron Cowboy), a film starring Burt Reynolds and directed by Jud Taylor, which was first released before the release of Death of a Gunfighter.[5] Taylor also requested the pseudonym for City in Fear (1980) with David Janssen. Taylor commented on its use when he received the DGA's Robert B. Aldrich Achievement Award in 2003:

I had a couple of problems in my career having to do with editing and not having the contractually required number of days in the editing room that my agent couldn't resolve. So, I went to the Guild and said, "This is what's going on." The Guild went to bat for me. I got Alan Smithee on them both. It was a signal to the industry from a creative rights point of view that the shows had been tampered with.[6]

The spelling "Alan Smithee" became standard, and the Internet Movie Database lists about two dozen feature films and many more television features and series episodes credited to this name.[7] A persistent urban legend suggests that this particular spelling was chosen because it is an anagram of the phrase "the alias men", but this is apocryphal.

Over the years the name and its purpose became more widely known. Some directors violated the embargo on discussing their use of the pseudonym. In 1997, the film An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn was released, in which a man named Alan Smithee (played by Eric Idle) wishes to disavow a film he directed, but is unable to do so because the only pseudonym he is permitted to use is his own name. The film was directed by Arthur Hiller, who reported to the DGA that producer Joe Eszterhas had interfered with his creative control. He successfully removed his own name from the film, so Alan Smithee was credited instead. The film was a commercial and critical failure, released in only 19 theaters, grossing only $45,779 in the United States with a budget of about $10 million.[8] Rotten Tomatoes reports an aggregate critical rating of only 8% positive.[9]

The film was nominated for eight Golden Raspberry Awards at the following year's ceremony, and won five, including Worst Picture. The harsh negative publicity that surrounded the film drew unwanted mainstream attention to the pseudonym. Following this, the DGA retired the name; for the film Supernova (2000), dissatisfied director Walter Hill was instead credited as "Thomas Lee",[1] and Accidental Love director, David O. Russell, left the product credited to Stephen Greene.[10][11]

Meanwhile, the name had been used outside of the film industry, and it continues to be used in other media and on film projects not under the purview of the DGA. Although the pseudonym was intended for use by directors, the Internet Movie Database lists several uses as writer credits as well.[7] Variations of the name have also occasionally been used, such as "Alan Smithee and Alana Smithy" (screenwriters for the 2011 film Hidden 3D).


Historical uses of the "Alan Smithee" credit (or equivalent), in chronological order:

Film direction[edit]

The following films credit "Smithee"; the actual director is listed when known.

Film Year Director Notes Reference
Fade In 1968 Jud Taylor Also called Iron Cowboy; shown in previews with Taylor credited, then shelved; issued in 1975 with Smithee credited as director. [12]
Death of a Gunfighter 1969 Robert Totten and Don Siegel (separately) [12]
The Barking Dog 1978 Unknown [12]
Gypsy Angels 1980 Unknown [12]
City in Fear 1980 Jud Taylor
Fun and Games 1980 Paul Bogart [13]
Student Bodies 1981 Mickey Rose Produced by Michael Ritchie under the pseudonym
Twilight Zone: The Movie 1983 Anderson House Second Assistant Director Anderson House used the pseudonym for the first segment, in which actor Vic Morrow and two children were killed in a helicopter accident during production. This represents a rare instance where the "Alan Smithee" credit was taken by an assistant director. [14]
Dune 1984 David Lynch Used only for the version as extended and edited for broadcast television. In addition to the "Smithee" directing credit, for the broadcast TV version Lynch's screenwriting credit goes to "Judas Booth" (a reference to Judas Iscariot and John Wilkes Booth). [15][16]
Appointment with Fear 1985 Ramzi Thomas [12]
Stitches 1985 Rod Holcomb [12]
Let's Get Harry 1986 Stuart Rosenberg [12]
Morgan Stewart's Coming Home 1987 Paul Aaron and Terry Windsor [12]
Ghost Fever 1987 Lee Madden [12]
I Love N.Y. 1987 Gianni Bozzacchi [12]
Gunhed 1989 Masato Harada Used for the re-edited TV release in the United States
Catchfire 1990 Dennis Hopper Originally released in theaters as Smithee. A subsequent video release under the title Backtrack was Hopper's intended "director's cut", for which he received credit. [12]
The Shrimp on the Barbie 1990 Michael Gottlieb [12]
Solar Crisis 1990 Richard C. Sarafian [12]
The Guardian 1990 William Friedkin Credited to "Alan Von Smithee" only for the version as edited for cable television
Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh 1991 Dean Tschetter [12]
The Nutt House 1992 Adam Rifkin Used by writers Scott Spiegel (as Peter Perkinson), Bruce Campbell (as R.O.C. Sandstorm), Ivan Raimi (as Alan Smithee Sr.), and Sam Raimi (as Alan Smithee Jr.) [17]
Scent of a Woman 1992 Martin Brest Used for the version edited for in-flight viewing
Maniac Cop III: Badge of Silence 1993 William Lustig [18]
Rudy 1993 David Anspaugh Used for the re-edited TV release
The Birds II: Land's End 1994 Rick Rosenthal
The Journey Inside 1994 Barnaby Jackson [19][20]
National Lampoon's Senior Trip 1995 Kelly Makin Segment credited to Smithee
Raging Angels 1995 Unknown
Smoke n Lightnin 1995 Unknown [12]
Heat 1995 Michael Mann Used for the re-edited TV release
Hellraiser: Bloodline 1996 Kevin Yagher [12]
Exit 1996 Ric Roman Waugh [12]
Dilemma 1997 Eric Larsen and Eric Louzil [12]
Le Zombi de Cap-Rouge 1997 Simon Robideaux [12]
Sub Down 1997 Gregg Champion [12]
An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn 1997 Arthur Hiller [12]
Picture of Priority 1998 Unknown [12]
Meet Joe Black 1998 Martin Brest Used for the version edited for in-flight viewing and cable television
Wadd: The Life & Times of John C. Holmes 1998 Cass Paley
The Coroner 1999 Brian Katkin and Juan A. Mas [12]
The Insider 1999 Michael Mann Used for the version edited for television
River Made to Drown In 1999 James Merendino
Woman Wanted 1999 Kiefer Sutherland [12]
The Disciples 2000 Kirk Wong [12]
In the Wrong Hands 2002 Chris Johnston and James A. Seale [12]
Fugitives Run 2003 Philip Spink [12]
Eep! (Dutch: Iep!) 2010 Rita Horst Credited as Ellen Smith, the only time a Dutch director asked for this credit. Ellen is a Dutch name that is pronounced similarly to Alan.
Old 37 2015 Christian Winters [21][22]

Television direction[edit]

Music video direction[edit]

Other media[edit]

  • Daredevil #338–342, a comics series published by Marvel Comics: Writer D. G. Chichester learned during a brief break from the series that he was to be replaced; for the five issues he was obligated to write he demanded an Alan Smithee credit.
  • Team X 2000, a one-shot comic published by Marvel Comics, is credited to two writers. One being Sean Ruffner, the other being credited as "A. Smithee," is also believed to be D.G. Chichester.
  • Strontium Dog, a 2000AD comic strip: In 1996, writer Peter Hogan was dropped from the series and his episodes rewritten, and demanded that his name be removed from the credits.
  • Marine Sharpshooter 4, a first-person shooter game, had Alan Smithee listed as the Art Director.[31]
  • Alan Smithee was credited as the director and included in the title of three adult movies in the early 2000s.[32]
  • A comical teaser for the video game Metal Gear Solid 4 shown at E3 2005 has a director's chair labeled "Alan Smithee" as the director of the name before falls off, being replaced by co-writer Shuyo Murata's name as Murata sits on the chair. The chair was ultimately changed again to display Hideo Kojima's name as Solid Snake sits on it however. This is a reference to Kojima's negative attitude towards directing the series and how he felt he had to keep directing it in spite of this. [33]
  • In the loose-leaf 1990's run of Who's Who in the DC Universe, the art for Elasti-Girl is partially credited to Alan Smithee.
  • Equinox, a video game released by Sony Imagesoft for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1993, credits Alan Smithee as director.
  • The series premiere of Anatole, "Anatole's Parisian Adventure", credits Alan Smithee as the writer.
  • NHL Hitz 2003, a 2002 video game released by Midway for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube, credits Alan Smithee as the color commentator.
  • 2007 Issue of Inside Tennis magazine in place of the usual Art Director spot of the masthead.
  • In the making-of documentary about the production and release of 12 Monkeys, director Terry Gilliam draws a doodle illustrating his frustration at unexpectedly poor test screening surveys, then decides the drawing is not up to his usual standards and so signs it 'Alan Smithee', explaining the history of the name as he does so.[34]
  • In the game Fire Emblem Heroes, the artist for the Mythic Hero Elimine is credited as "Alan Smithee".
  • The Elusive David Agnew, a mockumentary included as a bonus feature on the DVD release of the Doctor Who serial The Invasion of Time, is credited as having been directed by "Allen Smithee".[35] This use of the pseudonym is in reference to "David Agnew" itself being a pseudonym under which Doctor Who producer Graham Williams and script editor Anthony Read were credited for their writing work on The Invasion of Time.[36]

Other pseudonyms[edit]

  • In several BBC television drama programmes in the 1970s, writers used the pseudonym "David Agnew", for reasons similar to the Smithee name.
  • The 1976 Doctor Who serial The Brain of Morbius was credited to writer "Robin Bland". After Terrance Dicks' original script was heavily rewritten by script editor Robert Holmes, Dicks demanded that his name be removed and credit be given to a "bland pseudonym".
  • The 1977 TV series Logan's Run was so heavily rewritten, screenwriter David Gerrold was credited as "Noah Ward", sounding like "no award".[37]
  • City Heat (1984) as originally released in theaters, fired director Blake Edwards had his screenwriting credit changed to "Sam O. Brown" (a nod to another of his films, S.O.B.).
  • Solar Crisis (1990) credited Tedi Sarafian, the son of the director (himself credited as "Alan Smithee") and one of the writers, as "Crispan Bolt".[38]
  • Showgirls (1995) as edited for television, directed by Paul Verhoeven (who used the pseudonym "Jan Jensen", instead of "Smithee"). However, the edited, R-rated version of Showgirls that was prepared for release at Blockbuster was supervised and authorized by Verhoeven, and this version carries the director's name.
  • Highball (1997), after a falling-out with the film's producer left it released in an unfinished state, Noah Baumbach had his directing credit changed to "Ernie Fusco" and his writing credit changed to "Jesse Carter".
  • Supernova (2000), dissatisfied director Walter Hill was credited as "Thomas Lee".
  • Accidental Love (2015) originally filmed in 2008, director David O. Russell left the film in 2010, later disowning it while the directing credit was changed to "Stephen Greene".
  • Exposed (2016): during the editing process Lionsgate changed the story's focus. Gee Malik Linton is the director of the film, but is listed under the pseudonym of "Declan Dale".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Wallace, Amy (January 15, 2000). "Name of Director Smithee Isn't What It Used to Be". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 27, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d Braddock, Jeremy; Stephen Hock (2001). Directed by Allen Smithee. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 8–10. ISBN 0-8166-3534-X.
  3. ^ Thompson, Howard (May 10, 1969). "Screen: Tough Western: 'Death of a Gunfighter' Stars Widmark" The New York Times [1]
  4. ^ "Roger Ebert's review of Death of a Gunfighter". Retrieved December 24, 2020.
  5. ^ Notorc (December 6, 2006). "Postscripts: Almost Famous: The Spelvins, the Plinges and the Smithees". Retrieved January 27, 2010.
  6. ^ "MAGAZINE | DGA Awards Aldrich: Jud Taylor | VOL 27-6: MAR 2003". Archived from the original on 2008-11-21. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
  7. ^ a b Alan Smithee at IMDb.
  8. ^ "Burn Hollywood Burn at Box Office Mojo". Retrieved January 27, 2010.
  9. ^ "Burn Hollywood Burn at Rotten Tomatoes". August 5, 2003. Archived from the original on March 2, 2010. Retrieved January 27, 2010.
  10. ^ Perez, Rodrigo (2015-02-11). "Review: Stephen Greene's 'Accidental Love' Starring Jake Gyllenhaal & Jessica Biel Doesn't Nail Its Mark". IndieWire. Retrieved 2022-11-24.
  11. ^ "Who is Alan Smithee?". Bit of trivia. 2022-11-07. Retrieved 2022-11-24.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Roberts, Jerry (June 5, 2009). Encyclopedia of Television Film Directors. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810863781 – via Google Books.
  13. ^ Fun and Games at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
  14. ^ Braddock, Jeremy; Hock, Stephen (2001). Directed by Allen Smithee. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 102–106. ISBN 9780816635337. OCLC 237557899.
  15. ^ "Dune (Comparison: Theatrical Version - Extended TV Version)". Archived from the original on June 12, 2017. Retrieved June 17, 2019.
  16. ^ Fye, Eleanor (June 8, 2020). "The Story of Dune, David Lynch, and Hollywood's Most Notorious Pseudonym". Gizmodo. Retrieved 2021-09-29.
  17. ^ "Then & Now: Amy Yasbeck". Archived from the original on 2012-09-23. Retrieved 2016-06-16.
  18. ^ Arrigo, Anthony (16 February 2022). "'Maniac Cop III: Badge of Silence' 4K Review - Worth Buying for the Commentary Track Alone". Dread Central. Retrieved 31 July 2023.
  19. ^ Nostalgia Nerd. "Intel's IMAX Sci-Fi Feature Film you don't Remember". Archived from the original on 2021-11-17. Retrieved 2020-08-31.
  20. ^ "THE JOURNEY INSIDE | The Bedlam Files". Retrieved 2020-08-31.
  21. ^ "[Review] 'Old 37' As a Crowdfunded Slasher Done Right - Bloody Disgusting". 3 August 2015.
  22. ^ Old 37 at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
  23. ^ Tiny Toon Adventures, Strange Tales of Weird Science at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata.
  24. ^ A Nero Wolfe Mystery: Motherhunt: Part 1 at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata and Motherhunt: Part 2 at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata.
  25. ^ Call of the Wild at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata.
  26. ^ "It's Academic credits". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. June 19, 2006. Retrieved January 27, 2010.
  27. ^ Riviera at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata.
  28. ^ "Jerry Freedman: A Conversation". The MacGyver Project. 12 August 2015.
  29. ^ Sweedo, Nicholas (January 25, 2015). "#52: The Heist". The MacGyver Project.
  30. ^ "The Owl (1991) - Tom Holland's Director's Cut". 9 March 2018.
  31. ^ "Marine Sharpshooter 4 (2008) Windows credits". MobyGames. July 28, 2008. Retrieved May 30, 2013.
  32. ^ "Alan Smithee - Porn Director". Internet Adult Film Database. Archived from the original on July 23, 2010. Retrieved May 30, 2013.
  33. ^
  34. ^ "The oral history of 12 Monkeys, Terry Gilliam's time travel masterpiece".
  35. ^ The Elusive David Agnew at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata.
  36. ^ "Doctor Who - Invasion Of Time DVD review". Den of Geek. 21 April 2008. Archived from the original on 14 July 2012. Retrieved 8 April 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  37. ^ Minty Comedic Arts (2020-11-06). "10 things You Didn't Know About LogansRun". Retrieved 2022-11-03.
  38. ^ "Solar Crisis". TV Guide. Archived from the original on 2017-08-26. Retrieved 2017-07-13.

External links[edit]