Have you ever written or said something that you weren't proud of? Have you ever felt so disheartened that you wanted to bury yourself in a hole and pretend it never happened?
While for many us time often lends a helping hand in stashing away something we would rather forget, if you're a director, it's not so easy to do the same. That's why until 2000 in Hollywood, the Director's Guild of America gave permission for creative folk to turn to Alan Smithee.
Who is Alan Smithee?
Since 1969, it is believed that this name has been attributed to over fifty movies, encompassing almost all genres and ranging from blockbusters to TV shows and music videos. So much so, that Alan has grown through the ranks of legendary directors to be one of the most varied and extraordinary creatives in the industry.
The only problem being is that he does not actually exist.
"Alan Smithee" is an official pseudonym adopted by dissatisfied film directors who refuse to put their name to a project. Initially coined in 1968, it allowed them to regain creative control over badly-rated movies by taking their actual names off the credit list altogether; it was first used by director Robert Totten and Don Siegel for 1969 western Death of a Gunfighter.
As the story goes, the star of the film (Richard Widmark) had a huge fight with first director Totten, who was subsequently fired. Siegal was brought in to replace him midway through production but ultimately, when it came to release, neither wanted to be credited for it. This is where "Alan Smithee" stepped in.
Check out the trailer for the slated flick:
However, don't assume that it's that easy for a director to erase a name from a project just because they didn't like the end result. In fact, the Director's Guild assesses each and every Alan Smithee request, holding talks with the production companies and those involved over a period of months. After all, a lot of money is at stake here, especially from future royalties and director's pay!
So in lieu of this, here are three more examples of directors who were granted an Alan Smithee transformation (reportedly an anagram of "The Alias Man") to distance themselves from their cinematic trash:
1. David Lynch
As the writer and director of the original movie feature Dune, David Lynch was far from happy to align his name to the extended TV cut. Here's the trailer for the 1984 film, based on Frank Herbert's sci-fi series about a planet on which water flows as gold:
Indeed, the movie quickly fathomed a cult following, with critics singing praises from all sides. However when the $40 million budget juggernaut was cut into a bite-sized television edit, Lynch was not impressed. As a result, Alan Smithee waltzed in to erase his name from the project.
2. Rick Rosenthal
He's know for helping to launch Sean Penn's career in 1983 cult classic Bad Boys, as well as advising producers on recent drama Transparent for Amazon. However, ask director Rick Rosenthal about his participation in a sequel to Hitchcock's legendary movie The Birds, and you're bound to receive a few stern stares. That's because once it went through post-production, Rosenthal was exceptionally quick to waft away any links to The Birds II: Land's End, which he directed.
Even Tippi Hedren, who starred in both, thought the movie was horrendous, saying:
"It's absolutely horrible. It embarrasses me horribly."
3. Kiefer Sutherland
Yes, you got that right. Kiefer Sutherland directed movie Woman Wanted and wasn't as happy as he had hoped he would be with his directorial effort. It was the second and last attempt the actor made in the director's seat and although there is an abundance of theories as to why Sutherland wanted to run away from it (some say it might have been ruined by the editor post-production), everyone agreed that it was just plain awful.
For more creatives who decided to go by Alan Smithee, head on over to his IMDB page. You'll be surprised at how many are on there!
And take note that the phenomenon is so fascinating that even a comedy was made about it; here's trailer for An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn:
But get this: The above ended up getting such bad reviews (grossing just over $45,000 on a $10 million budget!) that it ended up being directed by an Alan Smithee itself. Oh the irony!
Did you know who Alan Smithee was before reading this article?