A column by Alan Smithee

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 2nd February 2010.

Have you ever been unhappy with something you’ve been responsible to make, create or do? Was that assignment not up to your usual standards? Was that cake you baked not quite right? Why not follow Hollywood’s example and blame someone else, namely Alan Smithee.

Since 1968, Alan Smithee has been the pseudonym used by Hollywood directors who wish to disown a project. Of course, it is not as simple as divorcing yourself from a half-baked film (Year One or The Ugly Truth anyone?). The director must prove to the Directors Guild of America (DGA) that he or she had diminished creative control, and once granted the Alan Smithee credit by the Guild Panel, must not acknowledge their participation in the project or talk about their experiences

Alan Smithee debuted as a director in 1969 with Death of a Gunfighter. The film’s star, Richard Widmark, had artistic differences with original director, television journeyman Robert Totten. Veteran director Don Siegel was brought in to finish the project but when it came to its release, he declined to take credit, saying Totten had completed more than half the movie. Academy Award winner Widmark refused to allow the man he fired to be credited and thus Alan Smithee began his career.

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) credits Alan Smithee as the director of over 70 productions, including many episodes of television shows. The majority of his motion picture credits are for little seen movies which may have had a direct to video or DVD release but have now been forgotten or lost forever in bargain bin heaven.

Amongst the usual suspects are a few Smithee films worth mentioning. 1994’s The Birds II: Lands End stars Tippi Hedren reprising her role from the original Hitchcock classic. Bound by an awful storyline (the birds attack again, wow), this was really directed by Rick Rosenthal who went on to helm horror disappointment Halloween: Resurrection in 2002. 

The Shrimp on the Barbie was an Australian production from 1990. Starring Cheech Marin of Cheech & Chong fame, this is a fish out of water “comedy” about a jobless Mexican-American waiter who decides to seek employment in Australia. The real culprit behind this disaster was Michael Gottlieb, who had previously directed the 1987 classic Mannequin, and went on to be responsible for Mr Nanny, which starred wrestling superstar Hulk Hogan and was nominated for zero Academy Awards.

You’ll be surprised to learn that Alan Smithee has also directed several episodes of McGyver, The Cosby Show and The Twilight Zone. He also directed Whitney Houston’s music video for I Will Always Love You. He may have also sung it.

In 2000, the pseudonym was officially retired by the DGA after a movie entitled An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn was released.  Written by Joe Eszterhas of Showgirls infamy (there is a whole new column there), the film is about a director who loses control of his action flick to Hollywood producers but cruelly cannot use a pseudonym because his actual name is Alan Smithee. In an ironic twist, the real movie’s director, Arthur Hiller, ended up disowning the film and thus the production truly became an Alan Smithee film.

Following this debacle and the media attention drawn to it, Alan Smithee’s career as a director was brought to an end.

So if you’ve lost “creative control” of a project, let Alan Smithee take the fall. If you didn’t enjoy this column, Alan Smithee penned it. Alan also parked my car badly this morning. I’m also pretty sure that Alan Smithee will be cooking dinner tonight.

Published in: on February 3, 2010 at 06:39  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. the movie The Ugly Truth is an interesting movie and i really love Katherine Heigl “”

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