Alan Smithee (also Allen Smithee) is an official pseudonym used by film directors who wish to disown a project, coined in 1968.
Until its use was formally discontinued in 2000, it was the sole pseudonym used by members of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) when a director dissatisfied with the final product proved to the satisfaction of a guild panel that he or she 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 move or even to acknowledge being the actual director.
The Smithee pseudonym was created for use on the film Death of a Gunfighter in 1969. Lead actor Richard Widmark was unhappy with director Robert Totten, and arranged to have him replaced by Don Siegel. 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 it did not represent either director's creative vision.
The original proposal was to credit the fictional "Al Smith", but that was deemed too common a name, and in fact was already in use within the film industry. The last name was first changed to "Smithe", then "Smithee", which was thought to be distinctive enough to avoid confusion, but without drawing attention to itself.
Critics praised Death of a Gunfighter 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," and Roger Ebert commenting, "Director Allen Smithee, a name I'm not familiar with, allows his story to unfold naturally."
Some notable projects credited to "Alan Smithee," listed with their actual directors:
- Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983). The Second Assistant Director credit for the first segment is credited to "Alan Smithee." This position is commonly involved in shooting action scenes, such as the one in which actor Vic Morrow was killed during production of this film.
- Stitches (1985), directed by Rod Holcomb
- Let's Get Harry (1986), directed by Stuart Rosenberg
- Solar Crisis (1990), directed by Richard C. Sarafian
- The Birds II: Land's End (1994), directed by Rick Rosenthal
- National Lampoon's Senior Trip (1995), directed by Kelly Makin with a segment credited to Smithee
- Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), directed by Kevin Yagher
- Mighty Ducks the Movie: The First Face-Off (1997), co-directed by Steve Langley
- An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (1998), directed by Arthur Hiller
- River Made to Drown In (1999), directed by James Merendino
- Woman Wanted (2000), directed by Kiefer Sutherland
- Dune (1984) as extended and edited for broadcast television, directed by David Lynch; the writing credit goes to "Judas Booth", an inside joke for Lynch, who states the studio (Judas) betrayed and killed (Booth) his film.
- Ganheddo (AKA GunHed) (1989) as released in the United States, directed by Masato Harada
- The Guardian (1990) as edited for cable television, directed by William Friedkin
- Backtrack (1990) as originally released in theaters, directed by Dennis Hopper, credited to Hopper in a "director's cut" for a subsequent video release
- Scent of a Woman (1992) as edited for broadcast television, directed by Martin Brest
- Rudy (1993) as edited for television, directed by David Anspaugh
- Showgirls (1995) as edited for television, directed by Paul Verhoeven (who instead of Smithee used the pseudonym "Jan Jensen"). 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.
- Heat (1995) as edited for television, directed by Michael Mann
- Meet Joe Black (1998), as edited for in-flight viewing and cable television, by Martin Brest
- The Insider (1999) as edited for television, directed by Michael Mann
- Supernova (2000); director Walter Hill used the pseudonym "Thomas Lee" after the DGA formally discontinued use of "Alan Smithee" (although it continues to be used anyway).
- A Nero Wolfe Mystery, "Motherhunt" (2002), the 5th episode of the second seasonIt's Academic, June 19, 2006, TV episode, had numerous credits attributed to Smithee.
- Karen's Song, first episode credits Allan Smithee.
- La Femme Nikita, "Catch a Falling Star", episode 16 of season 4 of US TV series, believed to be directed by Joseph Scanlan.
- MacGyver, "Pilot," and "The Heist," episodes (1985).
- Moonlight, a 1982 TV movie and pilot for an unsold series (not to be confused with the later CBS vampire series), directed by Jackie Cooper and Rod Holcomb.
MUSIC VIDEO DIRECTION
- "I Will Always Love You" - Whitney Houston (1992)
- "Heaven n' Hell" - Salt-N-Pepa (1994)
- "Digging The Grave" - Faith No More (1995)
- "Building A Mystery" - Sarah McLachlan (1997) (actually directed by Matt Mahurin)
- "I Don't Wanna Wait" - Paula Cole (1997)
- "The First Night" - Monica (1998)"Sweet Surrender" - Sarah McLachlan (1998)
- "Reunited" - Wu-Tang Clan (1998)
- "Waiting For Tonight" - Jennifer Lopez (1999)
- "Lose My Breath" - Destiny's Child (2005)
- "Hunting for Witches" - Bloc Party (2007)
- Miracle: Happy Summer from William Hung, a 2005 CD by William Hung: "Alan Smithee" played guitar
- The Simpsons episode "A Star is Burns" had a plot centered around a short-film festival. Mr. Burns' entry, A Burns for All Seasons, was credited to Alan Smithee.
- Student Bodies (1981); produced Michael Ritchie used the pseudonym.
IMDb.com has a more comprehensive list of Smithee-credited projects.