Alan Smithee

Alan 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, it was the sole pseudonym used by members of the Directors Guild of America when a director, 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.


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. 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.
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. 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.
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", which was thought to be distinctive enough to avoid confusion with similar names but without drawing attention to itself. 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," and Roger Ebert commenting, "Director Allen Smithee, a name I'm not familiar with, allows his story to unfold naturally."
Following its coinage, the pseudonym "Alan Smithee" was applied retroactively to Fade In, a film starring Burt Reynolds and directed by Jud Taylor, which was first released before the release of Death of a Gunfighter. Taylor also requested the pseudonym for City in Fear with David Janssen. Taylor commented on its use when he received the DGA's Robert B. Aldrich Achievement Award in 2003:
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. 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 1998, the film was released, in which a man named Alan Smithee wishes to disavow a film he has 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, and 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, and Rotten Tomatoes reports an aggregate critical rating of only 8% positive. The movie also won Worst Picture at that year’s Golden Raspberry Awards. 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, dissatisfied director Walter Hill was instead credited as "Thomas Lee."
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. Variations of the name have also occasionally been used, such as "Alan and Alana Smithy".


Historical uses of the "Alan Smithee" credit, in chronological order:

Film direction

The following films credit "Smithee"; the actual director is listed when known.
In a few cases the alias is used for a creative contributor other than the director, shown in boldface.
The following films were credited to their actual directors during their original theatrical presentations. When re-edited for TV, or for other reasons, the Smithee credit was used: