A prolific director since the late 1960s, Smithee has proved to be a formidable film-making force, even having the audacity to take on Hitchcock with The Birds II (1994). When Meet Joe Black and Scent of a Woman proved unsuitable to be shown on commercial airline flights, Alan was on hand to provide family-friendly versions.

One of his last works, Burn Hollywood Burn, was very poorly received, and it is said that he never recovered from the critical panning. He died shortly afterwards.

His protègé, Thomas Lee, emerged from the shadow of this film giant to direct on his own - his first film was Supernova (2000), which is merely the first masterpiece in what looks to be a promising career.



Yes, yes, I know. The name Alan Smithee was discontinued after everyone and his mum was in on the joke, and the name they use when a director disowns a film now is Thomas Lee - although everyone probably knows about that one too. What with this danged old internet malarkey, it's kind of pointless doing it, as everyone knows who really directed the movie, and it just draws attention to it in a "ooh, that must be shit" kind of way...
Alan Smithee was "born" in 1967, after the real director of the movie Death of a Gunfighter refused to let his own name show up before/after the movie. Since they could not release the movie without a director they came up with the name Alan Smithee, which sounded so normal that it could actually be a person, but which was written in a way that made it almost impossible for someone to actually have that as his name.

A director has to appeal to Directors Guild of America (DGA) to have his own name removed from the screen. DGA has many rules for this, where the most important one is that a director can replace his own name with Alan Smithee if the movie has been changed (by editors or the studio) into something the director did not intend. Another rule is that the director is not allowed to tell anyone why he wants to disown the film.

In 1997 the secret behind Alan Smithee was revealed, so DGA decided to stop using the name.

In 1998, Tony Kaye was the director of American History X. Edward Norton, who played the main part in the film, was not satisfied with it, and demanded to be in the cutting room after the shooting was over. The movie turned out quite differently that Tony Kaye wanted to, so he decided to disown the film. He appealed to DGA, and the reply was that he could do so, but without the use of Alan Smithee¹. Tony Kaye then had to come up with a new name, but his best shot was Humpty Dumpty, which rejected. Therefore, Tony Kaye was put on the screen.

¹ The reason for this is quite obvious: If they used Alan Smithee, they might as well go out in the media stating "This film sucks"


Alan Smithee has also been called:
  • Alan Smithee Jr.
  • Allan Smithee
  • Allen Smithee
I'm such a prolific filmmaker I hardly know where to begin! My earliest appearance in the IMDB is way back in 1955, directing The Indiscreet Mrs. Jarvis for television. A bit of a hiatus followed, interrupted only by Fade-In in 1968, Death of a Gunfighter in 1969, The Challenge in 1970 and The Barking Dog in 1978, but then the dam burst and work began coming at me almost faster than I could deal with it! In 1980 I directed a movie and two television shows - Gypsy Angels, Fun and Games and City of Fear. Resting up after that marathon I directed an episode of Moonlight in 1982 and helped patch up David Lynch's work on the nigh-mythical extended television version of Dune. In 1985 I worked on Stitches, two episodes of MacGuyver and Paladin of the Lost Hour, a Twilight Zone episode. 1986 saw Let's get Harry and the TV movie Dalton: Code of Vengeance II while 1987 was another year that almost wore me out completely - Morgan Stewart's Coming Home, Ghost Fever, Appointment with Fear and Riviera for the television. In 1988 I took it relatively easy - directing only one film, I Love N.Y., but the '90s would see me really hitting my stride. In 1989 I took credit off Dennis Hopper's back for Backtrack and also headed the US version of Ganheddo, taking a career high to also fulfil an invitation to direct an episode of The Simpsons, The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular!

Take a breath now, 'cause we're only about halfway through.

What hey, let's step up the pace a bit.
1990: Shrimp on the Barbie, the TV version of The Guardian.
1991: TV movie The Owl, Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh.
1992: TV version of Thunderheart, airline version of Scent of a Woman and television shows Bay City Story and Fatal Charm.
1993: Solar Crisis, TV movie Call of the Wild and the TV edit of Rudy.
1994: The Birds II: Land's End and While Justice Sleeps, TV movies both.
1995: The O.J. Simpson Story, Raging Angels and the TV edit of Heat.
1996: Hellraiser IV.
1997: Firehouse, Burn Hollywood Burn, An Alan Smithee Film, Le Zombi de Cap-Rouge and Sub Down.
1998: Illusion Infinity and the airline version of Meet Joe Black.
1999: To Light the Darkness.

BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE! I also write, produce, and have even acted in a couple of films!

Producing: 1981, Student Bodies.
Writing: I Love N.Y., Ganheddo and Illusion Infinity, a trio of jobs I had multiple roles in, The Horror Show in 1989, filling in for those wacky Raimi brothers on The Nutt House in 1989 and The Frozen Hell, released just this year!
My acting repertoire is slim but potent: in 1989 I played an engineer in Blades; in 1996 I played a Man in Black in Flynn, and also this year I played Dr. Jones in the optimistically-named Mutantes verdes fritos: Anarquia radioactiva, coming soon to a theater near you!

One last note - I was also the production designer in Notes from the Attic in 1993.

I would stay here to chat, but the studio is sending some accountants down here to check out my current project and I've got to make sure everything's up to my trademark snuff! See you in the movies!

The Director's Guild has very strict rules about film directors using the pseudonymn "Alan Smithee." If a director suddenly has an epiphany and realizes that his film really does suck more nuts than a squirrel with wet-dry vac and it's all his fault, tough luck; he still has to put his name on it. If, however, in post-production the editors/producers/studio execs royally screw up the movie or change it from the way the director wants it (see what almost happened to Terry Gilliam's Brazil, for example), then the director has the right to disown the film and have the director credited as "Alan Smithee." Only a few films have been approved as Alan Smithee films by the Guild.

After An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn, the Director's Guild is no longer permitting use of the pseudonym as it has become too well-known. According to IMDb, Supernova is the first such post-Smithee film; I wouldn't want my name in the credits of Supernova either.

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