August 29 2005

The Strange But True Career Of The Director, Alan Smithee

We were discussing a little known film fact today at work. (We tend to get into odd discussions) My two coworkers were unaware of the tale of a director named “Alan Smithee“.

Many years ago, the Director’s Guild of America decreed that a director could not take their name off a film except for a case where the film was taken out of their hands and heavily changed against their will. They could then apply to the DGA for a “Smithee”. Their name would be removed from the film and be credited to a non-existant director named Alan Smithee.

Mr. Smithee has had a prolific career over the years, and the trick worked well until in 1997 when a film was released entitled An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn. Due to the publicity surrounding the film, the DGA has decided to stop using the name and they will use more random names from now on. Though it is no longer in official use, it is still popping up from time to time.

One of the most interesting examples is the changing credits on the 1984 version of David Lynch’s Dune. The theatrical version is credited to Mr. Lynch, but the extended televised version that is shown, is credited as being directed by the infamous Mr. Smithee. This version of Dune, which is longer than the theatrical version, is now referred to at “The Smithee Edit”.

You can find a “biography” for Mr. Smithee here, and yes, he even has a Wikipedia entry which you can find here.

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