Alan Smithee (also Allen Smithee) was 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.
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 DGA philosophy that the director was 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 Totten had spent 25 days filming, while he himself had spent 9–10 days. Each had roughly an equal amount of footage in Siegel's final edit. But he made it clear that Widmark, rather than either director, 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 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 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 (also known as Iron Cowboy), 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 (1980) with David Janssen. Taylor commented on its use when he received the DGA's Robert B. Aldrich Achievement Award in 2003:
I had a couple of problems in my career having to do with editing and not having the contractually-required number of days in the editing room that my agent couldn't resolve. So, I went to the Guild and said, "This is what's going on." The Guild went to bat for me. I got Alan Smithee on them both. It was a signal to the industry from a creative rights point of view that the shows had been tampered with.
The spelling "Alan Smithee" became the 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"; however, this is apocryphal at best.
The 1981 film Student Bodies credited "Allen Smithee" as producer in place of the actual producer, Michael Ritchie, who had also taken over as director. The film's original writer/director, Mickey Rose, took credit under his own name.
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 An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn was released, in which a man named Alan Smithee (Eric Idle) 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 US with a budget of about $10 million, and the Rotten Tomatoes web site reports an aggregate critical rating of only 8% positive. 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 (2000), 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, a search of the Internet Movie Database for the name Alan Smithee lists several uses of the name for writer credits as well. In addition variations of the name have occasionally been used, such as "Alan and Alana Smithy" (screenwriters for the 2011 film Hidden 3D).
Historical uses of the "Alan Smithee" credit (or equivalent), in chronological order:
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.
- Fade-In / Iron Cowboy (1968), directed by Jud Taylor
- Death of a Gunfighter (1969), directed separately by Robert Totten and Don Siegel
- City in Fear (1980), directed by Jud Taylor
- Fun and Games (1980), directed by Paul Bogart 
- Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Second Assistant Director Anderson House used the pseudonym for the first segment of the film, in which actor Vic Morrow and two children were killed in a helicopter accident during production. This represents a rare instance where the "Alan Smithee" credit was taken by an assistant director.
- Stitches (1985), directed by Rod Holcomb
- Let's Get Harry (1986), directed by Stuart Rosenberg
- Morgan Stewart's Coming Home (1987), directed by Paul Aaron and Terry Windsor
- Ghost Fever (1987), directed by Lee Madden
- Catchfire (1990) as originally released in theaters, directed by Dennis Hopper. A subsequent video release under the title Backtrack was Hopper's intended "director's cut", for which he received credit.
- The Shrimp on the Barbie (1990), directed by Michael Gottlieb
- 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
- Raging Angels (1995)
- 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
- Wadd: The Life & Times of John C. Holmes (1998), directed by Cass Paley
- River Made to Drown In (1999), directed by James Merendino
- Woman Wanted (2000), directed by Kiefer Sutherland
- Old 37 (2015), directed by Christian Winters
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:
- Dune (1984), only for the version as extended and edited for broadcast television; directed by David Lynch. In addition to the "Smithee" directing credit, for the broadcast TV version Lynch's screenwriting credit goes to "Judas Booth" (a reference to Judas Iscariot and John Wilkes Booth)
- Gunhed (1989) as released in the United States, directed by Masato Harada
- The Guardian (1990) only for the version as edited for cable television, directed by William Friedkin, credited to "Alan Von Smithee"
- Rudy (1993) as edited for television, directed by David Anspaugh
- 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
- The Nutt House (1992), written by Scott Spiegel (as Peter Perkinson), Bruce Campbell (as R.O.C. Sandstorm), Ivan Raimi (as Alan Smithee Sr.), and Sam Raimi (as Alan Smithee Jr.)
- City Heat (1984) as originally released in theaters, fired director Blake Edwards had his screenwriting credit changed to "Sam O. Brown" (a nod to another of his films, S.O.B.)
- Showgirls (1995) as edited for television, directed by Paul Verhoeven (who used the pseudonym "Jan Jensen", instead of "Smithee"). 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.
- Accidental Love (2015) originally filmed in 2008, director David O. Russell left the film in 2010, later disowning it while the directing credit was changed to "Stephen Greene".
- The Twilight Zone (1985 TV series), "Paladin of the Lost Hour" (1985), directed by Gilbert Cates.
- Tiny Toon Adventures had episode segments that were credited to "Alan Smithee"; 1990 segments "Pit Bullied" and "Duck in the Muck" were actually directed by Art Leonardi.
- A Nero Wolfe Mystery, "Motherhunt" (May 12 and 19, 2002), the fifth episode of the second season, with Charles B. Wessler believed to be debuting as director.
- Call of the Wild, 1993 CBS-TV movie directed by Michael Toshiyuki Uno, starring Rick Schroder.
- Dalton: Code of Vengeance II, the second television movie (May 11, 1986) in the Code of Vengeance series, actually a mashup of two episodes of a failed series
- It's Academic (June 19, 2006); this episode had numerous credits attributed to Smithee.
- Karen's Song first episode.
- La Femme Nikita, "Catch a Falling Star", episode 16 of season 4 of US TV series, believed to be directed by Joseph L. Scanlan.
- Riviera, 1987 ABC-TV movie intended as pilot, directed by John Frankenheimer.
- MacGyver, "Pilot" directed by Jerrold Freedman, and "The Heist" episodes (1985).
- Moonlight TV movie and pilot for an unsold series (1982) (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) from the soundtrack for The Bodyguard, directed by Nick Brandt
- "Heaven n' Hell" - Salt-N-Pepa (1994)
- "Digging the Grave" - Faith No More (1995), directed by Marcus Raboy
- "Let's Get Down" - Tony! Toni! Tone! featuring DJ Quik, directed by Joseph Kahn (often credited as "J. Whiskey")
- "Building a Mystery" - Sarah McLachlan (1997), directed by Matt Mahurin
- "I Don't Want to Wait" - Paula Cole (1997), directed by Mark Seliger and Fred Woodward
- "So Help Me Girl" - Gary Barlow (1997)
- "Victory" - Puff Daddy featuring The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes (1998), directed by Marcus Nispel
- "Kiss the Rain" - Billie Myers (1998)
- "The First Night" - Monica (1998), directed by Joseph Kahn
- "Sweet Surrender" - Sarah McLachlan (1998), directed by Floria Sigismondi
- "Reunited" - Wu-Tang Clan (1998)
- "Waiting for Tonight" - Jennifer Lopez (1999), directed by Francis Lawrence
- "The Future Is X-Rated" - Matthew Good Band (1999)
- "Maria" - Blondie (1999)
- "No More" - Ruff Endz (2000)
- "In Your Eyes" - Jeffrey Gaines (2001)
- "Wrong Impression" - Natalie Imbruglia (2001), directed by Francis Lawrence
- "Late Goodbye" - Poets of the Fall (2004)
- "Lose My Breath" - Destiny's Child (2005), directed by Marc Klasfeld
- "Juicebox" - The Strokes (2005), directed by Michael Palmieri
- "Hunting for Witches" - Bloc Party (2007)
- "2012 (Shift happens)" - LazyB (2012)
- "One Girl / One Boy" - !!! (2013)
- Daredevil #338–342, a comics series published by Marvel Comics: Writer D.G. Chichester learned during a brief break from the series that he was to be replaced; for the five issues he was obligated to write he demanded an Alan Smithee credit.
- Team X 2000, a one-shot comic published by Marvel Comics, is credited to two writers. One being Sean Ruffner, the other being credited as "A. Smithee," is also believed to be D.G. Chichester.
- Strontium Dog, a 2000AD comic strip: In 1996, writer Peter Hogan was dropped from the series and his episodes rewritten, and demanded that his name be removed from the credits.
- Eternal Sonata, a Japanese role-playing video game credited Alan Smithee for "Additional voices" in the US-release.
- Miracle: Happy Summer from William Hung, a 2005 CD by William Hung: Alan Smithee played guitar.
- Allen Smithee was credited for the plot of the one-shot comic book Godzilla vs. Barkley.
- Marine Sharpshooter 4, a first person shooter game, had Alan Smithee listed as the Art Director.
- Alan Smithee was credited as the director and included in the title of three adult movies in the early 2000s.
- A teaser for the video game Metal Gear Solid 4 shown at E3 2005 credits "Alan Smithee" as the director of the title before being replaced by Hideo Kojima's name.
- In the loose-leaf 1990's run of Who's Who in the DC Universe, the art for Elasti-Girl is partially credited to Alan Smithee.
- Equinox, a video game released by Sony Imagesoft for the Super NES in 1993, credits Alan Smithee as director.
- The version of "Save Your Kisses for Me" recorded by UK indie pop group Kenickie for Channel 4's Song For Eurotrash includes a mixing credit for Fred Pursor and Alan Smithee in the credits for the single "Stay In The Sun" where it was included as a b-side.
- Alan Smithe is credited as the voice of Rolento in the video games Street Fighter X Tekken and Ultra Street Fighter IV. The actor's true identity is Dameon Clarke.
- Alan Smithee is credited as the science advisor in the 2012 movie Decay.
- For the Arthur CGI film, Arthur's Missing Pal, Bruce Dinsmore (who voices Arthur's father David Read, as well as Binky Barnes) is one of only two voice actors from the series proper to voice his respective characters, though he was credited as "Bruce Smithee".
- In The Simpsons episode "D'oh-in' in the Wind," Mr. Burns directs a recruitment video for the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, but puts the Smithee name on it in place of his own after having to berate Homer for nearly ruining it.
Other directors' pseudonyms
- WGA screenwriting credit system
- Category:Films directed by Alan Smithee
- Category:Music videos directed by Alan Smithee
- Cordwainer Bird, a literary equivalent employed by author Harlan Ellison
- Wallace, Amy (2000-01-15). "Name of Director Smithee Isn’t What It Used to Be". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
- Braddock, Jeremy; Stephen Hock (2001). Directed by Allen Smithee. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 8–10. ISBN 0-8166-3534-X.
- Thompson, Howard (May 10, 1969). "Screen: Tough Western: 'Death of a Gunfighter' Stars Widmark" The New York Times 
- "Roger Ebert's review of ''Death of a Gunfighter''". Chicago Sun-Times. 1969-05-12. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
- Notorc @ 6/12/2006 11:45:00 AM (2006-12-06). "Postscripts: Almost Famous: The Spelvins, the Plinges and the Smithees". Notorc.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
- "MAGAZINE | DGA Awards Aldrich: Jud Taylor | VOL 27-6: MAR 2003". Dga.org. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
- "'Student Bodies'". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2012-12-29.
- "''Burn Hollywood Burn'' at Box Office Mojo". Boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
- "''Burn Hollywood Burn'' at Rotten Tomatoes". Rottentomatoes.com. 2003-08-05. Archived from the original on 2 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
- "''Alan Smithee''". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
- Alan Smithee at the Internet Movie Database
- Braddock, Jeremy; Hock, Stephen (2001). Directed by Allen Smithee. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 102–106. ISBN 9780816635337. OCLC 237557899.
- ""Tiny Toon Adventures" Strange Tales of Weird Science". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2012-12-29.
- Alan Smithee credit discussion at the Internet Movie Database
- "'Call of the Wild'". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
- "''It's Academic'' credits". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2006-06-19. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
- "'Riviera'". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- "Marine Sharpshooter 4 (2008) Windows credits". MobyGames. 2008-07-28. Retrieved 2013-05-30.
- "alan smithee - porn director". internet adult film database. Retrieved 2013-05-30.
- "Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots" Video Game, E3 2K5 Trailer- Video Clip. Retrieved 18 July 2011
- Alan Smithee at the Internet Movie Database
- Music videos credited to Alan Smithee
- Directed by Allen Smithee, (ISBN 0-8166-3534-X) a 2001 book about the director and auteur theory in general. See contributions by Craig J Saper.
- * The Top 10 Films of Alan Smithee - Meditoria.com