An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn

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An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn
A parcel wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine. The tagline reads "The movie Hollywood doesn't want you to see"
Theatrical release poster
Directed byArthur Hiller (as Alan Smithee)
Written byJoe Eszterhas
Produced byBen Myron
CinematographyReynaldo Villalobos
Edited byL. James Langlois
Music by
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution (Americas)
Cinergi Productions (International)
Release dates
  • October 1997 (1997-10) (Mill Valley)
  • February 27, 1998 (1998-02-27) (United States)
Running time
86 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$10 million[citation needed]
Box office$59,921[1]

An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (stylized on-screen as Burn Hollywood Burn) is a 1997 American mockumentary black comedy film directed by Arthur Hiller, written by Joe Eszterhas and starring Eric Idle as a director unfortunately named Alan Smithee, a traditional pseudonym used in Hollywood for directors disowning a project. The film follows Smithee as he steals the negatives to his latest film and goes on the run.

An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn was universally panned by critics and tanked at the box office. It won five awards (including Worst Picture) at the 19th Golden Raspberry Awards. The film's creation set off a chain of events which led the Directors Guild of America to officially discontinue the Alan Smithee credit in 2000 after its use for decades when an American director disavowed a film.[2] The plot, about a director attempting to disown a film, described the film's own production; Hiller requested that his name be removed after witnessing the final cut, and he is credited as Alan Smithee. Burn Hollywood Burn was also the final film produced by Cinergi Pictures to be released before the company declared bankruptcy.


Challenger Films producers Jerry Glover and James Edmunds hire acclaimed English editor Alan Smithee to direct Trio, a blockbuster action film starring Sylvester Stallone, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jackie Chan. Though only hired due to his inexperience, which the producers believe will make him controllable, Smithee becomes invested in the project.

Edmunds makes frequent changes to the film, hiring many additional writers to retool the script and giving Smithee frequent notes during production. Between this and frequent interference from the film's stars, Smithee becomes withdrawn. Edmunds hires prostitute Michelle Rafferty to seduce a drunken Smithee, who is in an unhappy marriage, so he can acquire blackmail material. Michelle is captivated by Smithee's kind spirit, and develops feelings for him.

Smithee realizes he has lost control over Trio, and voices his concerns to Edmunds, who advises him to take his name off the film and use the DGA pseudonym - which he cannot do, as it is also 'Alan Smithee.' After Stallone requests they cut one of Chan's lines in the film, Smithee offers to make the edit and drop the master off at the lab for duplication, instead stealing it and running away.

As Challenger instructs security foreman Sam Rizzo to organize a search for Smithee, he calls into Larry King, and in the middle of a mental breakdown, announces his intention to burn the film so it may not be released. At a gas station, he is spotted by Stagger Lee, a member of the African American Guerilla Film Family, whom he quickly befriends. Smithee is put in touch with famed indie directors the Brothers brothers, who relate to his plight and schedule a meeting with Glover and Edmunds to negotiate.

Glover offers the brothers a three-picture deal if they return the master as-is, but they refuse, insisting that Smithee be given final cut on Trio. Though claiming to accept this offer, Glover has Rizzo follow the brothers back to their house, where the police search for the master. Smithee exits through a back window and drives to the La Brea Tar Pits, where he finally burns the film as promised. He appears on Larry King again, in-person, to defend his actions, explaining that "they killed [Trio], I ended its suffering."

Attorney Robert Shapiro negotiates for Smithee to be sent to a psychiatric hospital in England in lieu of criminal charges, as the King interview has led Smithee to be regarded as a hero by the public. Glover and Edmunds compete in a bidding war with producer Robert Evans to secure Smithee's life story for a film adaptation, which Smithee sells on the condition that the Brothers brothers direct with final cut. The producers decide that Smithee, with his newfound reputation, is now a valuable property, and offer him a film deal. At the hospital, Michelle reconciles with Smithee as he discusses plans for his new film, Duo.


Cameos as themselves


The film was written (and produced, though he was not credited for it) by Joe Eszterhas, who became the first person to win four Golden Raspberry awards for a single film: Worst Picture, Worst Screenplay and both Worst Supporting Actor and Worst New Star for a brief cameo appearance (he also received a co-nomination for the Worst Screen Couple award, since An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn was nominated for "any two people appearing together onscreen"; although the movie did not "win" in this category). The released film credits the Alan Smithee pseudonym as director because Arthur Hiller, the film's real director, objected to the way Eszterhas recut the film, and as a result, had his name removed. In his autobiography, Hollywood Animal, Eszterhas claims that Hiller still sat in the editing room with him to make certain suggestions.[citation needed] In his entry on An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn for his "My Year of Flops" column in The A.V. Club, pop culture critic Nathan Rabin sarcastically commented that Hiller's decision to use the Alan Smithee credit was "very transparently not a stupid, stupid gimmick to raise interest in a terrible film".[3]


Box office[edit]

The film had an estimated budget of $10 million and grossed at least $52,850, as it was released in only 19 theaters.[1]

Critical response[edit]

Film critic Roger Ebert, reviewing for the Chicago Sun-Times, gave An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn a score of zero stars, his lowest possible rating. The film was not merely bad but "incompetent", Ebert wrote, and also seemingly represented a lapse of judgment for Eszterhas who "is sometimes a good writer".[4] In 2005, Ebert included it on his list of most hated films.[5]

The film holds a 7% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 41 reviews, with an average rating of 3.3/10. The site's critical consensus calls it "A witless Hollywood satire whose hammy, obvious jokes are neither funny nor insightful of the movie business."[6] Eric Idle said in various interviews meant to promote the film that "this is rather dreadful".[citation needed]


Date of Ceremony Award Category Recipients Results Ref.
1999 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards Worst Picture An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (Hollywood Pictures) Nominated [7]
Worst Director Arthur Hiller Nominated
Most Painfully Unfunny Comedy An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (Hollywood Pictures) Nominated
Worst On-Screen Hairstyle Joe Eszterhas Won
March 20, 1999 Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Picture An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (Hollywood Pictures) Won [8]
Worst Actor Ryan O'Neal Nominated
Worst Supporting Actor Joe Eszterhas Won
Sylvester Stallone Nominated
Worst Screen Couple Any combination of two people playing themselves (or playing with themselves) Nominated
Worst Director Arthur Hiller (as Alan Smithee) Nominated
Worst Screenplay Joe Eszterhas Won
Worst New Star Won
Worst Original Song "I Wanna Be Mike Ovitz!", written by Joe Eszterhas and Gary G-Wiz Won


  1. ^ a b An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ Wallace, Amy (January 15, 2000). "Name of Director Smithee Isn't What It Used to Be". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 25, 2019.
  3. ^ Rabin, Nathan. "My Year Of Flops: Inside Hollywood Edition, Case File #109: An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn". The A.V. Club, May 14, 2008. Retrieved November, 2011.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (February 27, 1998). "An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 2, 2022.
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (August 11, 2005). "Ebert's Most Hated". Chicago Sun Times. Archived from the original on June 28, 2009. Retrieved March 2, 2022. The only way to save this film would be to trim 86 minutes.
  6. ^ An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn at Rotten Tomatoes
  7. ^ "Past Winners Database". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on January 3, 2007. Retrieved August 10, 2022.
  8. ^ Marcus Errico (March 20, 1999). "Razzies Ding Eszterhas, Willis, DiCaprio". E! News. Retrieved August 10, 2022.

External links[edit]

Preceded by Razzie Award for Worst Picture
19th Golden Raspberry Awards
Succeeded by