10 Directors Who Used Pseudonyms To Disown Their Films

5. Kevin Yagher as Alan Smithee with Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)


Although the Hellraiser series is quite low brow and was never intended to win any Oscars, it really says something when a Hellraiser film is so bad that the director chooses to disown it.

Even as a director for hire, director Kevin Yagher had particular ideas of where the film should go. Yagher wanted the film to have more of a scary atmosphere and graphic imagery rather than rely on the appearance of the series’ villain, Pinhead. In the original script, Pinhead was not meant to appear until the 40 mark of the film. The studio was not pleased with this idea, and they made cuts to the film behind Yagher’s back.

Yagher quit the production before filming was completed, so director Joe Chappelle completed the film creating new scenes, but his name does not appear in the credits. Yagher naturally did not want anything to do with this butchered version of his work, so the “Alan Smithee” name was put in place, which worked in his favour as the film’s failure made Hellraiser IV the last film in the series to be released theatrically.


4. David Lynch as Alan Smithee with Dune (1984)


The production of Dune was always troubled, long before director David Lynch entered the picture. Previous attempts had been made to adapt the acclaimed and dense science fiction novel Dune to the big screen, but they went nowhere. When Lynch was filming Dune, the studio interfered with his work from day one.

Lynch has always felt dissatisfied with the outcome of Dune and is reluctant to talk about it in interviews, although he allowed himself to be credited as the film’s director and screenwriter.

Many scenes were edited out of the film, making Dune hard to follow despite Lynch’s efforts. Years later, an extended version of Dune was made with these scenes added in, including further exposition of the Dune universe and the characters’ motivations. Lynch wanted nothing to do with this version, so he chose to use the common director pseudonym “Alan Smithee” in place of his name.

More telling was the name he chose to replace his screenwriting credit, “Judas Booth”, is a reference to Judas Iscariot, the Biblical figure who betrayed Jesus Christ, and John Wilkes Booth, the assassin who shot the American President Abraham Lincoln. Lynch felt betrayed by the studio, so this was his way of getting payback.


3. Paul Verhoeven as Jan Jensen with Showgirls (1995)


Showgirls is notorious among movie buffs with its reputation as being one of the worst films ever made. From the over the top acting, the silly dialogue and cringe worthy attempts at being sexy, it never stood a chance at being taken seriously as intended. Although the original version of the film was a disaster both with critics and at the box office, its director Paul Verhoeven stood by his cut of the film and his name remains in the credits.

However, Verhoeven wanted nothing to do with the edited for TV version of Showgirls. The swearing was dubbed over poorly with tamer alternatives by people who sound nothing like the real actors, and the nudity was covered up by digitally inserted bras covering bare breasts that look incredibly fake. The sex scenes were also edited out of the film, making the characters’ motivations in later scenes not make sense.

All of these changes make this censored version of Showgirls even more ridiculous than the original version, as hard as that may be to believe. Verhoeven took his name off the TV version’s credits and replaced it with “Jan Jenson”.


2. David O. Russell as Stephen Greene with Accidental Love (2015)


Originally titled Nailed, this film was meant to be both a romantic comedy and a political satire, and was planned to be released in 2008. However, there was nothing funny about what happened behind the scenes.

Although Nailed was estimated to have a budget of 26 million dollars, reportedly no one was being paid for their work and many cast and crew members walked off the set. Most of the film was completed, but with continuing money issues, key scenes were not able to be filmed, so director David O. Russell abandoned the project too.

After Russell’s later films such as The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook achieved Oscar glory, the studio were keen to have Russell’s unfinished work out there. The original production company Capitol Productions went bankrupt and Nailed was purchased by Millennium Entertainment.

The unfilmed scenes were finally completed without Russell’s involvement, and the film was retitled Accidental Love. Russell had his name changed to “Stephen Greene” in the credits, which worked out in his favour as Accidental Love did not receive a theatrical release and was panned by critics.


1. Arthur Hiller as Alan Smithee with Burn Hollywood Burn (1998)

An Alan Smithee Film Burn Hollywood Burn (1998)

By the 1990s, the pseudonym Alan Smithee had been in use for directors unsatisfied with their films for approximately 30 years. Hollywood’s then highest paid screenwriter Joe Eszterhas had seen all the dodgy dealings of Hollywood and mistreatment of filmmakers.

Eszterhas he set out to satirise Hollywood’s use of the Smithee name for bad films by writing Burn Hollywood Burn, where an aspiring director named Alan Smithee (Eric Idle) has his film ruined by the studio. It is recommended to Idle’s character to use the “Smithee” pseudonym, but as his actual name is Alan Smithee, this does not help him.

While the premise is amusing, especially to movie buffs who are aware of the Smithee moniker, one person who did not find the film amusing was its director, Arthur Hiller. Unfortunately for him, the film’s premise happened to him, with the studio taking the film away from him and preferred Eszterhas’s cut of the film, forcing Hiller to actually use the pseudonym “Alan Smithee”.

The film bombed and ruined Eszterhas’s lucrative career in Hollywood. Burn Hollywood Burn made the public more aware of the Smithee pseudonym, so studios discontinued the use of this name in 1999. The fact this film also legitimately used this name too because Hiller was unhappy with how his film turned out is the very definition of irony.

Author Bio: Matt Wilson is a professional writer from Melbourne, Australia. His passion for cinema has always been a part of him and he aspires to be a screenwriter or a novelist. He particularly enjoys the films of Michael Cimino, Oliver Stone, Stanley Kubrick, Paul Verhoeven, David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino.