12 Directors Who Used Pseudonyms To Disown Their Films

6. Paul Verhoeven

  • Pseudonym: Jan Jensen
  • Film: Showgirls (1995)

How do you make a bad film worse? You edit it for television, of course! Paul Verhoeven is a talented director, as seen with his early productions like ‘RoboCop’ (1987), ‘Total Recall’ (1990), and more recent works like the critically praised ‘Elle’ (2016). Though he stands by his 1995 film ‘Showgirls’, it was a box office bomb (though DVD and VHS sales proved highly profitable) and critics weren’t too crazy about it either. I personally enjoy bits and pieces of this film, and overall don’t think it is as bad as it is portrayed to be, and celebrities like Quentin Tarantino are of the same opinion. The fact remains that its satirical message wasn’t delivered to most people who viewed the sex-driven movie. The TV version was much worse, because dialogue was poorly dubbed over by people who sounded nothing like the characters they were giving a voice to in order to remove the swear count of the film, and the excessive nudity was covered up with CGI bras that looked unrealistic and almost comical. Many of the film’s explicit sex scenes were cut as well, making it look unintentionally ambiguous and incomplete. Due to these reasons, Verhoeven had his name replaced with the pseudonym Jan Jensen in the credits of this version.


5. Richard C. Sarafian

  • Pseudonym: Alan Smithee
  • Film: Solar Crisis (1990)

I find Richard C. Sarafian’s film particularly interesting because of its whopping 55 million dollar budget, of which it wasn’t even able to make a fifth following the extremely limited release that it got. The film was obviously released in the hopes of making the headlines and becoming the next ‘Star Wars’, but it lacked the energy and coherent plot that the 1977 epic had. The main reason this film failed to attract its audience was how poorly it was marketed, and even then, those who saw it left the theatre underwhelmed by the experience, if you can call it that. ‘Solar Crisis’ placed too much of its attention on dialogue that basically acted just as a tool for exposition. The characters, played by a respectable trio of leads consisting of Charlton Heston, Tim Matheson, and Jack Palance, failed to connect in any way, shape, or form with its audience. The special effects look very dated for a film that came out in the same decade as ‘Jurassic Park’ (1993). Due to all the fear of all the poor feedback possibly ruining his later career, Sarafian had his name switched with that of the ever popular Alan Smithee.


4. Dennis Hopper

  • Pseudonym: Alan Smithee
  • Film: Catchfire (1990)

Dennis Hopper was both an accomplished actor and director. With ‘Easy Rider’ (1969), his first directorial effort, Hopper managed to create a film so rebellious in nature that it was hailed by many as the embodiment of everything that defined the 1960s – the aura, the ideals, the mentality, and all that. Following this massive hit, Hopper directed a couple of films that weren’t as appreciated. He is more well-known as an actor, starting out in ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ (1955) and performing his most beloved role as Frank Booth in ‘Blue Velvet’ (1986). His directorial credits are comparatively few, and one notable film of this lot is ‘Catchfire’ (1990). In the same year that he filmed the very enjoyable ‘The Hot Spot’ (1990), Hopper made another film that wasn’t as fun, though he isn’t to blame for the outcome. The distributors of ‘Catchfire’ weren’t too pleased with Hopper’s work that they churned out their own using the same resources – something that the director didn’t like one bit as it was a restriction of his artistic vision. Due to this, Hopper disowned the film using the pseudonym Alan Smithee. A later version made for television (surprisingly) restored the picture in its original format, the one that Hopper initially had worked up in his mind.


 3. David Lynch

  • Pseudonym: Alan Smithee
  • Film: Dune (1984)

One of the greatest directors of our time, David Lynch is known for his smart surreal vision, expressed in as detailed a manner in pretty much all pictures that bear his name in the opening credits. ‘Dune’ (1984) was a creative effort that was ruined mainly due to the interference of the studio that backed up the project. A film that was a box office bomb as well as a critical disappointment, ‘Dune’ was expected to be something of an epic due to its rich source material prior to its release. Keeping that in his mind, Lynch presented the studio with his film that ran over 3 hours long, but it failed to impress them and they cut it down to a mere 2 hours length. Later, an extended cut of the picture was released, but this too was not in line with Lynch’s vision, as it sought out ways to spoon-feed and explain the story to its audience using expositional dialogue and choppy editing. Due to all the troubles that occurred in the production phase, the extended cut of ‘Dune’ was ultimately disowned by David Lynch, who replaced his directing credit with Alan Smithee, and screenwriting credit with Judas Booth, referring to Judas Iscariot, the biblical figure, and John Wilkes Booth, both known for committing acts of a deadly and betraying nature.


2. Kevin Yagher

  • Pseudonym: Alan Smithee
  • Film: Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)

There’s a reason as to why there exist only 4 Hellraiser films in a series that probably would’ve gone on to produce more movies otherwise, and that is plainly because the fourth one, ‘Hellraiser: Bloodline’ was so terrible that even the original director of the film, Kevin Yagher, disowned it. He had his reasons, and they were similar to what most filmmakers who use a pseudonym to cut associations with a project cite as theirs. Yagher’s vision for the picture was one that was a lot darker and grittier than what had come of the final film, almost to the point of a horror feature, something that would’ve worked great for a movie of this type in his opinion. However, the studio made changes in the script without consulting him and gave unnecessary prominence to the villain character, an action that Yagher was against doing long before. Because of this, he quit working for the film and had his position credited to Alan Smithee. A different director, Joe Chappelle, took over and completed the movie without having his name up in the credits. This incident went on to become one of the more popular uses of the pseudonym, and the picture has since developed something of a cult following due to how bad it is.


1. Arthur Hiller

  • Pseudonym: Alan Smithee
  • Film: An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (1998)

While I am of the opinion that this film gets hated on more than it deserves, not even the director of ‘Burn Hollywood Burn’ was particularly fond of the final product. Joe Eszterhas, the screenwriter behind films like ‘Showgirls’ and ‘Basic Instinct’, presented this movie as the story of a director named Alan Smithee who wishes to disown his film due to studio interference, but finds it hard to do since his name bears a striking similarity to the popular pseudonym. The film fails to hit most of its marks, but it can be enjoyable if seen in the right mood. Unfortunately, it bombed at the box office and was panned critically. The director, Arthur Hiller, was never a fan of the cut of the film that was sent to theaters as it wasn’t his, but Eszterhas’, which the studio found comparatively more marketable. Hence, he changed his credit in the film to that of Alan Smithee. In short, ‘An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn’ is a film directed by Alan Smithee about a man named Alan Smithee who cannot use the pseudonym Alan Smithee as his name was, unluckily, Alan Smithee. One can only imagine the bitterness that these decisions caused. The film made the Smithee sobriquet popular, which led to its removal from cinema in 1999, Still, it’s nice to think of this fake name that died at 30 years as a helping hand for directors who wanted to rebel, who wanted the world to see what they did, and who genuinely loved the work that they were doing.

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