When a director makes a bad movie, more often than not that director will stand up and take responsibility. They might not like the final product, but they made it and know that they were likely responsible for how it turned out. However, there are other instances where a director loses control of the movie and completely disowns the movie when it finally arrives.
For many years, there was even a name that directors would put on movies that they wanted nothing to do with. Alan Smithee was born in 1968 as a pseudonym that directors used when they wanted to disown a project and it remained in use until 2000. In other cases, a director used a very different pseudonym, and it was for the same reason – a director didn’t ‘t want his name represented in a specific movie.
Noah Baumbach – Highball (1997) — Stream On Plex
One of the worst Noah Baumbach films was one that he hated so much that he removed his name from the credits. Instead, Baumbach released highball under the name Ernie Fusco. Eric Stoltz and Justine Bateman star in the movie about a couple who wants to spice things up by throwing some cocktail parties.
Noah removed his name from highball because he said the finished version was not finished (via AVClub). He also called it a failed experiment.
Dennis Hopper – Catchfire (1990) — Stream On Voud and plex
Dennis Hopper had been acting since 1955, getting his start in Rebel Without a Cause and becoming a star thanks to Easy Rider in 1969. Not only did he star in Easy Rider, but Hopper directed the masterpiece. However, 21 years later, Hopper directed the Jodie Foster movie catchfire.
The movie saw a lot of problems, especially since Hopper and Foster couldn’t get along (via ShowBiz411). However, when the studio didn’t like Hopper’s version, they took it away and reedited it. He tried to sue them, but could n’t get any money so he took his name off the movie.
Kiefer Sutherland – Woman Wanted (1999) — Rent On Prime Video and Apple TV
Kiefer Sutherland was part of the Brat Pack and was one of the top young stars in the 1980s. In 1997, Sutherland stepped behind the camera for his directorial debut in Truth or Consequences NM. That went well but when he directed Woman Wanted in 2000, things were not as good.
When Keifer finished the movie, he chose to remove his name from it and had it as an Alan Smithee movie. He never said why he took his name off it but was reportedly disillusioned with the finished product and he never directed another movie again.
Arthur Hiller – An Alan Smithee Movie: Burn Hollywood Burn (1998) — Stream On Hoop
Alan Smithee was a director’s pseudonym that Hollywood stopped using in 2000. The reason that studios stopped using it was that it had become too popular. It was so popular that a movie was made about it called An Alan Smithee Movie: Burn Hollywood Burn.
Arthur Hiller directed the movie about a movie director named Alan Smithee who wanted to destroy his movie rather than have his name on it. Ironically, Hiller said the studio recut it without his permission so he asked his credit to be listed as Alan Smithee (via AVClub).
Kevin Yagher – Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996) — Stream On Prime Video
There have been some really bad Hellraiser movies after the first two movies set the template for the franchise. However, no matter how bad the movies got, the directors claimed the movie as their own. There was one exception.
The fourth movie in the series, Hellraiser: Bloodline, ended up as the last movie in the franchise to get a theatrical release. Kevin Yagher directed the sequel, the only movie he ever directed in his career. The studio wanted Yagher to do major reshoots and he refused, stepping away and adding the Alan Smithee name to the finished movie (via ScreenRant).
David O. Russell – Accidental Love (2015) — Stream On Roku, Voodoo, And Pluto
By 2015, David O. Russell had developed a reputation as a visionary filmmaker, but one that was hard to work with as evident by blowups with various cast members over the years. However, there was one movie he refused to release that he made called nailed.
The problem is that the studio held the rights to the movie. Russell started the movie in 2008 and then quit the project. In 20-15, the movie was put together and released to limited theaters and VOD, but Russell wanted nothing to do with the finished movie, listing the director as the fictional Stephen Greene (via Den Of Geeks).
Michael Mann – Heat (Edited Version) (1995) — Stream ON Fubo, AMC+, And DirecTV
Some movies where directors removed their names might come as a surprise to many movie fans. One example is the edited version of heat. The movie is considered one of Michael Mann’s masterpieces, with Robert De Niro starring opposite Al Pacino in a story of police officers hunting down notorious thieves.
However, the movie was R-rated and the studio wanted people to see it everywhere, including on television. The studio edited 17 minutes out of the movie for television and Mann disowned this version of the movie, having his name removed from the TV versions (via CBR).
Walter Hill – Supernova (2000) — Stream On HBO Max
Walter Hill made some amazing movies over his career, including The Warriors and 48hrs. However, one of his worst movies was one that he disowned in the end. this was supernova in 2000, a science fiction movie starring James Spader and Angela Bassett.
However, Hill had a troubled shoot and then finally quit the entire project during post-production. Francis Ford Coppola tried to help re-edit it, but the movie ended up being released with the fictional name Thomas Lee when Hill refused to back it.
Paul Verhoeven – Showgirls (Edited Version) (1995) — Stream On Tubi And PlutoTV
Paul Verhoeven had a clear vision of what he wanted out of showgirls, but what resulted was a movie that was more famous for being the first NC-17 movie to get a wide theatrical release thanks to the sexually explicit content. However, Verhoeven had no problems with that release at all, demanding the NC-17 cut.
It was the edited version of showgirls that caused problems with the director. While the movie became a cult favorite on home video, the TV version made some shocking changes. Outside of edits, the studio painted over actors in nude scenes and a different actress redubbed the lines. Verhoeven demanded his name be removed from this version, with the pseudonym Jan Jansen used instead (via CBR).
David Lynch – Dune (Extended Cut) (1984) — Stream On Starz and DirectTV
Before Denis Villeneuve directed the successful adaptation of dune in 2021, a legendary director tried to make the movie before. In 1984, David Lynch directed his version of dune, but things did not go well. In the end, Lynch disavowed the movie.
There was considerable studio interference, and Lynch was unable to get the studio to back his version of the movie. His three-hour version was edited down by Dino De Laurentiis into a two-hour running time. As a result, Lynch disowned the movie and refused to consider returning in later years to re-create his own director’s cut (via ScreenRant).
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