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Film / An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn

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They weren't kidding with that tagline.

An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn is a 1998 American mockumentary comedy film directed by Arthur Hiller (in his final theatrical film), written by Joe Eszterhas, and starring Eric Idle. It is a satire of the filmmaking business.

A director (Idle) has been allowed to direct Trio, a big-budget action film starring Sylvester Stallone, Whoopi Goldberg and Jackie Chan (all three of them played by themselves). The studio recuts the film, and when the director sees the results, he wants to disown the film. Problem is, he can't use the Alan Smithee pseudonym used in Hollywood when someone does not want to have their name attached to a bad film, because his name is Alan Smithee, so he steals the film negative and goes on the run, threatening to destroy it.

The film is best known for how its plot eventually, and ironically, described the film's own production: director Hiller requested that his name be removed from its credits after witnessing the final cut completed by the studio. The film's creation set off a chain of events which would lead the Directors Guild of America to officially discontinue the Alan Smithee credit.


This film contains examples of:

  • Alan Smithee: Invoked. The plot of the film is about how a director wants his name out of the Film Within a Film, but can't, because he really is named Alan Smithee in-universe. However, as noted in more detail in the Trivia page, this pseudonym ended up also being applied to this film in real life.
  • Artistic License – Film Production: Even back during the days when films were shot and edited on celluloid film, Smithee's destroying the master print of Trio would at best have been a minor inconvenience. Back in those days, the development labs would strike multiple physical film reels from each negative, meaning that all that the producers would have to do would be call up the lab, get them to ship over some spare reels, then use them to re-assemble the film — a process that would take maybe a couple of days at the absolute most. The plot would maybe have worked had it been focusing around the production of a low-budget, independent film, which often were directly edited from the camera negative back in those days, but a major studio would never have done anything so risky. If anything, the real problem that the studio would have faced would have been the bad publicity generated by Smithee's actions.
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  • As Himself: The actors of the film-within-a-film, and many Hollywood figures such as Shane Black.
  • Caption Humor: Some of the characters are introduced with graphics with demeaning ("Jerry Glover: President, Challenger Films; Moron; Liar; Nickname—The Dwarf; Wimp") or sarcastic captions ("Sylvester Stallone: superstar, rocket scientist, brain surgeon").
  • Chair Reveal: Ryan O'Neal gets a pointless chair reveal at one point. It's one of the many things Roger Ebert makes fun of in his review, along with it being a reference to the reveal of Frank Sinatra in Mike Todd's Around the World in 80 Days (1956).
  • Dirty Old Man: Veteran producer Robert Evans is depicted as a creepy whoremonger who insists on being called "Daddy" by his well-compensated partners because "incest turns them on."
  • Double Entendre: The film is split into three acts, each of which references sex in some way and has a title card related to the literal meaning, those being "Missionary Position", "Whips and Chains", and "Doggie Style".
  • Downer Ending: If one sides with Smithee, anyway. Smithee is committed to an insane asylum, and despite him having burnt the only existing print of the film, the studio ends up making a profit anyway when they produce a documentary about how Smithee went crazy.
  • Executive Meddling: In-universe, the director wants to disown his film after he sees the results of the studio having recut it.
  • Horrible Hollywood: As the title bluntly suggests, the film lampoons Hollywood, as it's about a director who first has to contend with prima donna actors, then experiences Executive Meddling in-universe when the studio recuts the film.
  • Looped Lyrics: One of the soundtrack's songs is "I Wanna Be Mike Ovitz", whose title is also most of the lyrics.
  • Plot Hole: It's said that critics enjoyed watching Trio, but it was also stated that the film never got released because of Smithee's actions, so how did critics get to see Trio if it never got released?
  • Real Joke Name: The director can't use the Alan Smithee pseudonym, because his name is Alan Smithee.
  • Self-Deprecation: Smithee describes the film after being recut by the studio as being "worse than Showgirls". This film was written by Joe Eszterhas, who was also the writer of Showgirls.
  • Show Within a Show: Trio, the big-budget action film that the director wants to get rid of.
  • Take That!: The film is full of Joe Eszterhas mocking Hollywood and everyone involved with it, from the film press to certain producers he didn't like, in particular Michael S. Ovitz, who he had a very public fallout with.
  • Troubled Production: Trio has this as Jackie Chan, Sylvester Stallone, and Whoopi Goldberg are prima-donnas, and the studio ends editing the film behind the director's back.invoked
  • Voodoo Shark: Smithee's threat to destroy the master copy of Trio is explained to be such a big deal because he was only able to shoot one take of every single scene, due to the three lead actors all having such Small Name, Big Ego complexes that they each believe their first takes to be absolute perfection and won't do additional takes. Not only would this be a incredibly risky and idiotic way to produce a film — if there was anything wrong with any of the takes that wasn't initially obvious during filming, then they'd be screwed — but Smithee's threat to burn the negative would still have been an empty one, for the reasons described under Artistic License – Film Production.