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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 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 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 pseudoym ended up also being applied to this film in real life.
  • Artistic License – Film Production: The film desperately tries to justify this by portraying all the actors in the fictional movie as being total assholes who will only ever do a single take of a given scene, which later becomes a sticking point when the director steals and destroys the film's master print. Like everything else in Burn Hollywood Burn, though, it fails dismally – not least because the fictional film is shown being edited on a computer at one point, meaning that a completed version of the film would probably survive in some form, even if the audio-visual quality was degraded.
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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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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


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