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Burning Down Hollywood: The Infamous Failure of An Alan Smithee Film

Are you a fan of film? Have you ever heard of the movie An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn?

This movie is not your typical Hollywood film; in fact, it is considered one of the worst films ever made. In this article, I will delve into the synopsis of this movie and what makes it so infamous.An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn is a satirical movie that pokes fun at the absurdity of Hollywood filmmaking.

Directed by Arthur Hiller and released in 1998, the film tells the story of a director, played by Eric Idle, who is trying to remove his name from a terrible movie. The movie was so bad that the director chose to use the pseudonym Alan Smithee instead.

Let’s explore why this movie caused such an uproar. Opening Scene:

The film opens with a group of African American men carrying a burning movie projector.

They are protesting the lack of diversity and representation in Hollywood, making a statement about the industry’s tendency to whitewash its movies. The Plot:

The plot is somewhat convoluted, making it challenging to follow the storys thread.

The basic idea is that the lead character, Alan Smithee, is a Hollywood director who has been hired to make a film called Trio. Alan is excited to work on the movie, but soon discovers that he has no control over the project.

The producers micromanage every aspect of the movie, including casting and script changes. As a result, the film turns into a disaster, and Alan wants to remove his name from the project entirely.

The Cast:

The cast includes Eric Idle, Ryan O’Neal, Coolio, and Sandra Bernhard. They all play ridiculous caricatures of themselves and are often the subject of ridicule in the movie.

The film’s infamy is partly due to the negative reviews of its casts performances, with many critics claiming it was one of the worst ensemble casts in Hollywood history. The Reception:

An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn was a critical and box office disaster, grossing only $45,779 from a $10 million budget.

Critics derided the film’s self-indulgence and lack of coherence, and its satirical nature was ultimately lost on audiences. The Controversy:

To add to the film’s controversy, the director, Arthur Hiller, also insisted on using the pseudonym Alan Smithee.

This further damaged the film’s reputation, as it seemed that even the director did not want to be associated with it. Conclusion:

An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn may not be a masterpiece of cinema, but it is undoubtedly a fascinating case study in Hollywood failure.

From its overly convoluted storytelling to its lack of coherent satire, it is a movie that seems to defy explanation. If you’re a die-hard film buff, it’s certainly worth a watch, if only to see how truly bad a movie can be.

An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn is a movie that satirizes Hollywood’s often-absurd filmmaking processes. The plot follows Alan Smithee, played by Eric Idle, as he tries to remove his name from a disastrous movie he directed called Trio.

The film was produced by high-powered Hollywood producers, who wanted to change the director’s vision for the picture and turned it into a bomb. The movie features several subplots that make it challenging to follow the main storyline.

For example, one of the subplots involves Coolio and Sandra Bernhard playing themselves in the movie. They’re portrayed as divas who expect special treatment and demand that Alan Smithee cast them in the movie.

Another subplot features Ryan O’Neal as a hack screenwriter called James Edmunds. James initially writes a script that Alan is excited about, but when the producers take over, they change the script’s entire story, including its characters.

This change frustrates Alan, who is powerless to do anything about it. As the film progresses, the production problems continue, and when the film is finally released, it receives scathing reviews.

Critics and audiences panned the picture, with many calling it the worst movie of all time. The loss of $10 million in production costs and only $40,000 earned at the box office made the film a massive failure.

However, the controversy surrounding the film did not end with its critical and financial failure. The director, Arthur Hiller, disavowed the picture and requested that his name be removed from the credits.

The directors union allowed him to use the pseudonym Alan Smithee to distance himself from the movie. An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn’s controversial nature stemmed from its satirical portrayal of the American film industry.

The movie was supposed to be a critical evaluation of how Hollywood clings to narrow-minded thinking, excluding talented and diverse voices from the creative process. However, it wound up being a chaotic, self-indulgent mess that failed to connect with audiences on any level.

Another source of controversy was the filmmakers’ decision to use the pseudonym Alan Smithee. This name is often used by directors when they want to distance themselves from a project.

Although the Directors Guild of America allows this pseudonym, it is rarely used in practice. However, using this name gave many people the impression that the movie was a joke and not a serious attempt at filmmaking.

The film’s failure was also due to the vast array of popular faces that were associated with it. From Arnold Schwarzenegger to Whoopi Goldberg, the producers used a star-studded ensemble cast to boost the movie’s profile.

Unfortunately, even their star power could not save the movie from its tragic fate. In conclusion, An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn might be seen as a cautionary tale for aspiring filmmakers.

Although the movie aimed to ridicule Hollywood’s commercialized and whitewashed approach to filmmaking, it wound up being a bloated, self-defeating piece of cinema. Nevertheless, it remains essential viewing for film lovers as it highlights how things can go awry when a talented director’s vision is dismantled by Hollywood producers.

An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn was a satirical film that aimed to criticize Hollywood’s over-commercialized and whitewashed approach to producing films. However, the movie became a cautionary tale for the film industry, demonstrating the disastrous effects of giving producers excessive control.

During the production of An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn, the producers insisted on making significant changes to the script, undermining director Arthur Hiller’s creative vision. The directors wanted a happy ending for the movie, which contradicted the initial idea.

The original film was supposed to be a dark and sarcastic reflection on the film industry; however, the producers churned out a version entirely different from the director’s vision. The movie was made with a budget of ten million dollars, but the film’s chaos resulted in going over-budget.

As a result, the movie was a box office bomb, grossing only forty-five thousand dollars. The movie’s poor performance can be attributed to multiple factors, including the lack of cohesive storytelling and the over-reliance of the star-studded ensemble cast.

The cast was an exceptional mix of talent, including Eric Idle, Ryan O’Neal, and Whoopi Goldberg, among others. Their performances, however, were criticized for being exaggerated caricatures of themselves, which ultimately undermined the film’s satirical commentary.

Another notable characteristic of the movie’s production is the director’s decision not to attend the premiere due to the mess the producers made of his vision. It was at that moment that Arthur Hiller decided he no longer wanted anything to do with the film.

When Hiller requested to strike his name from the credits, he used “Alan Smithee,” which is a pseudonym used by directors who wished to disavow their work. This decision was so shocking that it brought attention to the Directors Guild of America and the DGA created rules that prohibited its usage.

At that time, the pseudonym had only been employed twenty-seven times before Hiller used it, but the controversy only served to magnify the presence of the pseudonym. In summary, the production of An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn, was painful to all parties involved.

From the rampant meddling by the producers to the disavowal of the director, the movie’s making represented a chaotic disaster. It highlighted the dangers of allowing Hollywood producers to govern the development of movies, at the expense of creativity.

The use of Alan Smithee’s pseudonym brought attention to the DGA and forced them to reconsider the use of the pseudonym in their guidelines. An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn’s release was a complete disaster.

The movie flopped at the box office, grossing only $45,779 against a budget of $10 million. The film also garnered negative reviews from both audiences and critics alike, who criticized the story’s lack of coherence and the actors’ performances.

Interestingly, the film’s release was met with condemnation from several people who had worked on the project. When Arthur Hiller requested his name to be removed from the movie credits, he inadvertently brought more attention to the film’s already controversial subject matter.

Many critics found the movie’s portrayal of Hollywood filmmaking to be too heavy-handed, and it came across as self-indulgent instead of satirical. As a result, audiences had little desire to watch the movie.

The film’s marketing was not much better, failing to generate much interest in the picture. Even with a star-studded cast, including the likes of Whoopi Goldberg and Jackie Chan, many of whom disavowed the picture’s content later on, An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn failed to gain traction with audiences.

The lack of marketing highlights a significant problem in the film industry, particularly in the role that marketing plays when promoting movies. A film may be well-made and feature an all-star cast, but without compelling marketing and PR, it may never see success at the box office.

This was precisely the case with An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn. The movie’s marketing could also explain why many people did not understand what the film was about.

It was marketed as an action comedy, a genre that is sometimes appropriate for satirical movies. However, in this case, it was misleading, and audiences and critics found the movie to be confusing and nonsensical.

Finally, the backlash the movie received led to a greater scrutiny on Hollywood’s practices, including the use of pseudonyms. The DGA, recognizing the damaging effect that Hiller’s decision could have on their work and the work of others, eventually retired the “Alan Smithee” pseudonym in 2000.

In conclusion, the release of An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn was a perfect storm of marketing missteps and a confusing storyline. The failure of the movie also highlighted the dangers of allowing producers to dictate a director’s creative vision.

Nevertheless, the movie received significant scrutiny, leading to changes in the guidelines of the Directors Guild of America. Today, the film serves as a reminder of the importance of respecting the creative vision of directors and knowing when marketing and PR can elevate or obscure a film’s success at the box office.

One of the few redeeming features of An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn is its original soundtrack. The movie’s music was composed by Chuck D and the Bomb Squad, with additional contributions from contemporary musicians such as Ice-T and KRS-One.

The soundtrack of the movie showcases Chuck D’s talent for fusing elements of rap, rock, and funk, which complemented the film’s ridiculous imagery. The album only featured ten tracks, but they were each unique and powerful, particularly the song “Burn Hollywood Burn,” which was performed by Chuck D, Ice Cube, and Big Daddy Kane.

The song “Burn Hollywood Burn” criticized the Hollywood film industry’s lack of diversity and its tendency to whitewash its casting choices. The lyrics were biting and resonated with the movie’s core themes, making it an unforgettable anthem that still resonates today.

Other songs on the soundtrack, such as “Gucci Again” and “Runnin’ From the Feds,” also captured the movie’s satirical spirit. These tracks blended political commentary with humor and propelled the soundtrack to critical acclaim, although it ultimately failed to save the movie’s reputation.

Despite the soundtrack’s quality, it was not widely distributed, and few people purchased the album. This was an unfortunate mistake, given that the soundtrack was one of the few aspects of the movie that garnered positive critical reception.

One of the reasons for this lack of attention was due to the poor marketing campaign behind the movie. The movie’s soundtrack received little fanfare and support from the studio, and it was ultimately overshadowed by the film’s harsh criticism.

Despite its lack of commercial success, An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn’s soundtrack was a significant accomplishment in the career of Chuck D. It reflects the artist’s creative genius and ability to produce music that is both politically relevant and entertaining.

In many ways, Burn Hollywood Burn’s soundtrack perfectly encapsulated the feelings of frustration and unrest that many young people and minorities have felt with Hollywood over the years. With tracks like “Burn Hollywood Burn” and “Runnin’ From the Feds,” the album brought these issues to the forefront of conversation and inspired change in the film industry.

Even though the movie is best remembered as a failure, the soundtrack’s impact on popular culture cannot be ignored. It showcased Chuck D’s immense talent and introduced a generation to the idea of using music to inspire social change.

It continues to be a classic album that embodies the sound and spirit of the time it was produced. In conclusion, the soundtrack of An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn was a rare bright spot in an otherwise disastrous movie.

Chuck D and the Bomb Squad produced a powerful and memorable album that cut to the heart of Hollywood’s flaws and highlighted the importance of diversity and representation in the film industry. Although the movie was forgotten quickly, the soundtrack lives on as a testament to Chuck D’s immense talents and a significant moment in the history of social-conscious music.

In conclusion, An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn is a cautionary tale of Hollywood’s film industry’s flaws, especially in the over-commercialization, whitewashing of casting choices, and lack of trust given to directors. The film’s chaotic production, poor marketing, and negative critical reception ultimately led to its box office failure.

However, the film’s soundtrack, especially the song “Burn Hollywood Burn,” becomes an anthem that criticizes the film industry’s lack of diversity and its tendency to whitewash casting choices. The movie’s impact on the film industry ultimately led to changes in Hollywood’s guidelines, making it essential viewing for anyone interested in how Hollywood works.


Q: What is An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn? A: It is a satirical film that satirizes Hollywood’s often-absurd filmmaking processes, released in 1998.

Q: Who directed the movie? A: Arthur Hiller initially directed the film, but he chose to remove his name in the credits by using the pseudonym Alan Smithee due to creative disagreements with the producers.

Q: What is the synopsis of An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn? A: It follows a Hollywood director, played by Eric Idle, who tries to remove his name from a woefully bad movie called Trio.

Q: What is the significance of the movie’s use of Alan Smithee’s pseudonym? A: Hiller’s use of the pseudonym shone the light on Hollywood’s film industry practices, specifically in the crediting of directors when the film’s vision is dismantled or compromised.

Q: What role did the movie’s soundtrack play in the film’s impact on the industry? A: Composed by Chuck D and featuring “Burn Hollywood Burn,” the soundtrack features biting lyrics that criticize Hollywood’s established practices, especially in its lack of diversity when casting parts.

Q: How did the movie impact the film industry? A:Many people looked at the movie with greater scrutiny towards the industry and the catastrophic failure of this film led to tightened union guidelines and a more prominent emphasis on directorial authority in Hollywood.

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