If it weren’t already May, it would be the perfect April Fools’ Day hoax. How else to explain the wiggy irony in the making of Disney’s An Alan Smithee Film? Director Arthur Hiller’s send-up of the movie industry, which centers on a pretentious filmmaker (Eric Idle) trying to remove his name from a gone-awry flick, has come face-to-face with the same dilemma it satirizes.
On May 5, Hiller announced he was so unhappy with the final cut that he was pulling his name from the film (which features cameos by Whoopi Goldberg and Sylvester Stallone) and replacing it with ”Alan Smithee,” the name directors use when they’re too ashamed or angry to use their own. Hiller jumped ship after Smithee scribe and coproducer Joe Eszterhas (Showgirls) edited the movie. ”His version may well be very successful,” says Hiller, ”but it’s not the film I agreed to direct.” Meanwhile, Eszterhas boasts his film got a warmer reaction in a recent test screening. ”My cut doubled the initial numbers,” he says. Not exactly. A mere 26 percent of viewers of Eszterhas’ cut found the movie ”excellent or very good” — only eight points higher than Hiller’s version. (Even mediocre films average about 55 percent.)
So, with a potential dud on their hands, might this whole mess be nothing more than a PR move? Disney has no comment, but a spokesman for Eszterhas says no. ”This isn’t a laughing matter,” publicist Alan Nierob says of An Alan Smithee Film, now directed by Alan Smithee. ”But it is ironic.”