Just because you created the work doesn’t mean you want credit for it. Sometimes directors, writers, and actors use pseudonyms to protect their true identity for works they are not proud of, while other various reasons include modesty, religious and political persecution, and just sheer entertainment value. Here are eight movie pseudonyms you may not have known.
1. Pseudonyms: Peter Andrews, Mary Ann Bernard, and Sam Lowry
Real Name: Steven Soderbergh
Director Steven Soderbergh often writes his own movies and works as his own cinematographer and editor. The 50-year-old director doesn’t like to see his name used multiple times, so he adopted the practice of using pseudonyms for his various movie credits.
While working on the film Traffic in 2000, Soderbergh wanted to use the credit “Photographed and Directed by,” but the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) has firm rules against credits between a writer’s credit and a director’s, so Soderbergh decided to use the pseudonym “Peter Andrews” (his father’s first and middle name). He has since used the pseudonym “Mary Ann Bernard” (his mother’s maiden name) for his editing credits, starting with his 2002 film Solaris. At times, Soderbergh also used the pseudonym “Sam Lowry” as a writer’s credit.
2. Pseudonyms: Ian McLellan Hunter and Robert Rich
Real Name: Dalton Trumbo
In 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) blacklisted Dalton Trumbo for suspected involvement with the Communist Party. Unable to work in Hollywood, Trumbo used the pseudonyms “Ian McLellan Hunter” and “Robert Rich” to continue as a screenwriter. In fact, Ian McLellan Hunter and Robert Rich received Academy Awards for Best Writing for the films Roman Holiday in 1954 and The Brave One in 1957. Dalton Trumbo was later given the Academy Award for The Brave One in 1975, one year before he died. Years later, Trumbo posthumously received the Academy Award for Roman Holiday in 1992.
3. Pseudonym: Douglas Sirk
Real Name: Hans Detlef Sierck
Regarded as a very popular writer and director in pre-war Europe, Hans Detlef Sierck changed his name to “Douglas Sirk” when he fled Nazi Germany to the United States with his Jewish wife in 1937. Douglas Sirk’s career flourished in the States; he made colorful and lush melodramas including Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows, Written on the Wind, and A Time to Love and a Time to Die. Sirk remained an influence on the next generation of directors such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Pedro Almodóvar, Wong Kar-Wai, and Todd Haynes.
4. Pseudonym: Bob Robertson
Real Name: Sergio Leone
Afraid that American audiences wouldn’t accept a western made in Italy, Sergio Leone and composer Ennio Morricone changed their names to “Bob Robertson” and “Dan Savio” on A Fistful of Dollars in 1967. The film was a big hit in America for its genre bending conventions and heavily violent nature. The film also birthed the popularity of the “Spaghetti Western,” or Italian Western genre in the United States, and Sergio Leone went back to using his real name on all of his future films.
5. Pseudonym: Roderick Jaynes
Real Names: Joel & Ethan Coen
The Coen Brothers work together as a filmmaking duo: Joel takes the directing credit, while Ethan takes the producing credit, and both share the writing. But when it comes to editing, the Coens decided to use the pseudonym “Roderick Jaynes,” so their names wouldn’t appear multiple times in their films' credits. Roderick Jaynes has twice been nominated for Academy Awards, for his editing work in the films Fargo and No Country For Old Men.
6. Pseudonym: Donald Kaufman
Real Name: Charlie Kaufman
Writer Charlie Kaufman shared a writing credit with his late twin brother, Donald, on the film Adaptation, which was directed by Spike Jonze (real name: Adam Spiegel; the pseudonym is a reference to musician and bandleader Spike Jones). The Kaufman brothers were both nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2003. If he won, Charlie Kaufman would have received both of the Oscars—because Donald never actually existed.
7. Pseudonym: Woody Allen
Real Name: Allan Stewart Konigsberg
Born Allan Stewart Konigsberg, “Woody Allen” changed his name to Heywood Allen at the age of 17 after a traumatic experience at an inter-faith summer camp as a child. He later started to write for The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show at age 19, before becoming a playwright and a prominent writer and director.
8. Pseudonym: Alan Smithee
Real Name: Any Director Who Doesn’t Want Credit For A Movie
The Director’s Guild of America (DGA) invented a pseudonym for directors who had lost creative control on a film’s production and wanted their names off the final version of the movie. “Alan Smithee” was a way for directors to have a “clean” resume divorced from terrible movies. The first use of the pseudonym was on the film Death of a Gunfighter, which Robert Totten and Don Siegel directed separately in 1969.
The DGA retired the Alan Smithee pseudonym in 2000 with Kiefer Sutherland’s use of it on the film Woman Wanted. Other “notable” Alan Smithee uses were David Lynch’s directing credit on the extended edition of the movie Dune, Michael Mann’s credit on the edited for television versions of Heat and The Insider, and Steve Langley’s work on the animated feature film Mighty Ducks The Movie: The First Face-Off. Director Paul Verhoeven used the pseudonym “Jan Jensen” (a Dutch variation of Alan Smithee) on the edited for television version of Showgirls.
Although officially retired, the pseudonym continues to be used as TV, music video, and video game credits.