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8 Pseudonyms Famous Writers and Directors Used in Movie Credits

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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.

Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images
Pop Culture
The Cult of Prince Philip
Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images
Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images

For seven decades, Prince Philip has been one of the more colorful figures in Britain's Royal Family, prone to jarring remarks and quips about women, the deaf, and overweight children.

"You're too fat to be an astronaut," he once told a boy sharing his dream of space travel.

British media who delighted in quoting him are still lamenting the 96-year-old's recent retirement from public duties. But the people of the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu are likely to be optimistic he'll now have the time to join them: They worship him as a god and have based a religion on him.

Followers of the Prince Philip Movement, which started in the 1960s, believe that the prince was born to fulfill an ancient prophecy: that the son of an ancient mountain spirit would one day take the form of a pale-skinned man, travel abroad, marry a powerful lady, and eventually return to the island. When villagers saw the prince’s portrait, they felt the spirit in it, and when he visited Vanuatu in 1974, they were convinced.

Chief Jack Naiva, a respected warrior in the culture, greeted the royal yacht and caught sight of Philip on board. "I saw him standing on the deck in his white uniform," Naiva once said. "I knew then that he was the true messiah."

True believers assign large world movements to the machinations of Philip. They once claimed his powers had enabled a black man to become president of the United States and that his "magic" had assisted in helping locate Osama bin Laden. The community has corresponded with Buckingham Palace and even sent Philip a nal-nal, a traditional club for killing pigs, as a token of its appreciation. In return, he sent a portrait in which he’s holding the gift.

Sikor Natuan, the son of the local chief, holds two official portraits of Britain's Prince Philip in front of the chief's hut in the remote village of Yaohnanen on Tanna in Vanuatu.

The picture is now part of a shrine set up in Yaohnanen in Vanuatu that includes other photos and a Union flag. In May 2017, shortly after the Prince announced his retirement, a cyclone threatened the island—and its shrine. But according to Matthew Baylis, an author who has lived with the tribe, the natives didn't see this so much as a cause for concern as they did a harbinger of the prince's arrival so he can bask in their worship.

To date, Prince Philip has not announced any plans to relocate.

A version of this story ran in a 2012 issue of Mental Floss magazine.

Chloe Efforn
John Lennon Was a Crazy Cat Lady
Chloe Efforn
Chloe Efforn

John Lennon was crazy about cats, and though he owned a couple of dogs (Sally and Bernard) over the years, he was better known for getting by with a little help from his feline friends.


Growing up, Lennon's beloved mother, Julia, had a named cat after Elvis Presley, whom Julia and John were both crazy about. The Lennons later realized they had misnamed Elvis when "he" gave birth to a litter of kittens in the cupboard, but they didn't change the cat's name based on that small mistake.


He had two other cats as a boy growing up in Liverpool: Tich and Sam. Tich passed away while Lennon was away at art school (which he attended from 1957 to 1960), and Sam was named after famous British diarist Samuel Pepys

4. TIM

One day, John Lennon found a stray cat in the snow, which his Aunt Mimi allowed him to keep. (John's Aunt Mimi raised him from a young boy through his late teenage years, and he affectionately referred to her as the Cat Woman.) He named the marmalade-colored half-Persian cat Tim.

Tim remained a special favorite of John's. Every day, he would hop on his Raleigh bicycle and ride to Mr. Smith's, the local fishmonger, where he would buy a few pieces of fish for Tim and his other cats. Even after John became famous as a Beatle, he would often call and check in on how Tim was doing. Tim lived a happy life and survived to celebrate his 20th birthday.


John and his first wife, Cynthia, had a cat named Mimi who was, of course, named after his Aunt Mimi. They soon got another cat, a tabby who they dubbed Babaghi. John and Cynthia continued acquiring more cats, eventually owning around 10 of them.


As a Beatle, John had a cat named Jesus. The name was most likely John's sarcastic response to his "the Beatles are bigger than Jesus" controversy of 1966. But he wasn't the only band member with a cat named Jesus: Paul McCartney once had a trio of kittens named Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.


In the mid-1970s, John had an affair with his secretary, May Pang. One day, the studio receptionist brought a box of kittens into the recording studio where John and May were. "No," John immediately told May, "we can't, we're traveling too much." But she picked up one of the kittens and put it over her shoulder. Then John started stroking the kitten and decided to keep it. At the end of the day, the only other kitten left was a little white one that was so loud no one else wanted it. So they adopted it as well and named the pair Major and Minor.


John owned a pair of black and white cats with his wife Yoko Ono. As befitting John's offbeat sense of humor, many places report he christened the white cat Pepper and the black one Salt.


John and Yoko also had two Russian Blue cats named Gertrude and Alice, who each met tragic ends. After a series of sicknesses, Gertrude was diagnosed with a virus that could become dangerous to their young son, Sean. John later said that he held Gertrude and wept as she was euthanized. 

Later, Alice jumped out of an open window in the Lennons' high-rise apartment at the Dakota and plunged to her death. Sean was present at the time of the accident, and he remembers it as the only time he ever saw his father cry.


In later years, John also owned three cats he named Misha, Sasha, and Charo. Always an artist at heart, John loved to sketch his many cats, and he used some of these pictures as illustrations in his books.

This piece originally ran in 2012.


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