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Whither M. Night Shyamalan's Name in New 'After Earth' Trailer?

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood March 8, 2013 at 2:11PM

One notable thing about the new trailer for "After Earth" (June 7), starring look-alike father-son duo Jaden and Will Smith, is the absence of director M. Night Shyamalan's name. Following the disastrously reviewed, 3-D retrofitted "The Last Airbender," not to mention "The Lady in the Water" and "The Happening," Sony is choosing not to remind audiences of Shyamalan's involvement in the movie. Does this mean that Shyamalan is an actual negative as a selling tool? On some level, Sony might as well make "After Earth" an Alan Smithee film.
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Jaden Smith in "After Earth."
Jaden Smith in "After Earth."

One notable thing about the new trailer for "After Earth" (June 7), starring look-alike father-son duo Jaden and Will Smith, is the absence of director M. Night Shyamalan's name. Following the disastrously reviewed, 3-D retrofitted "The Last Airbender," not to mention "The Lady in the Water" and "The Happening," Sony is choosing not to remind audiences of Shyamalan's involvement in the movie. Does this mean that Shyamalan is an actual negative as a selling tool? On some level, Sony might as well make "After Earth" an Alan Smithee film.

Alan Smithee is the official pseudonym used by filmmakers who wish to disown a project. The term came about in 1968, when actor Richard Widmark enlisted director Don Siegel to complete the film "Death of a Gunfighter," after vocalizing his discontent with current director Robert Totten. Siegel's logged days on the film were less than half of Totten's, and he contended after production wrapped that the bullish Widmark was really the one in control of the project. Siegel didn't want screen credit, and Totten, understandably insulted, didn't want the credit either; Alan Smithee was born.

Funnily enough, Smithee got some critical praise for "his" direction of the film, by no less than the New York Times and Roger Ebert.

Other famous Alan Smithee projects include the extended version of David Lynch's "Dune," and the edited TV versions of Michael Mann's "Heat" and "The Insider." Indeed, TV cuts tend to bring a directorial wish for distance: The original television versions of Martin Brest's "Scent of a Woman" and "Meet Joe Black," and David Anspaugh's "Rudy," all ended up with a Smithee credit. 

Here's the new "After Earth" trailer (with the first trailer here):

This article is related to: Trailers, Video, After Earth, M. Night Shyamalan, Sony, Trailers


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.