- 21 Sep 17
Speculation is rife about the identity of the screenwriter behind Steven Soderbergh’s new heist flick, but there is a long history of pseudonyms in Hollywood.
There are few real mysteries left in Hollywood, but this month, a new release has been at the heart of one. Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky is an eccentric screwball caper film, set in rural West Virginia. Featuring lashings of smalltown charm and authenticity, the screenplay manages to find the humour in its poor, oddball characters without laughing at them, and makes us delight in their haphazard heist plans and homegrown bombs.
Boasting a warm and funny screenplay that subtly manages to tackle issues of employment, education and health insurance in rural America, critics everywhere are heaping praise upon the writer – or would be, if anyone knew who it was.
Logan Lucky’s writer was credited as Rebecca Blunt – except there’s no record of such a person existing, and no cast or crew member ever met her. Before the film’s release, sources indicated that Rebecca Blunt was in fact a pseudonym, for either Soderbergh himself or his wife Jules Asner, a longtime E! network host who has never before written a screenplay.
Either option made sense; if it was Asner, using a pseudonym would protect the couple from accusations of nepotism, and allow Asner’s screenplay to be judged on its (many) merits. It may also protect Asner from cynics who have pigeonholed her as a model and TV personality; a common fate for people known for being in front of the camera. Before Stoker became a Nicole Kidman movie directed by Park Chan-wook, it was credited in Hollywood circles to Ted Foulke, the pen name used by Prison Break star Wentworth Miller.
Had the screenwriter been revealed to be Soderbergh himself, this wouldn’t be a huge surprise either. The director famously wears many hats on his productions and often goes by other names in roles other than director. He was cinematographer Peter Andrews and editor Mary Ann Bernard on Magic Mike XXL, for instance. The Coen Brothers do something similar, using the name Roderick Jaynes when they serve as editors on their movies.
Writers have long used pseudonyms in Hollywood, most notably during the Blacklist era of the 1940s and ’50s, when many writers and filmmakers were denied work if it was suspected that they had communist ties or sympathies. And of course, there’s the infamous Alan Smithee, the official pseudonym used by directors who wish to disown a project. But in recent years, the practice has become rare. Oscar winner Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) is one of the few exceptions. He uses the name Michael deBruyn on rewrite jobs, as he did with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
According to the Writers Guild of America (WGA) website, a writer must use their own name in all writing credits, unless they have already established a pseudonym or registered one at the guild office before commencement of employment on a writing assignment.
The WGA declined to comment on the Logan Lucky case, while Soderbergh has objected to the idea that his screenwriter doesn’t exist. The director told EW, “When people make a statement like that they should be very careful, especially when it’s a woman screenwriter who is having her first screenplay produced.”
However, it was finally revealed this week that Asner was indeed the screenplay’s author – though Soderbergh is still playing coy, saying, “Well, that’s going to be news to Rebecca Blunt.”
I now can’t wait for Soderbergh’s meta film about the couple pulling off this elaborate identity cover-up – if it’s anything like Logan Lucky, it’ll be a ton of fun.