What’s Fight Club about? The movie in which a Narrator (Edward Norton/Jack) takes us into David Fincher and Palahniuk’s diseased world with a kind of amusingly detachment. An emotionally unfulfilled and unable to sleep, the narrator who don’t like his job at a car company, becomes a powerless bystander as his life whistles by. As per his doctor’s suggestion the Narrator attends to various support groups, as an impostor to find solace. Those are the groups where he meets people dying from cancer and rare blood diseases and fascinated by their free and expressive way to life which the narrator finds intoxicating until Marla Singer turns up – another grief tourist whose presence throws the Narrator out of his blissful fantasy.

Then, the Narrator meets Tyler Durden: an eccentric, colourful and self-assured man who sells soap bars and offers a philosophical perspective entirely at odds with the Narrator’s brow-beaten, narrow world view and together they start Fight Club which is a kind of men-only support group for what Tyler Durden describes as “the middle men of history”: through one-on-one sessions, a growing assortment of waiters, garage apprentices, and office drones work out their frustrations in a chorus of flailing knuckles, broken teeth, and strangled screams.

Gradually, Fight Club evolves from an illegal boxing den into a cult. Soon the Narrator quits his job in a spectacular fashion and becomes completely invested into the club. But Tyler has bigger things in mind for Fight Club, recruits shaven-headed devotees called Space Monkeys which made the narrator nervous as the Fight club cult becomes a full-blown terrorist cell. But it becomes too late that the narrator realises about Project Mayhem and tries to stop him before he pulls off the detonation of financial buildings but fails as he realises that he and Tyler are one and the same. The narrator exorcises Tyler with a bullet, but can only watch his alter-ego’s bombs detonation making the financial buildings and their credit records crumbling to the ground. The story ends with the narrator and Marla united.

Early Reception:

September 1999, Venice International Film Festival.. “Fightclub” was premiered in the film festival and the response was horrible.

It was a palpable disaster. It was like people couldn’t wait to get out of the theatre, they were made so uncomfortable by the experience. I remember being a little bit, ‘Uh-oh.’ And Brad’s drunk and Edward’s drunk and Helena’s drunk and they’re all like, ‘It’s great and we love it’ and I’m like, ‘That’s fantastic. You did notice that there were six hundred other people there who walked out ready to lynch us?

David Fincher with Nev Pierce

Then the reviews were started pouring more acid into the flame after its release.

The New York Observer described it as a “film without a single redeeming quality, which may have to find its audience in hell”. Roger Ebert said it was “cheerfully fascist” and “a celebration of violence.”

The adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel a “dumb and brutal shock show of a movie” – Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly)

Among the disgust shoutouts pouring, there were some positive approvals from magazines such as Rolling Stone: “How good is Fight Club? It’s so fired up with explosive ideas and killing humor that the guardians of morality are yelling, ‘Danger – keep out!’ That’s how good.”

Recalling all these reviews poured, David Fincher remembered the review by the critic, Alexander Walker who fulminated in the Evening Standard that David Fincher’s film was “an inadmissible assault on personal decency”, labelling the fight scenes “grotesquely explicit and pornographically amplified”.

Forget the reviews. Nobody really gives a shit about that.

David Fincher on AlexanderWalker’s review

Box office: Although it grossed $63 million internationally, its domestic US release garnered a disappointing $37 million. Given the Hollywood rule of thumb that a movie needs to gross three times its budget to break even, it’s clear that the $63 million-budgeted film came up considerably short.

I was in Bali and I got the fuckin’ first weekend grosses and it was a disaster and everybody knew it was a disaster,” he recalls. “And you’re depressed for a couple of days, but then you go, ‘If I knew then what I know now, would I not make it? No. I would have made it anyway

David Fincher

It was only later, as the initial awful opinions of Fight Club started to diminish, that the flow of opinions began to change when the DVD of Fight Club released and started soaring by the positive word of mouth from those who’d seen it in theatres. Fight Clubs DVD release was one of the most successful in Fox’s history, and even pushed the movie back into profit.

How they wrote Fight Club?

Chuck Palahniuk:

The author of Fight club, Chuck Palahniuk was employed at a Portland, Oregon, in a truck-manufacturing company called Freightliner. Palahniuk’s Freightliner duties included researching and writing up repair procedures—tasks that required him to keep a notebook with him at all times. At work, when no one was looking, he’d jot down ideas for a story he was working on. He’d continue writing whenever he could find the time: The result was a series of “small little snippets” about an unnamed auto company employee who’s so spiritually inert, so unsatisfied, that he finds himself attending various cancer support groups, just to unnumb himself.

He soon succumbs to the atomic charisma of Tyler Durden, a mysterious figure whose name had been partly inspired by the 1960 Disney movie Toby Tyler. “I grew up in atown of six hundred people,” says the Washington-born Palahniuk, “and a kid in my second-grade class said he’d been the actor in that movie. Even though he looked nothing like him, I believed him. So ‘Tyler’ became synonymous with a lying trickster.”

After meeting Tyler Durden, Palahniuk’s narrator begins attending Fight Club, a guerrilla late-night gathering in which men voluntarily beat each other bloody. Fight Club comes with a set of fixed rules, the most important of which is that, no matter what, you do not talk about Fight Club. Many of the book’s brawlers are working-class guys with the same dispiriting jobs—mechanics, waiters, bartenders—held by some of Palahniuk’s friends.

“My peers were conflict averse,” says Palahniuk. “They shied away from  any confrontation or tension, and their lives were being lived in this very tepid way. I thought if there was some way to introduce them to conflict in a very structured, safe way, it would be a form of therapy—a way that they could discover a self beyond this frightened self.”

Palahniuk, then in his early thirties, had recently seen his first novel get rejected. “I was thinking ‘I’m never getting published, so I might as well just write something for the fun of it.’ It was that kind of freedom, but also that kind of anger, that went into Fight Club. ” He’d wind up selling the book to publisher W. W. Norton for a mere $ 6,000.

Fight Club wasn’t an especially big performer in its original hardcover run, selling just under 5,000 copies. But before it even hit shelves, an early gallery copy reached Producers Ross Grayson Bell and Joshua Donen, the latter of whom had produced such films as Steven Soderbergh’s noir “The Underneath“.

You get to the twist, and it makes you reassess everything you’ve just read” says Bell. “I was so excited; I couldn’t sleep that night.”

Ross Grayson Bell

Looking to make Fight Club his first produced feature, Bell hired a group of unknown actors to read the book aloud, slowly stripping it down and rearranging parts of its structure. He sent a recording of their efforts to Laura Ziskin, who’d produced Pretty Woman and was now heading Fox 2000, a division that focused on (relatively) mid budget films.

According to Bell, after listening to his Fight Club reading during a fifty-minute drive to Santa Barbara, Ziskin hired him as one of Fight Club’s producers. “I didn’t know how to make a movie out of it” said Ziskin, who optioned the book for $ 10,000. “But I thought someone might.”

Ziskin gave a copy of Palahniuk’s book to David O. Russell, who declined. “I read it, and I didn’t get it,” Russell says. “I obviously didn’t do a good job reading it.” There was one filmmaker, though, who definitely got Fight Club. He was the perfect match — a guy who viewed the world through the same slightly corroded View Master as Palahniuk; who could attract desirable actors; who could make all of Fight Club’s bodily fluids splatter beautifully across the screen. And he wasn’t afraid of drawing a little blood himself.

(Listen to Chuck Palahniuk (author), Jim Uhls (screenwriter), David Fincher (director), and more talk about how they created this film and book, courtesy of Behind the Curtain.)

(Listen The B.E.E. PodcastChuck Palahniuk talks about “Fight Club” here)

David Fincher:

After Alien 3’s disappointing reception, Fincher figured he was unemployable as a film director and returned to making commercials. It took Fincher more than three years before the release of his next film, 1995’s Se7en, a gorgeously dismal serial-killer drama with a head-snapping final twist. It became a worldwide hit, and while Fincher was editing a follow-up, the Twilight Zone – indebted thriller The Game, he got a call from Ross Grayson Bell’s producing partner, Joshua Donen, urging him to read Fight Club.

“I was in my late thirties, and I saw that book as a rallying cry. Chuck was talking about a very specific kind of anger that was engendered by a kind of malaise: ‘We’ve been inert so long, we need to sprint into our next evolution of ourselves.’ And it was easy to get swept away in just the sheer juiciness of it.”

David Fincher

Fincher tried to buy the rights to Fight Club itself, only to find that Fox had beaten him to it. Still resentful about the Alien 3 fiasco, he had little interest in working with the studio again. But after a meeting with Ziskin, he considered Returning to Fox for Fight Club — so long as he could make it in the grandest way possible.

Here’s the two ways you can go: you can do the $3 million version of this movie and make it on videotape and make your seditious little sharp stick in somebody’s eye. ” But the real “act of sedition,” he told the studio, would be to invest tens of millions of dollars “and to put movie stars in it and get people to go and talk about the anticonsumerist rantings of a schizophrenic madman.”

David Fincher

Fox agreed to give Fincher some time to put together a script and a cast, to see if there was any way to make Fight Club a reality.

To Fincher, Fight Club was heir to The Graduate, another tale of a distressed young man pushing back against an older generation’s expectations. So, a copy of Fight Club even be sent to Graduate screenwriter Buck Henry, to see if he’d be interested in taking a crack at the adaptation.

Jim Uhls:

Instead, the job went to Jim Uhls, who’d spent much of the nineties “getting hired to write things that didn’t get made,” he says. Palahniuk’s book had resonated deeply with Uhls, who’d worked for Five years as a bartender before selling his first script. “I knew what it was like to have A bullshit job,” says Uhls.

It affected how you felt about yourself, in a masculine way. And after I read Fight Club, my jaw was on the ground for two weeks. But I was also bracing myself: ‘It will be fun to write this, but it’s never going to be made.

Jim Uhls

After a “marching orders” meeting with Fincher and Bell, Uhls began work on a Fight Club script. “The book had a billion wonderful things in it, but you can’t put them all in,” says Uhls. One of the screenplay’s biggest innovations was the finale, in which Tyler Durden and his anonymous followers — dubbed “space monkeys” —take down the credit card companies in order to create what Tyler calls “economic equilibrium.”

It had come out of conversations between Uhls and Bell, the latter of whom was broke and living off credit cards. He’d watched as debt levels soared around the world in the nineties, in part because of global deregulation.

What if they blow up the credit card companies, and everybody woke up one day and they didn’t have to pay their bills?” remembers Bell. “We needed something where the audience members would cheer the destruction of the world.

Ross Grayson Bell

Listen to “BPS 002: How to Write a Screenplay with Fight Club Screenwriter Jim Uhls” on Spreaker.

Fight Club: (Screenplay) (For Research Purposes only)


The film was shot by cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, the son of American cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth, who is perhaps best known for his work on Blade Runner, but also collaborated with Fincher on Alien 3Fight Club was the first film Jeff Cronenweth worked on, but later continued to aid Fincher with The Social NetworkThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl.

The editing process was left in the hands of Fincher’s regular editor James Haygood (The GamePanic Room), while Fincher chose California-based producers called the Dust Brothers to deliver the film’s score. The two main roles were given to Edward Norton, who caught Fincher’s eye in The People vs. Larry Flint and who was immediately in love with the script, and Brad Pitt, who was chosen instead of the initial favorite Russell Crowe. The third most important role went to Helena Bonham Carter, who played the love interest of the protagonist, and her previous performance in The Wings of the Dove got her ahead of such actresses as Janeane Garofalo, Courtney Love, Reese Witherspoon and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, all of whom had been considered at one point.

The Definitive Article on “Fight Club”

“Nev Pierce, since the mid 2000s, has played the role of Truffaut to Fincher’s Hitchcock.”

Forget the first two rules of Fight Club. Dipping into their personal photo collections and taking Total Film on a three month journey over as many time zones, David Fincher, Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter and Chuck Palahniuk reflect on making, quite simply, the greatest film of our lifetime. You can download the PDF here.

David Fincher and Chuck Palahniuk reflect on making, quite simply, one of the greatest films of our lifetime. Go here to listen to Jeff Goldsmith’s Q&A with David Fincher and Chuck Palahniuk.

15 minutes of David Fincher discussing filmmaking. For more, visit filmschoolthrucommentaries.

The Beauty of Sound Design:

David Fincher’s Fight Club has grown from an underrated gem, to a cult classic, to being widely accepted as one of the best films of all time. In this video Film Radar’s Daniel Netzel shine a light on the sound design of Ren Klyce and Richard Hymns, specifically in the film’s fight scenes, and (hopefully) give a better idea of why sound design is so important in a film, and the role it played in cementing the films status as one of the greatest of all time.

15 years later, Fincher’s Gen X mockery on consumerism and exploration of masculine angst sits at Number 10 in IMDB’s list of the greatest films of all time, a position mirrored in numerous international polls, while anti-hero Tyler Durden, as portrayed by Brad Pitt at his most ripped, was declared by Empire magazine in 2008 to be the greatest movie character of all time.


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