FIGHT CLUB is a 1999 American film based on the 1996 novel of the
same name by
Chuck Palahniuk . The film was directed by David Fincher
, and stars
Brad Pitt ,
Edward Norton and
Helena Bonham Carter
Helena Bonham Carter .
Norton plays the unnamed protagonist, referred to as the narrator, who
is discontented with his white-collar job. He forms a "fight club"
with soap maker Tyler Durden, played by Pitt, and they are joined by
men who also want to fight recreationally. The narrator becomes
embroiled in a relationship with Durden and a dissolute woman, Marla
Singer, played by Bonham Carter.
Palahniuk's novel was optioned by
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox producer Laura
Ziskin , who hired
Jim Uhls to write the film adaptation. Fincher was
one of four directors the producers considered, and was selected
because of his enthusiasm for the film. Fincher developed the script
with Uhls and sought screenwriting advice from the cast and others in
the film industry. The director and the cast compared the film to
Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and
The Graduate (1967). They said its
theme was the conflict between a generation of young people and the
value system of advertising. The director copied the homoerotic
overtones from Palahniuk's novel to make audiences uncomfortable and
keep them from anticipating the twist ending .
Studio executives did not like the film and restructured Fincher's
intended marketing campaign to try to reduce anticipated losses. Fight
Club failed to meet the studio's expectations at the box office and
initially received polarizing reactions from critics, becoming one of
the most controversial and talked-about films of the year. Critics
praised the acting, directing, themes and messages but debated the
explicit violence and moral ambiguity. Over time, however, reception
towards the film has become largely positive with critics and
audiences, finding critical and commercial success with its DVD
release, which established
Fight Club as a cult film . It is now
regarded by many as one of the greatest films of the 1990s.
* 1 Plot
* 2 Cast
* 3 Themes
* 4 Production
* 4.1 Development
* 4.2 Casting
* 4.3 Writing
* 4.4 Filming
* 4.5 Cinematography
* 4.6 Visual effects
* 4.7 Musical score
* 5 Release
* 5.1 Marketing
* 5.2 Theatrical run
* 5.3 Home media
* 6 Critical reception
* 7 Cultural impact
American Film Institute nominations
* 8 See also
* 9 Notes
* 10 References
* 11 External links
The unnamed Narrator (
Edward Norton ) is a traveling automobile
recall specialist who suffers from insomnia . When he is unsuccessful
at receiving medical assistance for it, the admonishing doctor
suggests he realize his relatively small amount of suffering by
visiting a support group for testicular cancer victims. The group
assumes that he, too, is affected like they are, and he spontaneously
weeps into the nurturing arms of another man, finding a freedom from
the catharsis that relieves his insomnia. He decides to participate in
support groups of various kinds, always allowing the groups to assume
that he suffers what they do. However, he begins to notice another
impostor, Marla Singer (
Helena Bonham Carter
Helena Bonham Carter ), whose presence reminds
him that he is attending these groups dishonestly, and this disturbs
his bliss. The two negotiate to avoid their attending the same groups,
but, before going their separate ways, Marla gives him her phone
On a flight home from a business trip, the Narrator meets Tyler
Brad Pitt ), a soap salesman with whom he begins to converse
after noticing the two share the same kind of briefcase . After the
flight, the Narrator returns home to find that his apartment has been
destroyed by an explosion. With no one else to contact, he calls
Tyler, and they meet at a bar. After a conversation about consumerism
, outside the bar, Tyler chastises the Narrator for his timidity about
needing a place to stay. Tyler requests that the Narrator hit him,
which leads the two to engage in a fistfight. The Narrator moves into
Tyler's home, a large dilapidated house in an industrial area of their
city. They have further fights outside the bar on subsequent nights,
and these fights attract growing crowds of men. The fighting
eventually moves to the bar's basement where the men form a club
("Fight Club") which routinely meets only to provide an opportunity
for the men to fight recreationally.
Marla overdoses on pills and telephones the Narrator for help; he
eventually ignores her, leaving his phone receiver without
disconnecting. Tyler notices the phone soon after, talks to her and
goes to her apartment to save her. Tyler and Marla become sexually
involved. He warns the Narrator never to talk to Marla about him. More
fight clubs form across the country and, under Tyler's leadership (and
without the Narrator's knowledge), they become an anti-materialist and
anti-corporate organization, Project Mayhem, with many of the former
Fight Club members moving into the dilapidated house and
The Narrator complains to Tyler about Tyler excluding him from the
newer manifestation of the
Fight Club organization Project Mayhem.
Soon after, Tyler leaves the house without notice. When a member of
Project Mayhem is killed by the police during a botched sabotage
operation, the Narrator tries to shut down the project. Seeking Tyler,
he follows evidence of Tyler's national travels. In one city, a
Project Mayhem member greets the Narrator as Tyler Durden. The
Narrator calls Marla from his hotel room and discovers that Marla also
believes him to be Tyler. Tyler suddenly appears in his hotel room,
and reveals that they are dissociated personalities in the same body.
When the Narrator has believed himself to be asleep, Tyler has been
controlling his body and traveling to different locations.
The Narrator blacks out after the conversation, and when he awakes,
he uncovers Tyler's plans to erase debt by destroying buildings that
contain credit card companies' records. The Narrator tries to warn the
police, but he finds that these officers are members of the Project.
He attempts to disarm the explosives in a building, but Tyler subdues
him and moves him to the uppermost floor. Held at gunpoint by Tyler,
the Narrator realizes that, in sharing the same body with Tyler, he
himself is actually in control holding "Tyler's" gun. The Narrator
fires it into his own mouth, shooting through the cheek without
killing himself. Tyler collapses with an exit wound to the back of his
head, and the Narrator stops mentally projecting him. Afterward,
Project Mayhem members bring a kidnapped Marla to him, believing him
to be Tyler, and leave them alone. Holding hands, the Narrator and
Marla watch as the explosives detonate, collapsing many buildings
A soap salesman that the Narrator meets on one of his business
A traveling automobile recall specialist who suffers from insomnia
Helena Bonham Carter
Helena Bonham Carter
A woman who the Narrator, who goes to support groups for catharsis,
notices also faking symptoms
A man who the Narrator meets at the testicular cancer support group
A man who Tyler Durden recruits into fight club and includes for
missions for Project Mayhem
For academic interpretations of the film, see Interpretations of
Fight Club . We're designed to be hunters and we're in a society of
shopping. There's nothing to kill anymore, there's nothing to fight,
nothing to overcome, nothing to explore. In that societal emasculation
this everyman is created. —
Fight Club was a coming of age film, like the 1967 film
The Graduate but for people in their 30s. Fincher described the
Narrator as an "everyman "; the character is identified in the script
as "Jack", but left unnamed in the film. Fincher outlined the
Narrator's background: "He's tried to do everything he was taught to
do, tried to fit into the world by becoming the thing he isn't." The
Narrator cannot find happiness, so he travels on a path to
enlightenment in which he must "kill" his parents, his god, and his
teacher. At the start of the film, he has "killed off" his parents.
With Tyler Durden, he kills his god by doing things they are not
supposed to do. To complete the process of maturing, the Narrator has
to "kill off" his teacher, Tyler Durden.
The character is a 1990s inverse of
The Graduate archetype: "a guy
who does not have a world of possibilities in front of him, he has no
possibilities, he literally cannot imagine a way to change his life."
He is confused and enraged, so he responds to his environment by
creating Tyler Durden, a Nietzschean
Übermensch , in his mind. While
Tyler is who the Narrator would want to be, he is not empathetic and
does not help the Narrator face decisions in his life "that are
complicated and have moral and ethical implications". Fincher
explained, " can deal with the concepts of our lives in an idealistic
fashion, but it doesn't have anything to do with the compromises of
real life as modern man knows it. Which is: You're not really
necessary to a lot of what's going on. It's built, it just needs to
run now." While studio executives worried that
Fight Club was going
to be "sinister and seditious", Fincher sought to make it "funny and
seditious" by including humor to temper the sinister element.
Uhls described the film as a "romantic comedy", explaining, "It has
to do with the characters' attitudes toward a healthy relationship,
which is a lot of behavior which seems unhealthy and harsh to each
other, but in fact does work for them—because both characters are
out on the edge psychologically." The Narrator seeks intimacy, but he
avoids it with Marla Singer, seeing too much of himself in her. While
Marla is a seductive and negativist prospect for the Narrator, he
instead embraces the novelty and excitement that comes with
befriending Tyler Durden. The Narrator is comfortable being personally
connected to Tyler Durden, but he becomes jealous when Tyler becomes
sexually involved with Marla. When the Narrator argues with Tyler
about their friendship, Tyler tells him that being friends is
secondary to pursuing the philosophy they have been exploring. Tyler
also suggests doing something about Marla, implying that she is a risk
to be removed. When Tyler says this, the Narrator realizes that his
desires should have been focused on Marla and begins to diverge from
Tyler's path. We decided early on that I would start to starve
myself as the film went on, while would lift and go to tanning beds;
he would become more and more idealized as I wasted away. —Edward
The unreliable narrator is not immediately aware that Tyler Durden
originated in him and is being mentally projected. He also mistakenly
promotes the fight clubs as a way to feel powerful, though the
Narrator's physical condition worsens while Tyler Durden's appearance
improves. While Tyler desires "real experiences" of actual fights like
the Narrator at first, he manifests a nihilistic attitude of
rejecting and destroying institutions and value systems. His
impulsive nature, representing the id , conveys an attitude that is
seductive and liberating to the Narrator and the members of Project
Mayhem. Tyler's initiatives and methods become dehumanizing; he
orders around the members of Project Mayhem with a megaphone similar
to camp directors at Chinese re-education camps. The Narrator pulls
back from Tyler and in the end, he arrives at a middle ground between
his two conflicting selves.
Fight Club examines
Generation X angst as '"the middle children of
history". Norton said,
Fight Club examines the value conflicts of
Generation X, as the first generation raised on television "having its
value system largely dictated to it by advertising culture", including
values such as one could achieve "spiritual happiness through home
furnishing", later to wake up to the emptiness of this "received value
system." Pitt said, "
Fight Club is a metaphor for the need to push
through the walls we put around ourselves and just go for it, so for
the first time we can experience the pain."
Fight Club also parallels
the 1955 film
Rebel Without a Cause ; both probe the frustrations of
the people that live in the system. The characters, having undergone
societal emasculation , are reduced to "a generation of spectators".
A culture of advertising defines society's "external signifiers of
happiness", causing an unnecessary chase for material goods that
replaces the more essential pursuit of spiritual happiness. The film
Calvin Klein , and the
Volkswagen New Beetle .
Norton said of the Beetle, "We smash it ... because it seemed like the
classic example of a
Baby Boomer generation marketing plan that sold
culture back to us." His character also walks through his apartment
while visual effects identify his many IKEA possessions. Fincher
described the Narrator's immersion, "It was just the idea of living in
this fraudulent idea of happiness." Pitt explained the dissonance, "I
think there's a self-defense mechanism that keeps my generation from
having any real honest connection or commitment with our true
feelings. We're rooting for ball teams, but we're not getting in there
to play. We're so concerned with failure and success—like these two
things are all that's going to sum you up at the end."
The violence of the fight clubs serves not to promote or glorify
physical combat, but for participants to experience feeling in a
society where they are otherwise numb. The fights tangibly represent
a resistance to the impulse to be "cocooned" in society. Norton
believed that the fighting between the men strips away the "fear of
pain" and "the reliance on material signifiers of their self-worth",
leaving them to experience something valuable. When the fights evolve
into revolutionary violence, the film only half-accepts the
revolutionary dialectic by Tyler Durden; the Narrator pulls back and
rejects Durden's ideas.
Fight Club purposely shapes an ambiguous
message, the interpretation of which is left to the audience. Fincher
elaborated, "I love this idea that you can have fascism without
offering any direction or solution. Isn't the point of fascism to say,
'This is the way we should be going'? But this movie couldn't be
further from offering any kind of solution."
Fight Club by
Chuck Palahniuk was published in 1996. Before
its publication, a
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox book scout sent a galley proof of
the novel to creative executive Kevin McCormick. The executive
assigned a studio reader to review the proof as a candidate for a film
adaptation, but the reader discouraged it. McCormick then forwarded
the proof to producers
Lawrence Bender and
Art Linson , who also
rejected it. Producers Josh Donen and Ross Bell saw potential and
expressed interest. They arranged unpaid screen readings with actors
to determine the script's length, and an initial reading lasted six
hours. The producers cut out sections to reduce the running time, and
they used the shorter script to record its dialogue. Bell sent the
Laura Ziskin , head of the division
Fox 2000 , who
listened to the tape and purchased the rights to
Fight Club from
Palahniuk for $10,000.
Ziskin initially considered hiring
Buck Henry to write the
Fight Club similar to the 1967 film
The Graduate ,
which Henry had adapted. When a new screenwriter,
Jim Uhls , lobbied
Donen and Bell for the job, the producers chose him over Henry. Bell
contacted four directors to direct the film. He considered Peter
Jackson the best choice, but Jackson was too busy filming the 1996
The Frighteners in New Zealand.
Bryan Singer received the book
but did not read it.
Danny Boyle met with Bell and read the book, but
he pursued another film.
David Fincher , who had read
Fight Club and
had tried to buy the rights himself, talked with Ziskin about
directing the film. He hesitated to accept the assignment with 20th
Century Fox at first because he had an unpleasant experience directing
the 1992 film
Alien 3 for the studio. To repair his relationship with
the studio, he met with Ziskin and studio head
Bill Mechanic . In
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox announced that Fincher would direct the
film adaptation of Fight Club.
Producer Ross Bell met with actor
Russell Crowe to discuss his
candidacy for the role of Tyler Durden. Producer Art Linson, who
joined the project late, met with Pitt regarding the same role. Linson
was the senior producer of the two, so the studio sought to cast Pitt
instead of Crowe. Pitt was looking for a new film after the failure
(in the US market) of his 1998 film
Meet Joe Black , and the studio
Fight Club would be more commercially successful with a major
star. The studio signed Pitt and offered him a US$17.5 million salary.
For the role of the unnamed Narrator, the studio desired a "sexier
marquee name" like
Matt Damon to increase the film's commercial
prospects; it also considered
Sean Penn . Fincher instead considered
Norton a candidate for the role, based on the actor's performance in
the 1996 film
The People vs. Larry Flynt . Other studios were
approaching Norton for leading roles in developing films like The
Talented Mr. Ripley and Man on the Moon . The actor was cast in
Runaway Jury , but the film did not reach production. 20th Century Fox
offered Norton a $2.5 million salary to attract him to Fight Club.
Norton could not accept the offer immediately because he still owed
Paramount Pictures a film; he had signed a contractual obligation with
Paramount to appear in one of the studio's future films for a smaller
salary (Norton later satisfied the obligation with his role in the
2003 film The Italian Job ).
In January 1998,
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox announced that Pitt and Norton were
cast in the film. The actors prepared for their roles by taking
lessons in boxing , taekwondo , grappling , and soapmaking . Pitt
voluntarily visited a dentist to have pieces of his front teeth
chipped off so his character would not have perfect teeth. The pieces
were restored after filming concluded.
Fincher's first choice for the role of Marla Singer was Janeane
Garofalo , who objected to the film's sexual content. The filmmakers
Courtney Love and
Winona Ryder as early candidates. The
studio wanted to cast
Reese Witherspoon , but Fincher objected that
she was too young for the role. He chose to cast Bonham Carter based
on her performance in the 1997 film The Wings of the Dove .
Uhls started working on an early draft of the adapted screenplay,
which excluded a voice-over because the industry perceived at the time
that the technique was "hackneyed and trite". When Fincher joined the
film, he thought that the film should have a voice-over, believing
that the film's humor came from the Narrator's voice. The director
described the film without a voice-over as seemingly "sad and
pathetic". Fincher and Uhls revised the script for six to seven
months and by 1997 had a third draft that reordered the story and left
out several major elements. When Pitt was cast, he was concerned that
his character, Tyler Durden, was too one-dimensional. Fincher sought
the advice of writer-director
Cameron Crowe , who suggested giving the
character more ambiguity. Fincher also hired screenwriter Andrew Kevin
Walker for assistance. The director invited Pitt and Norton to help
revise the script, and the group drafted five revisions in the course
of a year.
Palahniuk praised the faithful film adaptation of his novel and
applauded how the film's plot was more streamlined than the book's.
Palahniuk recalled how the writers debated if film audiences would
believe the plot twist from the novel. Fincher supported including the
twist, arguing, "If they accept everything up to this point, they'll
accept the plot twist. If they're still in the theater, they'll stay
with it." Palahniuk's novel also contained homoerotic overtones,
which the director included in the film to make audiences
uncomfortable and accentuate the surprise of the film's twists. The
bathroom scene where Tyler Durden bathes next to the Narrator is an
example of the overtones; the line, "I'm wondering if another woman is
really the answer we need," was meant to suggest personal
responsibility rather than homosexuality. Another example is the
scene at the beginning of the film in which Tyler Durden puts a gun
barrel down the Narrator's mouth.
The Narrator finds redemption at the end of the film by rejecting
Tyler Durden's dialectic, a path that diverged from the novel's ending
in which the Narrator is placed in a mental institution. Norton drew
parallels between redemption in the film and redemption in The
Graduate, indicating that the protagonists of both films find a middle
ground between two divisions of self. Fincher considered the novel
too infatuated with Tyler Durden and changed the ending to move away
from him: "I wanted people to love Tyler, but I also wanted them to be
OK with his vanquishing."
Studio executives Mechanic and Ziskin planned an initial budget of
US$23 million to finance the film, but by the start of production,
the budget was increased to $50 million. Half was paid by New Regency
, but during filming, the projected budget escalated to US$67 million.
New Regency's head and
Fight Club executive producer Arnon Milchan
petitioned Fincher to reduce costs by at least US$5 million. The
director refused, so Milchan threatened Mechanic that New Regency
would withdraw financing. Mechanic sought to restore Milchan's support
by sending him tapes of dailies from Fight Club. After seeing three
weeks of filming, Milchan reinstated New Regency's financial backing.
The final production budget was $63 million.
The fight scenes were heavily choreographed, but the actors were
required to "go full out" to capture realistic effects like having the
wind knocked out of them. Makeup artist Julie Pearce, who worked for
the director on the 1997 film The Game , studied mixed martial arts
and pay-per-view boxing to portray the fighters accurately. She
designed an extra's ear to have cartilage missing, citing as
inspiration the boxing match in which
Mike Tyson bit off part of
Evander Holyfield 's ear. Makeup artists devised two methods to
create sweat on cue: spraying mineral water over a coat of
and using the unadulterated water for "wet sweat".
Meat Loaf , who
plays a member of the fight club who has "bitch tits ", wore a
90-pound (40 kg) fat harness that gave him large breasts for the role.
He also wore eight-inch (20 cm) lifts in his scenes with Norton to be
taller than him.
Filming lasted 138 days, during which Fincher shot more than 1,500
rolls of film, three times the average for a Hollywood film. The
locations were in and around Los Angeles, including most notably: The
Promenade Towers, Melrose Avenue, St. Brendan's Catholic Church, and
Michael Heizer 's public art sculpture "North, South East, West". Sets
were also built in
Century City . Production designer Alex McDowell
constructed more than 70 sets. The exterior of Tyler Durden's house
was built in
Wilmington, California , while the interior was built on
a sound stage at the studio's location. The interior was given a
decayed look to illustrate the deconstructed world of the characters.
Marla Singer's apartment was based on photographs of apartments in
downtown LA. Overall production included 300 scenes, 200 locations,
and complex special effects . Fincher compared
Fight Club to his
succeeding and less complex film
Panic Room , "I felt like I was
spending all my time watching trucks being loaded and unloaded so I
could shoot three lines of dialogue. There was far too much
transportation going on."
Fincher used the
Super 35 format to film
Fight Club since it gave him
maximum flexibility in composing shots. He hired
Jeff Cronenweth as
cinematographer; Cronenweth's father
Jordan Cronenweth was the
cinematographer who worked for Fincher on the 1992 film
Alien 3 but
left midway through its production due to Parkinson's disease. Fincher
explored visual styles in his previous films Seven and The Game, and
he and Cronenweth drew elements from these styles for Fight Club.
They applied a lurid style, choosing to make people "sort of shiny".
The appearance of the Narrator's scenes without Tyler Durden were
bland and realistic. The scenes with Tyler were described by Fincher
as "more hyper-real in a torn-down, deconstructed sense—a visual
metaphor of what heading into". The filmmakers used heavily
desaturated colors in the costuming, makeup, and art direction.
Bonham Carter wore opalescent makeup to portray her romantic
nihilistic character with a "smack -fiend patina ". Fincher and
Cronenweth drew influences from the 1973 film
American Graffiti ,
which applied a mundane look to nighttime exteriors while
simultaneously including a variety of colors.
The crew took advantage of both natural and practical light at
filming locations. The director sought various approaches to the
lighting setups, for example choosing several urban locations for the
city lights' effects on the shots' backgrounds. He and the crew also
embraced fluorescent lighting at other practical locations to maintain
an element of reality and to light the prostheses depicting the
characters' injuries. On the other hand, Fincher also ensured that
scenes were not so strongly lit so the characters' eyes were less
visible, citing cinematographer
Gordon Willis ' technique as the
Fight Club was filmed mostly at night and Fincher purposely filmed
the daytime shots in shadowed locations. The crew equipped the bar's
basement with inexpensive work lamps to create a background glow.
Fincher avoided stylish camerawork when filming early fight scenes in
the basement and instead placed the camera in a fixed position. In
later fight scenes, Fincher moved the camera from the viewpoint of a
distant observer to that of the fighter.
The scenes with Tyler Durden were staged to conceal that the
character was a mental projection of the unnamed Narrator. The
character was not filmed in two shots with a group of people, nor was
he shown in any over the shoulder shots in scenes where Tyler gives
the Narrator specific ideas to manipulate him. In scenes before the
Narrator meets Tyler, the filmmakers inserted Tyler's presence in
single frames for subliminal effect . Tyler appears in the background
and out of focus, like a "little devil on the shoulder". Fincher
explained the subliminal frames: "Our hero is creating Tyler Durden in
his own mind, so at this point he exists only on the periphery of the
While Cronenweth generally rated and exposed the Kodak film stock
normally on Fight Club, several other techniques were applied to
change its appearance. Flashing was implemented on much of the
exterior night photography, the contrast was stretched to be purposely
ugly, the print was adjusted to be underexposed ,
Technicolor 's ENR
silver retention was used on a select number of prints to increase the
density of the film's blacks, and high-contrast print stocks were
chosen to create a "stepped-on" look on the print with a dirty patina.
Fincher hired visual effects supervisor
Kevin Tod Haug , who worked
for him on The Game, to create visual effects for Fight Club. Haug
assigned the visual effects artists and experts to different
facilities that each addressed different types of visual effects: CG
modeling, animation, compositing, and scanning. Haug explained, "We
selected the best people for each aspect of the effects work, then
coordinated their efforts. In this way, we never had to play to a
facility's weakness." Fincher visualized the Narrator's perspective
through a "mind\'s eye " view and structured a myopic framework for
the film audiences. Fincher also used previsualized footage of
challenging main-unit and visual effects shots as a problem-solving
tool to avoid making mistakes during the actual filming. The
opening scene in
Fight Club that represents a brain's neural network
in which the thought processes are initiated by the Narrator's fear
impulse. The network was mapped using an
L-system and drawn out by a
The film's title sequence is a 90-second visual effects composition
that depicts the inside of the Narrator's brain at a microscopic
level; the camera pulls back to the outside, starting at his fear
center and following the thought processes initiated by his fear
impulse. The sequence, designed in part by Fincher, was budgeted
separately from the rest of the film at first, but the sequence was
awarded by the studio in January 1999. Fincher hired Digital Domain
and its visual effects supervisor Kevin Mack , who won an Academy
Award for Visual Effects for the 1998 film What Dreams May Come , for
the sequence. The company mapped the computer-generated brain using an
L-system , and the design was detailed using renderings by medical
illustrator Katherine Jones. The pullback sequence from within the
brain to the outside of the skull included neurons , action potentials
, and a hair follicle . Haug explained the artistic license that
Fincher took with the shot, "While he wanted to keep the brain passage
looking like electron microscope photography , that look had to be
coupled with the feel of a night dive—wet, scary, and with a low
depth of field." The shallow depth of field was accomplished with the
ray tracing process.
Other visual effects include an early scene in which the camera
flashes past city streets to survey Project Mayhem's destructive
equipment lying in underground parking lots; the sequence was a
three-dimensional composition of nearly 100 photographs of Los Angeles
Century City by photographer Michael Douglas Middleton. The final
scene of the demolition of the credit card office buildings was
designed by Richard Baily of Image Savant; Baily worked on the scene
for over fourteen months.
Midway through the film, Tyler Durden points out the cue mark
—nicknamed "cigarette burn" in the film—to the audience. The scene
represents a turning point that foreshadows the coming rupture and
inversion of the "fairly subjective reality" that existed earlier in
the film. The director explained, "Suddenly it's as though the
projectionist missed the changeover, the viewers have to start looking
at the movie in a whole new way."
Fincher was concerned that bands experienced in writing film scores
would be unable to tie the movie's themes together, so he sought a
band which had never recorded for film. He pursued
Radiohead , but
ultimately chose the breakbeat producing duo
Dust Brothers to score
the film. The duo created a post-modern score that included drum
loops, electronic scratches, and computerized samples. Dust Brothers
performer Michael Simpson explained the setup: "Fincher wanted to
break new ground with everything about the movie, and a nontraditional
score helped achieve that." The film's climax and end credits feature
the song "
Where Is My Mind? " by the
Filming concluded in December 1998, and Fincher edited the footage in
early 1999 to prepare
Fight Club for a screening with senior
executives. They did not receive the film positively and were
concerned that there would not be an audience for the film. Executive
Art Linson , who supported the film, recalled the response:
"So many incidences of
Fight Club were alarming, no group of
executives could narrow them down." Nevertheless,
Fight Club was
originally slated to be released in July 1999 but was later changed
to August 6, 1999. The studio further delayed the film's release, this
time to autumn, citing a crowded summer schedule and a hurried
post-production process. Outsiders attributed the delays to the
Columbine High School massacre earlier in the year.
Marketing executives at
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox faced difficulties in
Fight Club and at one point considered marketing it as an
art film . They considered that the film was primarily geared toward
male audiences because of its violence and believed that not even Pitt
would attract female filmgoers. Research testing showed that the film
appealed to teenagers. Fincher refused to let the posters and trailers
focus on Pitt and encouraged the studio to hire the advertising firm
Wieden+Kennedy to devise a marketing plan. The firm proposed a bar of
pink soap with the title "Fight Club" embossed on it as the film's
main marketing image; the proposal was considered "a bad joke" by Fox
executives. Fincher also released two early trailers in the form of
fake public service announcements presented by Pitt and Norton; the
studio did not think the trailers marketed the film appropriately.
Instead, the studio financed a $20 million large-scale campaign to
provide a press junket, posters, billboards, and trailers for TV that
highlighted the film's fight scenes. The studio advertised Fight Club
on cable during World Wrestling Entertainment broadcasts, which
Fincher protested, believing that the placement created the wrong
context for the film. Linson believed that the "ill-conceived
one-dimensional" marketing by marketing executive Robert Harper
largely contributed to Fight Club's lukewarm box office performance in
the United States.
The studio held Fight Club's world premiere at the 56th Venice
International Film Festival on September 10, 1999. For the American
theatrical release, the studio hired the National Research Group to
test screen the film; the group predicted the film would gross between
US$13 million and US$15 million in its opening weekend. Fight Club
opened commercially in the United States and Canada on October 15,
1999 and earned US$11,035,485 in 1,963 theaters over the opening
weekend. The film ranked first at the weekend box office, defeating
Double Jeopardy and The Story of Us , a fellow weekend opener. The
gender mix of audiences for Fight Club, argued to be "the ultimate
anti-date flick", was 61% male and 39% female; 58% of audiences were
below the age of 21. Despite the film's top placement, its opening
gross fell short of the studio's expectations. Over the second
Fight Club dropped 42.6% in revenue, earning US$6,335,870.
Against its production budget of US$63 million, the film grossed US$37
million from its theatrical run in the United States and Canada and
earned US$100.9 million in theaters worldwide. The underwhelming
North American performance of
Fight Club soured the relationship
between 20th Century Fox's studio head
Bill Mechanic and media
Rupert Murdoch , which contributed to Mechanic's resignation
in June 2000.
British Board of Film Classification reviewed
Fight Club for its
November 12, 1999 release in the United Kingdom and removed two scenes
involving "an indulgence in the excitement of beating a (defenseless)
man's face into a pulp". The board assigned the film an 18
certificate, limiting the release to adult-only audiences in the UK.
The BBFC did not censor any further, considering and dismissing claims
Fight Club contained "dangerously instructive information" and
could "encourage anti-social (behavior)". The board decided, "The film
as a whole is—quite clearly—critical and sharply parodic of the
amateur fascism which in part it portrays. Its central theme of male
machismo (and the anti-social behaviour that flows from it) is
emphatically rejected by the central character in the concluding
reels." The scenes were restored in a two-disc DVD edition released
in the UK in March 2007.
Fincher supervised the composition of the DVD packaging and was one
of the first directors to participate in a film's transition to home
media. The film was released in two DVD editions. The single-disc
edition included a commentary track, while the two-disc special
edition included the commentary track, behind-the-scenes clips,
deleted scenes, trailers, fake public service announcements, the
promotional music video "This is Your Life", Internet spots, still
galleries, cast biographies, storyboards , and publicity materials.
The director worked on the DVD as a way to finish his vision for the
film. Julie Markell, 20th Century Fox's senior vice president of
creative development, said the DVD packaging complemented the
director's vision: "The film is meant to make you question. The
package, by extension, tries to reflect an experience that you must
experience for yourself. The more you look at it, the more you'll get
out of it." The studio developed the packaging for two months. The
two-disc special edition DVD was packaged to look covered in brown
cardboard wrapper. The title "Fight Club" was labeled diagonally
across the front, and packaging appeared tied with twine. Markell
said, "We wanted the package to be simple on the outside, so that
there would be a dichotomy between the simplicity of brown paper
wrapping and the intensity and chaos of what's inside." Deborah
Mitchell, 20th Century Fox's vice president of marketing, described
the design: "From a retail standpoint, has incredible
Fight Club won the 2000
Online Film Critics Society Awards for Best
DVD, Best DVD Commentary, and Best DVD
Entertainment Weekly ranked the film's two-disc edition in first place
on its 2001 list of "The 50 Essential DVDs", giving top ratings to the
DVD's content and technical picture-and-audio quality. When the
two-disc edition went out of print, the studio re-released it in 2004
because of fans' requests. The film sold more than 6 million copies
on DVD and video within the first ten years, making it one of the
largest-selling home media items in the studio's history, in addition
to grossing over $55 million in video and DVD rentals. With a weak
box office performance in the United States and Canada, a better
performance in other territories, and the highly successful DVD
Fight Club generated a US$10 million profit for the studio.
The Laserdisc edition was only released in Japan on May 26, 2000 and
features a different cover art, as well as one of the very few Dolby
EX soundtracks released on LD.
The VHS edition was released on October 31, 2000, as a part of 20th
Century Fox's "Premiere Series" line. It includes a featurette after
the film, entitled "Behind the Brawl".
Fight Club was released in the
Blu-ray Disc format in the United
States on November 17, 2009. Fox Creative chose
Neuron Syndicate to
design the art for the format's packaging, and
five graffiti artists to create 30 pieces of art. The art encompasses
urban aesthetics found on the East Coast and West Coast of the United
States as well as influences from European street art . The Blu-ray
edition opens with a menu screen for the romantic comedy Never Been
Drew Barrymore before leading into the actual Fight
Club menu screen.
David Fincher got permission from Barrymore to
include the fake menu screen.
Fight Club premiered at the 56th Venice International Film
Festival , the film was fiercely debated by critics. A newspaper
reported, "Many loved and hated it in equal measures." Some critics
expressed concern that the film would incite copycat behavior, such as
that seen after A Clockwork Orange debuted in Britain nearly three
decades previously. Upon the film's theatrical release, The Times
reported the reaction: "It touched a nerve in the male psyche that was
debated in newspapers across the world." Although the film's makers
Fight Club "an accurate portrayal of men in the 1990s," some
critics called it "irresponsible and appalling". Writing for the
Australian newspaper, Christopher Goodwin stated: "
Fight Club is
shaping up to be the most contentious mainstream Hollywood meditation
on violence since
Stanley Kubrick 's A Clockwork Orange."
Janet Maslin , reviewing for
The New York Times
The New York Times , praised Fincher's
direction and editing of the film. She wrote that
Fight Club carried a
message of "contemporary manhood", and that, if not watched closely,
the film could be misconstrued as an endorsement of violence and
Roger Ebert , reviewing for the
Chicago Sun-Times , called
Fight Club "visceral and hard-edged", but also "a thrill ride
masquerading as philosophy", whose promising first act is followed by
a second that panders to macho sensibilities and a third he dismissed
as "trickery". Ebert later acknowledged that the film was "beloved by
most, not by me". He was later requested to have a shot-by-shot
Fight Club at the
Conference on World Affairs ; he stated
that "eeing it over the course of a week, I admired its skill even
more, and its thought even less." Jay Carr of
The Boston Globe
The Boston Globe opined
that the film began with an "invigoratingly nervy and imaginative
buzz", but that it eventually became "explosively silly".
David Ansen described
Fight Club as "an outrageous mixture of
brilliant technique, puerile philosophizing, trenchant satire and
sensory overload" and thought that the ending was too pretentious.
Richard Schickel of Time described the director's mise en scène as
dark and damp: "It enforces the contrast between the sterilities of
his characters' aboveground life and their underground one. Water,
even when it's polluted, is the source of life; blood, even when it's
carelessly spilled, is the symbol of life being fully lived. To put
his point simply: it's better to be wet than dry." Schickel applauded
the performances of
Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, but he criticized the
film's "conventionally gimmicky" unfolding and the failure to make
Helena Bonham Carter's character interesting.
Cineaste 's Gary Crowdus reviewed the critical reception in
retrospect: "Many critics praised Fight Club, hailing it as one of the
most exciting, original, and thought-provoking films of the year." He
wrote of the negative opinion, "While
Fight Club had numerous critical
champions, the film's critical attackers were far more vocal, a
negative chorus which became hysterical about what they felt to be the
excessively graphic scenes of fisticuffs ... They felt such scenes
served only as a mindless glamorization of brutality, a morally
irresponsible portrayal, which they feared might encourage
impressionable young male viewers to set up their own real-life fight
clubs in order to beat each other senseless."
Fight Club was nominated for the 2000 Academy Award for Best Sound
Editing , but it lost to
The Matrix . Bonham Carter won the 2000
Empire Award for Best British Actress. The Online Film Critics
Society also nominated
Fight Club for Best Film, Best Director, Best
Actor (Norton), Best Editing, and Best Adapted Screenplay (Uhls).
Though the film won none of the awards, the organization listed Fight
Club as one of the top ten films of 1999. The soundtrack was
nominated for a BRIT Award , losing to Notting Hill .
Rotten Tomatoes ,
Fight Club holds a rating of 79%, based on 162
reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10. The site's consensus reads,
"Solid acting, amazing direction, and elaborate production design make
Fight Club a wild ride." On
Metacritic , the film has a score of 66
out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "generally favorable
Fight Club was one of the most controversial and talked-about films
of the 1990s. Like other films released that year, including
Being John Malkovich and Three Kings ,
Fight Club was
recognized as an innovator in cinematic form and style since it
exploited new developments in filmmaking technology. After Fight
Club's theatrical release, it became more popular via word of mouth ,
and the positive reception of the DVD established it as a cult film
that David Ansen of
Newsweek conjectured would enjoy "perennial" fame.
The film's success also heightened Palahniuk's profile to global
Following Fight Club's release, several fight clubs were reported to
have started in the United States. A "Gentleman's Fight Club" was
Menlo Park, California in 2000 and had members mostly from
the tech industry. Teens and preteens in Texas, New Jersey,
Washington state, and Alaska also initiated fight clubs and posted
videos of their fights online, leading authorities to break up the
clubs. In 2006, an unwilling participant from a local high school was
injured at a fight club in
Arlington, Texas , and the DVD sales of the
fight led to the arrest of six teenagers. An unsanctioned fight club
was also started at
Princeton University , where matches were held on
campus. The film was suspected of influencing
Luke Helder , a college
student who planted pipe bombs in mailboxes in 2002. Helder's goal was
to create a smiley pattern on the map of the United States, similar to
the scene in
Fight Club in which a building is vandalized to have a
smiley on its exterior. On July 16, 2009, a 17-year-old who had
formed his own fight club in
Manhattan was charged with detonating a
homemade bomb outside a
Starbucks Coffee shop in the
Upper East Side .
New York City Police Department reported the suspect was trying to
emulate "Project Mayhem". In September 2015, two employees at
Lightbridge Academy, a
New Jersey daycare center, were charged with
instigating "Fight Club–style" brawls between children aged four to
six years of age. The fights were reportedly filmed and uploaded to
Snapchat , a video messaging application, and involved approximately a
"dozen boys and girls". In the videos, one of the perpetrators, Erica
Kenny, can be heard making references to Fight Club. The charges stem
from an incident that occurred on August 13, 2015, but investigators
are looking into whether the fights were ongoing.
A video game adaptation of the film, titled
Fight Club , was released
Vivendi in 2004 for the
PlayStation 2 , Xbox , and for mobile
phones . The game was a critical and commercial failure, and was
panned by such publications and websites as
Game Informer ,
Fight Club was listed as one of the "50 Best Guy Movies of
All Time" by Men\'s Journal . In 2006 and 2008,
Fight Club was voted
by Empire readers as the eighth and tenth greatest film of all time,
Total Film ranked
Fight Club as "The Greatest Film of
our Lifetime" in 2007 during the magazine's tenth anniversary. In
2007, Premiere selected Tyler Durden's line, "The first rule of fight
club is you do not talk about fight club," as the 27th greatest movie
line of all time. In 2008, readers of Empire ranked Tyler Durden
eighth on a list of the 100 Greatest Movie Characters. Empire also
Fight Club as the 10th greatest movie of all time in its
2008 issue The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.
In 2010, two viral mash-up videos featuring
Fight Club were released.
Ferris Club was a mash-up of
Fight Club and the 1986 film Ferris
Bueller\'s Day Off . It portrayed Ferris as Tyler Durden and Cameron
as the narrator, "claiming to see the real psychological truth behind
the John Hughes classic". The second video Jane Austen's Fight Club
also gained popularity online as a mash-up of Fight Club's fighting
rules and the characters created by 19th century novelist Jane Austen
AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE NOMINATIONS
* AFI\'s 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes : "First rule of Fight Club
is—you do not talk about Fight Club."
* AFI\'s 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition)
* United States portal
* Film portal
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