Few films or novels elicit reactions like Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. Controversial in both forms for its violence and “pro-machismo” message, Fight Club got everyone talking, and to this day they haven't stopped. All the proof you need to see Fight Club’s influence is its everlasting presence– and how often people still debate its merit – 20 years after release. Love it or hate it, Fight Club is an undeniable classic, and deserves recognition on its big birthday.
We know that the first rule of Fight Club is don't talk about fight club, but today that rule is getting broken. In celebration of the film’s 20th anniversary, here are 42 knockout facts about Fight Club.
Chuck Palahniuk, the writer of Fight Club, was inspired to write the novel after a strange altercation he had while camping. He got bruised up, but the weirder part was that nobody asked about it when he returned to work. They just asked how the trip was! Everyone was too reluctant to address his bruises. And thus Fight Club was born.
According to director David Fincher, there is a Starbucks coffee cup in every scene of the Fight Club film. Fincher says that he doesn't have anything against Starbucks, but that the cups more represent how the inescapability of mainstream society. So deep.
In the final scene of the movie, we see way more than a Starbucks cup. Some, er, male private parts flash across the screen for a single frame. But that's not even the strangest part. These X-rated flashes actually happen occasionally throughout the film and reference a a reference to how Pitt’s character in the film used to splice porn into film reels to subliminally affect viewers.
During an infamous scene where a penguin in an icy cave tells Norton to “slide”, Norton’s breath is seen. This is actually a super sly cameo by Leonardo DiCaprio. The editing team CGI'd in Leo's breath from that infamous Titanic scene. Good choice.
Fight Club became a phenomenon upon release, especially after the film adaptation. Writer Chuck Palahniuk has a strange idea about why the book caught on so much. He said that, “bookstores were full of books like The Joy Luck Club and The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and How to Make an American Quilt. These were all novels that presented a social model for women to be together. But there was no novel that presented a new social model for men to share their lives.” Palahniuk filled that niche and was rewarded handsomely.
But not everyone loved Fight Club. Some people showed their displeasure with an extreme gesture. One school district in Texas actually banned the book for its violent and sexually explicit content. Hey, considering how Harry Potter, Brave New World, and even a Dr. Seuss book were also banned, that's pretty good company.
When Palahniuk wrote Fight Club, he was part of an odd writing group. Its members practiced “dangerous writing”, a style of prose started by author Tom Spanbauer. Apparently, it emphasized minimalism and used personal pain for inspiration. In a deeply ironic twist, this is a very bro-y way to write. Wasn't Fight Club an elaborate parody of machismo culture?
Edward Norton described his transformation throughout the movie with an unexpected comparison. He said, “Brad got progressively bigger throughout the movie, he bulked up and got huge and tan and beautiful while I became Gollum.” This was to symbolize their states as the movie progresses, with Durden taking over and the unnamed Narrator receding into the background.
To this day, Palahniuk gets asked by fans where the nearest fight club is. He assures people he has no idea, even if they might exist illegally.
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Scarily enough, there's a real life Project Mayhem. Fight Club’s writer used to be part of the Cacophony Society, a group that helped organize “cacophony events” like public pranks, random Christmas carolling, and bizarre improvised performances in public spaces. Drama Kids + Anarchy = Cacophony Society/Project Mayhem.
Sure, you could act – or you could just do it for real. The scene where Edward Norton punches Brad Pitt in the ear was supposed to be a shoulder shot, until the director suddenly changed his mind. David Fincher told Norton right before filming, “Hit him in the ear.” Norton argued a little, but followed his directions, eliciting the iconic reaction we see today.
Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk said that he prefers the film adaptation to his own novel.
Brad Pitt took his dedication to the role of Tyler Durden to a chilling extreme. The chipped teeth that Pitt sports in the film aren't fake. They're real. The star actually went to a dentist and asked to get parts of his famous front teeth chipped for authenticity. I don’t care how much you’re making, that’s straight up wild.
Russell Crowe was the first actor considered to play Tyler Durden, with Brad Pitt beating him out. Matt Damon and Sean Penn were in talks to play Norton’s character, while Reese Witherspoon and Sarah Michelle Gellar were considered for the role of Marla Singer. I believe that in some unknown dimension, that movie exists. I wonder how it holds up.
1999 should have been a great year for Chuck Palahniuk. His successful novel was going to get the ultimate Hollywood treatment, giving Palahniuk more than most writers can ever hope for. Bad sadly, an utterly chilling tragedy struck. His father had recently met a woman and fallen in love. When her ex-boyfriend got out of jail, everything fell to pieces. The ex-boyfriend killed Palahniuk's father and his girlfriend, and then set their bodies on fire. Palahniuk was part of the group that decided to give this man the death penalty.
The intimate scene between Tyler Durden and Marla Singer both was and wasn't realistic. For the fake side, Bonham-Carter used a body double. For the real side, Pitt and Bonham-Carter did spend three full days recording extravagant orgasm noises for the scene. Three days is such a long time!
David Fincher decided to play an ingenious prank on Fight Club fans who bought the 10th anniversary Blu-Ray. Upon starting it up, the DVD menu for Never Been Kissed appears for 15 seconds before finally turning into Fight Club. That would give the strongest of men a panic attack!
The font used for the Fight Club poster has become somewhat popular, and is called “Fight This.” Working with the movie's anti-capitalist message, you can download it for free.
Fight Club features one heck of a twist ending. For Rosie O'Donnell, though, the movie clearly wasn't worth preserving. When O'Donnell hosted a day time talk show, she spoiled the ending just days before the film's theatrical release for a disturbing reason. She claimed that the film kept her up, and told her audience not to watch. She figured that she would encourage them not to go to the theater by spoiling the twist. That’s just plain rude.
Watch carefully and you will be rewarded. There are a number of subliminal messages that flash over the film briefly. One that lasts only a single second (and is formatted like one of those copyright warnings at the start of a movie) says: “Get out of your apartment. Meet a member of the opposite sex. Stop the excessive shopping and masturbation. Quit your job. Start a fight. Prove you’re alive.”
Most actresses like to look good on the big screen. Helena Bonham Carter, though? Not so much. She figured that her character in Fight Club wouldn't care about her makeup very much, leading Carter to make a very unconventional choice. She got the makeup designer to put her character’s makeup on with her left hand, figuring it would create a more realistic look.
The detectives in Fight Club are named pretty normal names (Andrew, Kevin, and Walker) but there's more going on than meets the eye. David Fincher previously directed the film Se7en, and a writer named Andrew Kevin Walker did some script work on it… but he wasn’t credited. Fincher decided to make that right by immortalizing the man as three different detectives.
Fight Club is full of ingenious hints toward the twist ending. For example, Brad Pitt’s character Tyler Durden actually appears five times before he’s formally introduced. If you pause the movie at various points, he's in the background of a few shots for just a split second at a time. This isn't done just as a gimmick. It holds a dark meaning. The shots of Durden show that he is a part of Norton’s character’s mind. He's constantly in the background, until he takes over completely.
Brad Pitt really didn’t want his folks seeing the movie when it came out, thinking it would be too intense for them. When they insisted on seeing their little boy's latest film, Pitt decided to show them a clip: the chemical burn scene. They decided not to watch any more.
Rockstar Meatloaf, who played Robert Paulson in the film, wore a fat suit to make his character look realistic. But to get the prosthetic to hang right, the team decided to fill it with a strange material: bird seed. The end effect looked really lifelike, but it had some chilling consequences. The suit weighed 100 pounds. Meat Loaf needed an oxygen tank to breathe in it in between takes.
Bonham Carter got sick after shooting Fight Club because of all the smoking she had to do to play Marla. She said, "I had to have an X-ray because I got bronchitis...And Fincher does so many takes and lots of smoke shots. He got obsessed with the smoke. It had to float in a particular way.” The things people will endure for art.
The opening title sequence of the film holds a strange hidden meaning. It's meant to follow a nerve impulse, brought about specifically by fear, through the brain of the Narrator (Edward Norton's character). Award winning effects supervisor Kevin Mack was in charge of this, and he went to great lengths to make it 100% accurate.
The release of Fight Club was pushed numerous times, for reasons ranging from a full release schedule to a hurried post-production process. Some said that the Columbine shootings delayed the release, but this was never officially confirmed.
Marketing Fight Club ended up being a lot of trouble. The studio didn’t know whether to market it as an art film or an action film. They aired ads during wrestling events, and had trouble selling it to female audiences. When the now classic pink bar of soap was pitched as the main advertising image, Fox thought it was a joke. An executive producer attributed the marketing to the movie’s average box office pull.
But the strangest marketing move was yet to come. This was definitely the controversial photoshoot that star Brad Pitt did for Rolling Stone. Pitt looks pretty freaking great in the snaps, which feature the mega star wearing sparkly dresses, elaborate necklaces, and glittery earrings. He runs on the beach, he plays with guns, he pushes the envelope. Just like the movie he was promoting: Fight Club.
Brad Pitt was paid handsomely for his role as the ever so handsome Tyler Durden. He made seven times more than the rest of the cast. Pitt took home 17.5-million for the role, compared to Edward Norton who made $2.5-million. Again, I say, irony pops up: isn't this movie about how capitalism is bad? Go back to your cool transgressive photoshoots, Brad.
Tyler Durden wears blue-blocker sunglasses throughout the film for a specific reason. The prop alludes to the character’s insomnia, from which he suffers throughout the film. Blue blockers block out the blue light from phone and computer screens that cause you to stay awake. tbh I might need to get me some of these glasses...
Fight Club was Palahniuk’s first novel to be published, but the second he wrote. His first novel, Invisible Monsters, was rejected by publishers for being too dark and disturbing. (You can read the twisted plot summary here). Although Palahniuk wrote Fight Club to be darker, it was published first, and Invisible Monsters was published after. Perhaps a testament to its weirdness, Invisible Monsters has not been made into a mainstream Hollywood movie.
Talk about a missed opportunity. Radiohead’s Thom Yorke was originally contacted to perform the soundtrack for the film, but was recovering from recording his latest album, OK Computer. Instead, the Dust Bros ended up with the contract.
Writer Chuck Palahniuk got his share of criticism for Fight Club’s content, but dude is no stranger to controversy. One of his most popular stories, Guts, is so shocking that readers have been known to vomit or faint upon reading the twisted text. I read it and I can confirm: it’s pretty messed up. Without going into detail, it involves a young man enjoying himself in a pool when everything goes very, very wrong.
Film isn’t the only avenue that Fight Club has expanded into. There was once a stage adaptation of the novel performed in Seattle, Georgia, and North Carolina. A musical adaptation by Fincher, Palahniuk, and Trent Reznor has been in the works since the film’s 10th anniversary. Whether that’s still happening or not is up in the air.
Palahniuk takes claim for inventing the term “snowflake” as a way of describing someone who gets offended easily by using it in Fight Club. He said, "I coined 'snowflake' and I stand by it.”
Uber-fans of Fight Club will be pleased to know that there's more where it came from. Palahniuk decided to continue the Fight Club story in 2015 with a series of graphic novels titled Fight Club 2. The novels continue where the film left off, and see Tyler Durden returning to cause his usual brand of havoc. Fight Club 3 issue 1 was released in January of 2019. There's also a prequel story called Expedition.
Fight Club won an award for best DVD from the 2000 Online Film Critics Society for its features and commentary tracks. The design of the special edition DVD was made to look like it was packaged in brown cardboard, and tied together with string, like an anonymous package. This simple look was meant to contrast the wild nature of the film. This particular DVD is sought after by collectors.
In the novel, Tyler Durden shares a working recipe for making explosives with soap. They wanted to do this in the movie as well, but chose not to for the sake of public safety. Good call, but tragically, it was not enough. In 2009 a teenager made a working bomb. Apparently, he was inspired by Fight Club.
To make their performances more authentic, Edward Norton and Brad Pitt went method for a few scenes. As a tender counterpart to the scene where Norton actually punched Pitt in the face, the actors also learned to make soap for the film. Auntie Godmother, a prolific soap maker, taught the men. Her company of the same name actually made all the soap for the film. Everything about this is wholesome and I am utterly charmed.
The novel Fight Club won two awards in the year after its release: The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award and the Oregon Book Award for best novel.
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